Self-Regulation When Others are Triggered: 4 Beneficial Practices

by | Jun 25, 2024 | Healthy Relationships, Inner Work

Drawing on tools of self-regulation so that we can stay relaxed in the face of someone else being reactive, defensive or triggered is a foundational relationship skill that can help us increase our own safety and self-trust.

Now to be clear, activation and getting all revved up might be the most protective response when issues of physical safety or domestic violence are at play, and we need to fight or flee for survival or to prevent harm.

However, in many of our “garden variety” conflicts (not when you really do need to high-tail it out of there to prevent harm) – developing stellar practices and tools for self-regulation can be incredibly powerful and empowering.

So, with that said, the next time you’re in a situation where someone else is beginning to rev-up in some way, try some of the following steps:

4 Steps to Support Self-Regulation


  1. Stay with Yourself. As mammals, our nervous systems tend to respond to one another.  Feelings and states can be contagious.  So, instead of attuning to their nervous systems (which will rev you up too), consciously separate yourself and tune into your own body.  Here, self-regulation means getting grounded in your own felt sense. Notice what is happening in your body-system, and take deep slow breaths to help your own heart rate come down, and to soothe yourself.
  2. Use a Somatic Tool. Use some body-based somatic tools to soothe your own nervous system. Self-regulation is a practice. For example, the physiological sigh, box breathing, 478-breathing, butterfly tapping, the 5-4-3-2-1 method.  In order for these to be available to you when you are stressed out, it’s a good idea to do these on a daily basis for yourself as part of your daily self-care. That way, you will be deeply familiar with these tools when a more activated state appears for you, and they will be more readily accessible to you in the moment.
  3. Cultivate Your Needs Consciousness. Keep your attention on what needs are arising in the moment for yourself and others, instead of letting your mind chase after stories of wrongness.  Self-regulation is much easier when we connect with the universal human needs at play in the situation and stop our minds from running away with catastrophizng or dualistic thinking. When we connect with the needs that are arising, we have more access to wisdom and aligned actions that might actually help.
  4. Soften towards the Other Person.  Counterintuitively, taking the other person’s perspective and entering into their world can also help us with self-regulation because when we rehumanize the “other,” we feel less afraid of them.  A way to soften towards the activated person around us is to bring some gentle curiosity and good will to their situation.  When I see someone have a rough day, I ask myself internally:  What might be happening for them that they’re so sad/upset right now?  What kind of situation might they have just experienced that made them so angry?  Shifting the focus from What’s wrong with them? to I know what that place is like and it’s hard to be there allows for a softening of our hearts.

While it may be tempting to get revved up and activated yourself as you try to get control of the situation, remembering that connection is infinitely more powerful than control, and then responding with empathy and compassion can be far more effective in de-escalating tensions.

This week’s podcast is filled with examples of responding to others’ ramped up nervous systems.

We discuss:

  • 4:30  How can there be verbal aggression and love present at the same time?
  • 7:30  How can I address verbal aggression with my young children?
  • 17:00  How can I tell when my trauma is getting in the way of my learning?
  • 24:00  How can I stay regulated when others aren’t?
  • 27:15  Options when someone wants to change an agreement
  • 37:30  How can I respond to rudeness with kindness?

Check out the podcast, or read How to Show Up With Empathy in the Face of Judgment and Rejection.

What helps when you’re triggered?  What doesn’t?  I’d love to know.  Leave a comment below.


  1. Roya

    It is helping me thanks

    • Bailey

      4x4x4 Breathing, circular breathing, pendulation, changing what room I’m in or going outside if I’m inside, 5,4,3,2,1 exercise, aBCD writing about feelings and beliefs, Journaling, safe words, pre-determined “off table/no go” topics with frequent offender relationships.


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