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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 July 12, 2019

How to Get Your Kids to Stop Whining All the Time

How to Get Your Kids to Stop Whining All the Time

Whining children are not enjoyable to be around. The sound of incessant whining can be like fingernails on a chalkboard. Nobody wants to listen to whining. There are solutions to help stop the whining. Below are my top 8 tips to get the whining to stop.

1. Address the Issue

To get a child to stop habitually whining, you first need to address the issue with the child.

There are some children who aren’t even aware that they are whining. In their little minds, they are simply voicing their opinions, concerns, and complaints. They don’t realize that tone and delivery matter significantly in communication. You need to talk to them about what whining is and how it affects you.

When you address the issue with the child, ensure that they understand for their age. A two-year-old and a seven-year-old have very different levels of comprehension. Speak to each child on their level. Use words that they will understand.

For example, in talking to your two-year-old, you can sit down on the floor so that you are at their eye level. Explain that whining is not a good behavior and that you are going to enforce consequences. “You are such a good girl, but when you whine that is not good girl behavior. From now on, you will get time out when you whine. If you want to tell me something use your big girl voice without whining and I will listen.”

When you communicate clearly and on their level, they can better understand that their whining needs to stop. Getting them to understand that their whining is a real problem is the first step.

2. Zero Tolerance for Whining

You need to set a standard in your home with whining. It is not allowed in our home. Does that mean it never happens? No, of course it still happens, my children are human and are not perfect. They whine, but when whining occurs, there are consequences.

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They know that if they whine, they will either get a timeout immediately, or they lose check marks from their chart. We use reward charts in our home. Our children earn check marks for positive behaviors and completing chores. When they complete a 50 box check mark chart, they get to cash it in for a toy or something else that they have been wanting. They can get check marks taken away for misbehavior. Whining, especially in public, can result in check marks being taken away.

It is hard to give a child a timeout when you are at the grocery store or out running errands. Taking away check marks is saved for those situations when a timeout is not feasible. My kids take their check marks seriously, because they are hard-earned. With a threat to take away a check mark, usually their behavior changes immediately.

Yes, bribery can be good parenting sometimes.[1]

Whatever methods of reward and consequence that you may have in your home, it must also apply to whining. You can provide a reward for an entire day without whining. Having consequences that occur when whining happens is what will help change the behavior as well. If you only have empty threats by warning them eight times that “if you don’t stop whining, you are going to timeout” is not effective.

The key to getting the behavior to change is having consequences. You ask them only once to stop and provide a consequence in your request. For example, if my son Charlie is whining, I will say something along these lines: “If you don’t stop whining right now, then you are going to get a 5 minute timeout. If you have something to say, please use your big boy voice and say it to me nicely.” They know that I won’t ask a second time. If they whine again, they immediately go to timeout.

3. Enforce Consequences for Whining Using a One Ask Approach

My kids don’t fight with me about going to timeout. They know if they argue or continue whining, then there are consequences for that behavior. That consequence is increased time in their timeout. I usually start with a three-minute or five-minute timeout. If they complain or continue to whine, my response is “one more whine or complaint and it goes to ten-minutes”. It isn’t just an idle threat either. They know I will follow through.

If the complaints continue, time will continue to be added to their time-out. If we make it all the way to a thirty minute timeout, I will send them to their room and they can lay down for a nap for that thirty minutes. It doesn’t often get to that point, but they know that it is possible, because they have all had those thirty-minute timeouts that mean they go to lay down in their room.

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Your ability to get their behavior to stop immediately is tied directly to your enforcement of the ask. If you ask them to do something, you must have a consequence tied to that request. When they don’t do as asked, then you immediately follow through with the consequence. This is enforcing a “one-ask approach.” When you keep asking them repeatedly to stop whining and you don’t have it tied to a consequence, they will keep whining. They don’t have an incentive to change.

You must ask once for them to stop the whining and have it tied to a consequence if they don’t stop. You must enforce the consequence immediately if they continue to whine after that first warning. This is using the one-ask approach.[2]

4. Provide Them with Communication Tools

Some children whine because they don’t have the right tools to communicate. This is especially true for young children who have not developed good communication skills.

A child who is under the age of two may be whining “mommy” all the time when they want milk, or help putting on their shoes, or they want a toy off a high shelf. Teach them the words and how to ask for those things. For example, using a nice tone say to them “you can ask for milk by saying “mommy, milk please”. Have them copy your tone. If they don’t use the same tone, then repeat the tone and phrase more exaggerated in a sweet voice so they better understand.

Providing children with the right tools for communication by teaching them the words to use is helpful in minimizing whining. You must also teach them about tone of voice at the same time. Because the right words are not helpful if they are being whined. Teach the child tone of voice by providing an example to them. Show them with your own voice how to ask nicely.

5. Be a Model of No Whining Allowed

Children are always paying attention to their parent’s behavior. Their parents and caregivers are their role models. This makes it very important for parents and caregivers to model good behavior.

If you are whining and your child witnesses you doing this on a regular basis, then they will learn to do the same behavior. If you model good communication skills and making requests using a pleasant and civil voice, then they will learn to do that instead of whining.

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6. Praise Them for Changing Their Behavior

If you have a child who is a habitual whiner, then you need to focus on their positive behavior. Using the consequences for the whining is helpful and still applies, but you don’t want your child to feel defeated.

You can help make the situation positive by praising their good behavior. This means when they whine and you ask them to stop and they in turn, stop the whining and ask you again in a nice voice, you respond with praise.

The following is an example: “You did such a good job saying that like a big girl and you changed the way you said that to me. Thank you for saying that to me so nicely, I will get you that glass of milk you asked for.”

Praise reinforces their good behavior. The positive feedback from a parent is greatly desired from a child. Be sure to praise your child when they change their whining into a good tone of voice and good communication skills.

7. Let Them Know What Whining Sounds Like

Some children don’t realize how annoying and irritating whining can be. They don’t know what it really sounds like coming from someone else. If they are in the habit of whining, then show them what it sounds like.

Don’t do it when you are in the middle of one of their whining episodes. Wait until things are calmed and you can have a one-on-one heart to heart chat with them in a sincere manner.

Don’t mock them. Instead, you can say something along these lines: “When you whine, it sounds like this….(fill in with an example of a recent whine)…and it makes me not want to listen to you. I need you to work on using your big girl voice by asking like this….” Then, follow it up by converting the whining statement into a nicely said statement using a good tone of voice.

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Providing them with an example and allowing them to hear what they sound like to you helps them to better understand how annoying and irritating whining can be.

8. Assess What the Whine is Really Saying

Some children whine because they are overtired or they are seeking attention. If whining occurs and it is not your child’s typical behavior, then you may need to assess why they are whining.

My son Alex is typically not a whiner. When he begins to whine, we now recognize that it is because he is really tired and needs a nap or needs to go to bed for the night. If we put him in timeout for whining, it seems that his behavior becomes worse because he is overtired. The solution is to get him down for a nap, or put him to bed. In this situation, we don’t give a timeout. Instead, we focus on the task at hand, which is getting our overtired child put into his bed for some much needed sleep.

If your child is whining because they are in need of attention, then take the time to give them the attention that they are craving. They are only little once. A few minutes of your undivided attention can make all the difference in the world to your child.

It’s Up to You as the Parent to Make Change Happen

Children will naturally whine. It is part of development. For younger children, especially toddlers, the tendency for whining is more likely because they lack good communication skills. It is up to parents to correct the behavior by showing children the right ways to communicate.

If the behavior persists, then parents and caregivers should use a reward or consequence system consistently to change the behavior.

Whining doesn’t need to be a part of your home life. You can set the standard first by your own example of not whining and secondly, by having a system in place for handling whining when it does occur.

More About Communication with Children

Featured photo credit: Simon Rae via unsplash.com

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