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9 Simple Ways To Stay Calm In Highly Charged Situations

9 Simple Ways To Stay Calm In Highly Charged Situations

Let’s face it: we all sometimes find ourselves in situations where we feel like our patience is on its last thread. We blow a fuse and our anger boils over, making us want to damn-anything-to-hell that gets in our way. But losing it can really bring all sorts of problems for you, including ruining your career and damaging your relationships.

So, it’s vitally important that you learn to calm yourself down in highly charged situation before you lose it and aggravate the situation. Say, for example, someone dangerously cuts you off on the freeway. You don’t have to let sudden bursts of anger control you. There are ways to calm down and get through it with your sanity intact. Contrary to what you might think, anger is not an uncontrollable force that takes over us. It is a manageable emotion.

Here are some ways that can help you stay calm in highly charged situations, and avoid overreaction.

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1. Pause and take deep breaths.

The first thing you need to do when you find yourself in a situation that ruffles your feathers is to take a deep breath. Don’t act in a rush, as you will almost certainly regret it. Just close your eyes and count to 10 to get a grip on your adrenaline rush, and then take deep breaths to calm down.

Carlos Coto, a psychologist at Pick the Brain suggests you try the 4×4 breathing technique where you breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds and exhale the breath slowly for four seconds. Repeat this breathing technique until you feel calm enough to react.

2. Step back and ask yourself some simple questions.

Never react when you are really agitated. You are a pot of boiling water, and need to step back and ask yourself some question to assess the situation. Is the upsetting situation something you can control? Did you misunderstand the thing that’s setting you off? Does the issue really matter that much? How do I look and behave while I’m angry? Is my face red? Am I waving my hands around wildly? Would I want to work with someone like that? Probably not. Thoughtful questions help you go to the intellectual part of your brain that protects you from overreaction. Questions work wonders for most people.

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3. Declare that you want to be productive and calm, and focus on that.

You cannot fully control other people’s behavior, but you can only control your own reactions. The sooner you realize that, the faster you can handle emotionally charged situations. The realization (and acceptance) that you can only truly control your own behavior and not other people’s actions can take the emotion out of the situation and allow you to proceed with a greater degree of control. Think about the things you want to do in the next hour or next few days, and declare you want to focus on those things instead of the situation that’s fueling your fire. Your thoughts will drift from anger to those things that make you more productive and joyful.

4. Label your emotional state in just a word or two.

Another trick to stay calm and overcome a rush of negative emotion is to get in touch with the emotion and label it in one word or two. Different brain studies show that labeling negative emotions reduces their impact. Trying to suppress a negative emotional doesn’t work and can backfire on you, says Kevin Ochsner a professor of psychology at Columbia University. You might look fine outwardly, Ochsner says, but inwardly your limbic system is just as aroused as without suppression, and in some cases, even more aroused.

So, if you feel terrible, give that feeling a name. Describe that emotion. Pissed off? Frustrated? Sad? Label that negative emotion you’re feeling in just a word or two and see it diminish just like that.

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5. Let go of any unhelpful thoughts you may have.

This includes thoughts of revenge and thoughts such as “It’s not fair,” or “People like that should be locked up.” Such thoughts don’t help. They only make your anger worse. Let those thoughts go and you’ll find it easier to calm down and move on. Also, avoid using words like always (for example, “You always do that), never (for example, “You never listen to me.”), and should or shouldn’t (for example, you should know better than that.) Those words aggravate the situation. Instead, focus on thinking about positive things you could be doing that make you truly productive and joyful.

6. Write down the experience in a journal.

If you’re still upset about a situation even after you’ve tried letting it go, try writing it down in a journal. Nagging thoughts have a tendency to linger and flare up into fits of anger later at the slightest provocation. Writing down your emotions has a calming effect because it brings clarity and allows you to process complex issues and come up with solutions. It also tells your brain it can stop obsessing over the issue because the issue’s now recorded in a permanent place.

7. Tell someone about it.

One of the things that makes us lose our cool and burst into anger is that we get stuck inside our own heads with our own thoughts. If you have a friend with you in a highly charged situation, tell them what you’re feeling. If you don’t have someone with you, call a friend and tell them about it. Talking to someone and letting it all off your chest can leave you feeling calmer. If, however, you are constantly feeling frustrated and angry no matter what you try, and your temper causes you problems at work or in your relationship, consider talking to a professional. A psychotherapist, for example, can look at trends in your behavior and suggest solutions.

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8. Burn off some of that pent up rage with exercise.

No matter how well we try to keep a lid on it, anger bursts may still make occasional appearances. When they do, another great way to manage it and get back to being calm is to switch gears and exercise. Do pushups or situps, go for a run, or just hit the gym to blow off steam. Exercising burns off pent up rage, lifts your mood, and helps you feel healthier and happier. You can also try taking a nap if you’re terribly upset. Sleeping has a calming, rejuvenating effect on the entire body and mind.

9. Go outside and reconnect with nature.

A final trick to keep calm in highly charged situations is to just step outside and get some air and sun. Take a few minutes to walk in a natural setting with trees. Watch the birds fly in the blue sky and feel the wind blow against your hair. Reconnect with nature. Fresh air can help you calm down and remind you that we create most of the stress we feel in our minds. Studies actually show that spending time in green spaces with trees reduces stress, relieves mentally fatigue and alleviates feelings of depression. Even if you only go to a nearby park on your lunch break, do it to strengthen your bond with nature. Nature’s replenishing effect is fairly instantaneous.

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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