Finding Inner Peace: Calming Strategies When Triggered

Parenting is a remarkable and fulfilling journey, but it can bring many moments of powerlessness. This can often lead to us being triggered and a longing for inner peace can arise.

This article, especially for the Easter break, aims to provide valuable insights into common parenting triggers and effective techniques to enhance your inner peace. It will focus on various strategies, including the stimulation of your vagus nerve, to help you better manage and cope with these triggers. By implementing these techniques, you can cultivate a greater sense of calm and balance in your parenting journey. (This is the last in a series on anger, tantrums, meltdowns, and positive discipline. Next term, the focus will be on anxiety and panic).

What do parenting triggers look and feel like?

Dan Siegel, a psychiatrist and writer of the book “The Whole Brain: 12 Revolutionary Strategies To Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind”, states that parenting triggers can have different effects on individuals, both physically and emotionally. Physically, you may experience muscle tension, a faster heartbeat, or shallow breaths. Emotionally, these triggers can provoke emotions such as anger, irritation, unease, or sorrow. Additionally, you may be caught up with challenging thoughts (Your mindstream); You may also feel overwhelmed, out of control, or powerless.

The most common parenting triggers

These can vary from person to person, as everyone has their own unique experiences and sensitivities. However, there are some common triggers that many parents can relate to. Here are a few examples:

  1. Lack of control/powerlessness: Parenting often involves situations where we feel like we have little control over our child’s behaviour or the outcome of a situation. This can be a trigger for feelings of frustration, helplessness, and powerlessness. Powerlessness often comes from a tender younger time. I can think of many times I felt ” little and powerless” to change many things.
  2. Sleep deprivation: The demands of parenting, especially with young children, can lead to sleep deprivation. This can make it harder to cope with everyday challenges and can amplify other triggers.
  3. Challenging behaviours: When our children exhibit challenging behaviours, such as tantrums, defiance, or aggression, it can trigger feelings of anger, frustration, or inadequacy.
  4. Comparison and judgement: The pressure to meet societal expectations or compare ourselves to other parents can be a significant trigger. Feeling judged or comparing ourselves to others can lead to feelings of insecurity or self-doubt. Social media posts are unhelpful in this regard.
  5. Balancing work and family: Juggling the responsibilities of work and family life can be overwhelming and trigger feelings of guilt, stress, or overwhelm.
  6. Personal triggers: Parenting can also bring up unresolved issues or triggers from our own childhood or experiences. These triggers can be unique to each individual and may require additional support to address.
  7. Thoughts: We all have thoughts, and sometimes they can be pretty hard to be with. This is the human condition, and I like you, can find these difficult to be with. None of these exercises are about getting rid of thoughts (you can’t) but you can be aware of them and remember:

You are not your thoughts; you are the witness to them

We cannot regulate a child when we are dysregulated. Recognising our triggers and finding healthy ways to cope with them can help us respond to our children with more patience, understanding, and compassion.

Exercises to help inner calm

When we experience challenging feelings, our first step should be to calm and balance our nervous system. This will activate the ventral vagal energy, which can help us move out of survival mode and access our newer operating system (social engagement system). By doing so, we can think more clearly, broaden our perspective, overcome tunnel vision, and show ourselves compassion during difficult times.. Activating the vagus nerve can reset the body after a trigger stress response, restoring balance and promoting a sense of calm. As the longest cranial nerve, the vagus nerve plays a vital role in regulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces relaxation and aids digestion. Here are some exercises to help you find a moment of inner peace.

Exercise one for inner peace: Hand on heart

Whenever I am feeling stressed, my heart nods in agreement and its rhythm quickens. If your child is triggering you, you can gently place your hand or even just your finger on your heart:

  • Take three deep breaths in and out through your nose or mouth. The best way to stimulate the vagus nerve is through diaphragmatic breathing. This means breathing deeply into your belly instead of taking shallow breaths into your chest.
  • Here’s a key point to remember: Try to make your breaths out longer than your breaths in. This helps turn on the vagus nerve and tells your body to relax and rest.
  • Feel the touch of your hand or your finger, you can even move it around. I find the movement very soothing.
Photo by Kevin Malik

Touch has a powerful effect on our well-being, activating the care system and the parasympathetic nervous system to promote calmness and a sense of safety. At first, it might feel strange or embarrassing, but our bodies naturally react to the physical act of warmth and care. It’s like how a baby feels when it’s held in its mother’s arms. Our skin, being a highly sensitive organ, plays a significant role in this process. Research has shown that physical touch releases oxytocin, a hormone that fosters feelings of security, soothes distressing emotions, and reduces cardiovascular stress. So, why not give it a try?

Exercise two for inner peace: Take a pause

As parents, it is really okay to give yourself permission to push on the pause button.

It might seem simple and obvious, but this idea has been incredibly helpful to me and the parents I’ve worked with in my private practice. We often feel a sense of urgency to deal with challenging situations immediately as they arise. When our emotions are running high or we’re running low on energy, or even when our minds are elsewhere or we’re just plain stressed, we tend to act impulsively and say or do things we’ll kick ourselves for later. These are the moments we look back on and wish we handled it differently.

In most cases, parents don’t need to react immediately. It’s okay to take a few minutes to calm down and think before responding. This will help you think more clearly and come up with better solutions. Even just a few minutes can make a big difference. If you need to step out of the room for a moment, take some deep breaths, and wait for your emotions to cool down. This might surprise your children, especially if they’re used to you reacting a certain way. But when you stay calm and don’t react impulsively, you’re setting a good example for them. It’s helpful to let your children know in advance what’s going to happen. This is especially important for anxious children. They usually assume that you are distancing yourself from them rather than distancing yourself from the feeling.

Exercise three for inner peace: Cold exposure

Did you know that jumping in cold water can be good for you? Yup, it might sound silly, but it’s true. It triggers something in your body called the mammalian diving reflex. Research shows it makes your heart beat slower and helps you relax. I know, it’s not exactly a fun time, but it can be worth it. If you’re not up for taking a cold shower, ( I am not), you can just dip your hands in some cold water or put a bag of frozen peas on your neck. Give it a try!

Exercise four for inner peace: Hand massage

As part of my work with young people who struggle with anxiety and trauma. I highly recommend incorporating responsive mind-body exercises into their day and nightly routines. They can can serve as a calming sleep cue and are crucial for overall well-being.

Directions for Hand Massage

Each Finger

Most of us don’t realise that we clench our hands when we are stressed. It is nice to find some nice hand lotion or a massage oil blend.

Start massaging the spaces between the finger bones, beginning at the bottom of the hand and moving upwards between each finger. Adjust the pressure to your liking. If you come across any tender or tender spots, apply a bit more pressure to help them release.

Off the Fingertip

Massage each finger from the base right off the fingertip. Continue to massage each finger right off the fingertip.

Breathe Slowly

Breathe slowly throughout this activity. By adding slow breaths to this activity, we can be fully present and feel even more grounded and connected.

Exercise five for inner peace: Compassionate self-talk

Unpleasant emotions often arise when there is a difference between how things are and how we want them to be. Our natural instinct is to seek pleasure and avoid pain, which is rooted in our evolutionary biology. Our autonomic nervous system is designed to protect us from external threats by activating a survival response. This response prepares our bodies to fight, flee, or freeze in the face of physical dangers, like encountering a predator.

However, this protective response doesn’t always serve us well when it comes to internal threats, such as difficult emotions like fear and sadness. Our “old operating system” is geared towards dealing with physical threats, and it may not provide us with the most effective resources for addressing the challenges of modern life.

When it comes to how we approach our own difficult emotions, we often treat ourselves with judgment or suppression, rather than with self-compassion. However, learning to meet our own suffering with self-compassion is essential for our well-being.

To develop self-compassion, we can learn to treat ourselves like a compassionate parent, friend, or mentor. This involves being aware of our inner dialogue and replacing self-judgment with kindness and understanding. We can remind ourselves that suffering is a part of the human experience and practice mindfulness to fully acknowledge and accept our emotions.


Parenting can be incredibly challenging, and it’s easy to be hard on ourselves when things don’t go as planned. However, it’s crucial to remember that we are often much kinder to our friends than we are to ourselves. So, let’s practise self-compassion and offer ourselves the same understanding and support that we would offer to others.

Exercise Six for inner peace: Tell yourself that you are safe and find your inner protectors

In moments of triggering as a parent, it can be helpful to remind yourself that you are safe and find your inner protectors. Often, our reactions and responses are influenced by conditioning and past experiences. However, we have the power to choose a new narrative and navigate through these challenging moments.

Take a moment to acknowledge the part of you that is feeling triggered and say, “Hello, this part of me. Thank you for your service. My brain has been wired this way for a long time, but I can choose a different path now. We can work through this together. We/I am safe.”

To further support yourself, you can imagine friends or family members surrounding you in a circle of support. Envision their presence and imagine their love and understanding enveloping you. This visualization can provide comfort and remind you that you are not alone in this journey.

You can also practice my safe place visualisation below:

Exercise seven: Tap into inner peace

I first came across the benefits of tapping from my training in EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy).

It can be a helpful tool to release stress and tension in the body and awaken your senses. To practise tapping, start by taking slow, deep breaths to centre yourself. Then, gently tap across the top of your ribcage for 3-5 breaths, paying attention to the sensations in your body.

Tapping can be particularly effective in soothing the vagal system, which is responsible for regulating our body’s stress response. By tapping on specific acupressure points, we can stimulate the vagus nerve and promote a sense of calm and relaxation.

As you tap, you can also repeat affirmations or positive statements to further enhance the soothing effect. For example, you can say, “I am safe and calm” or ” it is safe to let go”.


Raising children brings about many challenges, but by incorporating these calming techniques into your daily routine, you can better manage these triggers and have a moment of peace. We won’t be perfect at this, because we are human! And being a generational cycle-breaker is a lifelong journey. Remember, you have the power to respond to triggers consciously and create a nurturing environment for both yourself and your children.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and thank you for your commitment to the well-being of your child and your family and for your willingness to keep growing. Seek help and support if you want to transform it. Contact me for a consultation or to organise a workshop for your education community or friends. Let’s create a warm, intentional, contained, and nurturing environment together. With Gratitude Catherine

This is the last in the series on anger, tantrums, meltdowns, positive discipline. Next term, the focus will be on anxiety and panic.

Are you interested in coming together with other parents facing the same issues as you?

If you’d like to participate in an in-person five/six-week positive parenting programme during the summer/Autumn of 2024, please contact me or join my newsletter so I can add you to the mailing list for more information.

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