Let out your emotions
Let yourself feel your emotions and find positive ways to express them. When you let your emotions build up, they become stronger inside you. It's hard to stop yourself from overreacting when you're full of pent-up emotion.
Try new responses
Stress reactions are habits that, with awareness and patience, can be changed. Sometimes doing the opposite can be helpful. Instead of blaming another, you could practice acceptance and forgiveness, while looking at how you may have contributed to the situation. Rather than jumping in to help out, the overly responsible person could hold back for a while.
Write it down
Instead of reacting to a situation at all, write it down. This is another way of giving yourself time to think about the situation. Later on -- once you read what you wrote -- you may be able to see whether you overreacted.
Practice relaxation techniques
When you incorporate relaxation techniques into your life, you'll find you're automatically more in control of your emotions. The trick is finding out what works best for you. For some, it's deep breathing, a yoga or Zumba class, or staring into a candle flame. For others, it could be a walk in nature or a vigorous workout.
Do a little experimenting. Relaxation will curb your stress and you'll be less likely to lash out with negative emotions. (Note: Multiple pints of ice cream and numbing out in front of the TV may distract you temporarily to gain a change of perspective, but this technique wouldn't be on the top-10 lists of effective tools.)
Make it a point to stop judging yourself and others. Judgments can give you strong opinions that may be unwarranted, leading to overreactions. In the same vein, when you judge yourself for overreacting, you aren't allowing yourself to make mistakes, which is a self-defeating attitude.
I'll add one more to the list: Cut yourself some slack. You may still overreact from time to time, but that's OK. Behavioral change takes time. It's well worth the investment though.
As Great Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague has said, "I've found I get a better reaction from people once I'm less bothered about their reaction."
Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301 or emailed to livelifefu...@arnoldagency.com.