What pushes your button?

Jan 19, 2016, 15:09 PM by KirstiAnn Clifford

Professionalism Committee discusses ways to recognize and deal with emotional triggers

professionalism

From left: Joan Nichols, PhD, Dr. Mark Holden, Dr. Karen Szauter and Rebecca Saavedra, EdD, led the discussion.


W
e all have our own unique emotional triggers. Maybe it’s lack of punctuality, sarcasm or inappropriate language that pushes your buttons. But how do you deal with those situations when they arise? Do you let anger take over and derail the rest of the day? 

If so, you’re not alone. But there are ways to train your brain to better manage which emotions surface and for how long. 

UTMB’s Professionalism Committee held the first of two seminars called “What Pushes Your Button? How to Recognize and Deal with Emotional Triggers” on Dec. 1 in the Levin Hall Dining Room on the Galveston Campus. About 100 employees attended the lunchtime discussion, led by Dr. Mark Holden, Joan Nichols, PhD, Rebecca Saavedra, EdD, and Dr. Karen Szauter.  

“Our goal is to provide strategies on how to make the work environment a more respectful place—starting with how to keep your cool in high-pressure and high-stress moments,” said Saavedra, who co-chairs the Professionalism Committee along with Holden. 

Along with identifying triggers, the discussion focused on 10 different tools for dealing with triggers, such as taking time out to rationalize your feelings before jumping to initial reactions. 

“Irrational anger is never beneficial, so it’s so important to stop, reflect and then act,” said Nichols, associate professor of research and operations at the Galveston National Laboratory. “Over the years, I’ve conditioned myself to step into others shoes and think: ‘What is the baggage they are dragging behind them? Today, I may have a little thing behind me and I’m happy it’s not heavy, but someone else may be dragging 50 heavy bags behind them.’ Thinking about how others feel and having empathy is a great tool for managing your own emotions and overcoming adversity.” 

Kaitlin Ashmore, a coordinator with the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, attended the seminar as someone who is relatively new to the professional workforce. 

“I recently got married and finished grad school, so I look at these seminars as a way to develop myself and figure out how I want to act as a professional,” said Ashmore. “Everything we talked about can also be applied to personal situations, so it’s good information.”

The next “What Pushes Your Button?” seminar will take place on Feb. 23. 
For more information on the seminars and the Professionalism Committee, the Professionalism Charter (a living document that defines the elements of professionalism for all UTMB faculty, staff and students) or to report disrespectful behavior, visit www.utmb.edu/professionalism.