I hesitated writing this post, because I am currently in therapy to undo a lot of the below. Due to prior trauma in my life I had practiced the art of setting aside or numbing my emotions and I have reached the point now where I am a little numb to it all, which is not especially healthy.
For me at a point in time, my life depended on being calm and cool headed. Not getting carried away with emotions meant I was not going to upset my mum, it meant I was in a better frame of mind to fix things, it might I was avoiding risking walking the same dark path she did.
Today though it means I have a huge mountain of emotion at risk of avalanche at any moment. That I don’t get to enjoy the full range and scale of emotions. That life is never experienced with its full volume and colour.
So please don’t deploy the below if you are already avoiding or detaching from emotions. As always I advocate that you get support if you are struggling and always remember these are just my experiences.
However with all that said I decided to write this post as I was recently reminded of the people at the other end of this scale. The people who struggle to control extreme emotions. The people who fly off the handle with road rage or find themselves punching a wall in anger. I wondered whilst my strategies have gone too far, perhaps for others they might help. So here are my top tips for calming emotions in the moment.
Stop. Count. Breath.
If I feel emotions stirring or trying to overcome me. The first and now only step I need to take is that I stop. I breath in for four, out for four, hold for four. Often just doing this is enough of a pause for me to notice I am about to react emotionally. Don’t get me wrong the first few hundred times of doing this it probably didn’t always work, but now it is like my brain is trained to acknowledge this break in processing and it knows what comes next if it does not get a handle…
What ever if causing me to feel emotional I focus in on it, then I stand back, I consider the day, then the week, then a month, then a year. I actively ask myself will I feel as upset about at this when I look back over my life. When I consider it along with every other feeling I will ever experience, I often conclude this feeling, this moment won’t play a big role. I then focus in on that sense this is of little consequence and I zoom back in on the moment and bring the feeling with me.
Look at the situation from a different point of view.
When someone has upset us we often fail to consider their point of view. Sometimes if it is someone I don’t know I make up stories… the guy cut up the car because he is rushing home to his wife in labour, or the bloke in the office was rude to me because his wife told him they are getting a divorce.
If I know the person I remind myself of all the things they have had to overcome, and all the wonderful things they have said and done. I remind myself that we all only human and are allowed to struggle at times.
Sometimes if I find myself in a stressful or difficult situation I zoom out. I imagine the world around me and I zoom out to the street, I think of the old man living alone at the end of our row. I zoom out to the area and I think of the homeless guy always sat outside the shop. I zoom out to our town and I think of the parent sat by their child’s bedside in the hospital. I zoom out to the country and I think of… you get the idea. I think about all the circumstances people are most definitely experiencing in that exact same moment and then I think about what’s in front of me, how bad can it be.
If all else fails distraction. Do some cleaning, some diy, go for a walk. I find to distract from emotions it helps if the task requires both physical effort and mental focus. So if I go for a walk I might listen to a podcast to keep my head busy. Or if I am cleaning the floor I might list the items I need to get when I have to go shopping.