You know those moments when you can feel your blood boiling? You can almost feel the emotion welling up inside of you, ready to lose your cool. Those moments can be overwhelming and sometimes a little scary. Thankfully, you have a choice in how you respond. Try these five strategies to help you keep your cool.
1. Take a timeout. Timeouts aren’t just for toddlers. Timeouts are perfect for those moments when you’re about to lose your cool. Timeouts provide physical space between you and the stressor, giving you a break before you overheat. Timeouts limit the damage you might do by losing your cool in the heat of the moment, also giving your a temporary break from the stressor. Timeouts provide a chance to gather your thoughts, thinking about how you want to proceed. Ideally, timeouts last between ten minutes and two hours, depending on the situation. Any longer than two hours and it goes from a break to an act of avoidance. Also, be careful not to use timeouts to simmer and stew, thinking about all the things you’re going to fire back with once the timeout is over.
2. Breathe. This tip usually warrants people giving me the stink eye. It sounds so simple. How could it possibly be helpful? Well, that depends on how you breathe. If you take a big huff in and a big puff out, then it won’t be helpful. Because that’s not a deep breath, that’s an exasperated sigh. Instead, take a slow deep breath in through your nose, briefly pause and hold your breath for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale through your mouth. This is one of the fastest and easiest ways to calm down, working at the physiological level. If you haven’t watched my video on mindful breathing, I highly recommend that you pop over and watch that. (You can find it here.)
3. Don’t vent. It’s so tempting to think that a quick vent session will help keep you from losing your cool. However, research has shown the exact opposite to be true. Venting just replays the stressful situation, prompting you to re-experience the event, as well as all the emotions that come with it. For more on this, as well as some helpful tips on what to do instead of venting, click here.
4. Speak slowly and softly. Did you know that humans have a tendency to mirror one another? Meaning that as one person raises their voice, so does the person they’re talking with. And as one person talks faster, so then does the other person. You can imagine how quickly this can escalate things. So to use this concept of mirroring in your favor, intentionally slow down the pace of your speech and talk slower. It may feel absolutely ridiculous, but trust me, it helps. I do this often with clients who are particularly anxious, talking faster and faster. I intentionally slow down and soften my speech, and without realizing it, they start to slow down as well. Think of this as your Jedi mind trick for the day!
5. Remember that the other person is a human. You know that phrase, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”? It’s true. You never know what someone else is going through. So even though you’re frustrated and about to lose your cool, do your best to remember that they are a human. They could’ve been up all night with a sick kid. They could be waiting on some scary health news. They could be brand new at their job or struggling after a break up. Flex your empathy muscles, and remember that most people are doing their best.
I say this often, and I will say it again. You can’t control what life throws your way, but you can absolutely control how you respond. So when you feel like you’re about to lose your cool, step back and challenge yourself to proceed thoughtfully. Be intentional about how you respond.
Your body and brain will thank you!
PS: Wondering why you’re so frustrated? Watch this for a few clues.