If you are on the verge of a meltdown, you feel an impulsive urge to yell, scream, cry, or begin to argue. But remember that every time you lose your cool, you are ultimately giving away your power. Easier said than done, when you react impulsively and unconsciously you become a victim of your circumstances; you become a passenger of your own life rather than a driver.
Here are some strategies to help you stay calm when you are tempted to be pushed over the edge.
Step one: Give yourself a reality check
Watch out for the first signs of feeling overly anxious and take a pro-active approach to change your attitude at the first signs of feeling overwhelmed. So that you don’t exaggerate how badly the situation really is, focus on addressing the real problem rather than the dramatic version of it.
Giving away your power lends itself to helplessness. Focus on what you can do to improve the situation. Replace overly negative thoughts about your situation with more realistic thoughts. When you give away your power, you become completely dependent on external circumstances to regulate your emotions. Life often becomes like a roller coaster – when things are going well, you will feel good, yet when your circumstances change, your behaviour and feelings will shift.
Step two: Excuse yourself from the situation
The more emotional you feel, the less rational you’ll think. Learn to recognise your personal warning signs of anger, such as shaking or feeling irritated, and remove yourself from the situation before you lose your cool. This may mean walking away or extracting yourself from the situation.
Don’t try solving a problem or addressing an issue with someone when you’re feeling overly emotional. Distract yourself with an activity, like walking or reading, to help you calm down. Getting your mind off what’s bothering you, even for a few minutes, can help you calm down so you can think more rationally.
Step three: Take deep breaths
Frustration and anger cause physical reactions within the body – an increased rate of breathing, an elevated heart rate. Shallow, upper chest breathing is part of the typical stress response. Taking slow, deep breaths can relax your muscles and decrease your physiological response, which in turn can decrease your emotional reactivity.
When we are overly stressed we operate from a fight-or-flight response – your heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises, and your breathing quickens as adrenaline rushes through your body. By changing the rate, depth and pattern of breathing, we can change the messages being sent from the body’s respiratory system to the brain. Slow and controlled breathing can reduce the heart rate, reduce levels of stress hormones, and increase the feelings of calm and wellbeing, bringing us back to a place that we can feel less likely to overreact.
Step four: Re-calibrate and practice self-awareness
Whenever you feel off balance, observe yourself. Witness the drama surrounding you without engaging in it. Observe your state of overwhelm, let go, and then take necessary action from there. Take a bird’s eye view of the situation, which will create a clear path to resolving the problem. When we bring our awareness into the present, from a place of strength, calm, and power, we can manage the dramas surrounding us.
When we choose our responses for managing issues from this grounded, centred place, we stand a good chance of resolving problems rather than contributing to them. When you bring yourself into the present, the more you will realise that your dramas are temporary and generally self-created.
Step five: Don’t flip out over things you can’t control
Trying to maintain complete control in everything that happens leads to increased anxiety. Efforts to manage your anxiety by trying to control everything in your environment will backfire. The more unsuccessful your attempts to control the situation are, the more anxious you’ll become. It can lead to feelings of inadequacy as you see that you aren’t able to fully control the outcome. Attempting to control everything wastes time and mental energy. It also takes energy away from actively problem solving and the acting on the issues you do have control over.
Step six: Abandon negativity
Playing the ‘poor me’ card may result in reassurance and kindness from others. However, this could also be an indirect way of gaining attention by sharing a ‘woe-is-me’ story. Once you allow a negative emotion to take hold, it will ignite a flurry of other emotions such as anger and resentment. It requires a lot of mental energy and it does nothing to change the situation. Even when you can’t fix the problem, you can make choices to cope with life’s obstacles in a positive way. Negativity will not move you any closer to a solution. Instead, choose to actively problem-solve and work on improving your situation
When you decide that nothing has the power to control how you feel, you will experience empowerment. When you take responsibility for your own behaviour, you will become accountable for the progress of your goals and achievements.
Retaining your personal power reduces your risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. These problems are linked to a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. When you decide not to give external circumstances the power to control how you feel and behave, you gain much more power over your wellbeing and everyday situations.