How to Control Your Emotions: Pushing Pause on Overreacting
I know what you’re thinking. How to control emotions? That seems impossible! Emotions are difficult to elucidate, they just happen! Many people will give the answer, “I can’t help it, it’s just the way that I am”. But the truth is, when we take a deeper look at the emotions we are feeling, and more importantly, why we’re feeling that way and where they are coming from, we come to find the root of such emotions and can tackle the way we respond to any situation.
In this article, we are going to share a few tips and tricks to help you overcome the seemingly impossible task of removing negative reactions and emotions from our lives. So, buckle up and get that note-pad ready!
1. Identify your triggers
We all have certain things that trigger us. Perhaps it’s because of our upbringing, or because of an insecurity we currently hold. Whatever it is, these things tend to trigger the strongest reactions in us before we even think about it.
“An emotional trigger is any topic that makes us feel uncomfortable,” reports Psychology Today magazine. (1) “These emotional triggers are telling us which aspects in our life we might feel frustrated or unsatisfied with. As mentioned above, it can vary in each person because we are all struggling with something different. When we can identify what bothers us, we can take action to protect our mental health. Even though we can't avoid all of the situations that may emotionally trigger us, we can take actionable steps to take care of ourselves. To develop a strong inner voice that can help us navigate through these uncomfortable situations.”
If you want to put a pause between yourself and your reactions in order to exercise your freedom of choice, it’s useful to spend some time identifying your triggers. It’s like identifying the big red button in your life that, if pushed, launches you into a nuclear meltdown. What is your red button?
Think back to the past month. Were there times that prompted a strong reaction in yourself, whether that reaction was stress, anxiety, anger, or harsh words to whoever was in front of you? Try and jot down as many of these times as you can remember, then look for a common thread.
You may find that it’s always a certain type of person, or a certain situation, or a certain subject matter that triggered a reaction in yourself. Now that you have the awareness of this trigger, you can start to watch for it in present or future scenarios. When you notice you’re in a place or situation or conversation that contains a trigger for you, you can take steps to break the reaction cycle.
Before you do anything - before you address your trigger or engage in positive self-talk - simply breathe.
Your breath is a tool that you always have with you. Your breath centers your thoughts and awareness. It anchors you into your chest. And it helps you create space, both physically and emotionally, between yourself and your trigger. And it’s in this inner space that you can find freedom of choice and self-control.
“We don’t have to act immediately, just because we have an internal reaction,” says Babauta. “We can pause, not act, breathe. We can watch this urge to act irrationally arise, then let it go away. Sometimes that takes a few seconds, other times it means we should remove ourselves politely from the situation and let ourselves cool down before we respond.”
So, as you feel that reaction bubbling up within you, simply take a deep breath. Draw your breath in and count to five, then release and count to five. Repeat for a few cycles.
3. Check in with yourself and cool down
Now that you’re aware of your triggers, and you’re aware that you’re reacting to a trigger in this present moment, check in. Bring your awareness even deeper. Notice the tension in your body, the change in temperature.
As you notice what’s going on inside you, you become more aware of HOW you’re reacting. What emotions are you feeling? What physical sensations are you manifesting? And what can you do to cool down so you’re not waist-deep in the swamps of over-reaction?
Perhaps simply continuing your deep breathing can help. Other people find ways to slow the “heat” of their reactions and cool down that may include:
Exercising, such as running or lifting weights
Spending time in nature, such as sitting in a forest or going for a hike
Practicing mindfulness through meditation, yoga, or prayerful contemplation
The goal here isn’t to avoid your reactions, or even deny their existence, but rather lower the level at which you’re reacting to something. By reducing the temperature of your frustration and anger, you make room for yourself to think more calmly and create opportunity for responding and not reacting.
4. Practice empathy
Finally, practice empathy. That is, putting yourself in the shoes of the other person who is triggering this reaction in you, as well as giving yourself compassion and empathy for having this reaction in the first place.
You see, it’s not inherently BAD to react. However, we want to be more self-aware of our reactions so that we can shift from reacting to responding, and thus experience the freedom of choice we desire in our lives.
Empathy diffuses a situation not by denying the situation doesn’t exist, but by extending grace to everyone involved. And when we practice grace and empathy, we further lower the vibrational energy of our reactions and we further calm our mind and body.
“It's difficult for us to distance ourselves from our emotions and think clearly,” notes Psychology Today. “But we must keep two things in mind: The other person's intention [and] our own pain.”
For example, perhaps the other person is dealing with their own emotional baggage, and something you said triggered their own reaction, which in turn jumpstarted a reaction in yourself. By being empathetic, we’re less likely to respond to whatever negativity or emotional outbursts someone presents to us.
“It's important to keep a fresh perspective about the other person's intention,” suggests the publication. It's important to be patient with them as well, and slowly yet assertively communicate our boundaries with them.”
When following these tips, it’s important as well to realize we shouldn’t suppress or run away from what we are feeling. Rather, we should welcome them with open arms. We are allowed to feel whatever we are feeling and live in it for a while. It’s just a matter of learning how to move beyond that and manage them in a healthy way.
The content in this blog article was just one part of our exclusive iAchieveToday courses entitled Self-Control: Freedom of Choice. To take the full course and learn more about managing your emotions and taking control of frustrating situations, go to iAchieveToday.com where you can sign up for your membership. This will give you access to 300+ courses, 8 group coaching calls with experts every week, and several other tools to help you get immersed in your personal development journey and create a mindset of positivity and light every day.
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