How To Avoid Emotional Reactivity

Emotional Reactivity

Do you feel that your interpersonal relationships become difficult? Do you find yourself annoyed and irritated too often? Do you take things personally? Do other people find you over-reactive – leaving you feeling confused and upset and alone?

These kind situations and others can be repetitive and can easily spiral out of control. You may find yourself feeling trapped and confused in your own reactions.

The following are signs that you are being emotionally reactive:

  • You are quick to lose their temper
  • You are insulted at the slightest little thing.
  • Your response is often out of proportion to the situation.
  • You feel out of control – can storm off in a cloud of self-righteousness when things aren’t going exactly to plan.
  • You feel like a victim and believe circumstances have caused you to react.
  • After your reaction you might feel buffeted by the storms of life.
  • People find you over-sensitive and difficult to be around.
  • You find yourself often to defensive and resentful
  • Rumination and anger can consume you at very short notice and with the smallest provocation.
  • You have high expectation and standard from other people and from yourself.
  • You can feel overwhelmed, powerlessness with little sense of control.
  • You experience a significant mood swings
  • You may overcome with sudden tearfulness
  • You may become flooded with unwanted feelings
  • say or do things that you later regret

Some ideas to become less reactive

Reframe your experience

This may involve reframing how you experience life. Tell yourself that you’re not the victim of circumstances, and you can choose how to respond when things don’t go your way.

Instead of blaming other people saying things like “you made me angry when you forgot to call me”, try owning your feelings and taking responsibility for them. Try saying instead: “When you didn’t call me at the time we’d agreed, I began to feel overlooked and forgotten. What I’d like you to do is text me if you can’t call at the time we talked about.” The way you communicate can radically affect how reactive you are.

Take a deep breath

Slow down your response and buy yourself a millisecond of time before you react. When you feel yourself about to explode or rage at a situation, take a deep breath – exhale longer and slower than normal and consider what’s really going on here. Is it the situation, or is it some dynamic within the situation that is pressing on an old wound?

Learn about your triggers

This may take some time to work out what’s really irking you, but it can support you to become way less reactive. Over a period of time, aim to develop a part of you that ‘observes’ what you’re thinking, feeling and doing. Instead of allowing yourself to react, notice each time you were about to react and make a note of it. When the situation has calmed, look back at your reactions and aim to understand the underlying emotion that may be triggering you. Next time you feel you’re about to react, you can recognize it for what it is: just a trigger.

Refill your energy

Feeling drained and depleted can make you more reactive than normal because you have fewer energy supplies to draw on. Build activities into your week that will replenish rather than drain you. This may involve static, calming things such as meditation or mindfulness; dynamic activities such as exercise and fitness; and creative pursuits such as writing, drawing, coloring, cooking or gardening. Or it may simply mean taking some time out to check in with yourself and see how you’re feeling so you can aim to feel more grounded and in tune with yourself. Take care of your well-being: exercise, sleep and eat well, relax, meditate and so on.

Respond; don’t react. 

There’s a MAJOR difference between these two words (respond and react) philosophies.  See, reactions don’t require thought.  They’re knee-jerk reflexes.  Responses, on the other hand, are more thought-out.  They’re mindful and reflective.

So, it’s important to first recognize that you always have a choice: to either react or respond.  To resist the impulse.

Here are four solid questions to ask yourself:

  • Why do I feel this way?
  • What kinds of things am I reactive to?
  • What would be an appropriate way to respond?
  • What are the emotional triggers that generate anxiety inside me that prevent me from listening well?

Also, when you communicate, be gentle and compassionate. Before you speak, ask yourself the following questions about what you are going to say:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it kind?
  • Is it going to land well?
  • Is it the right time to say it?

If the answer is no, you may seriously consider not to say it. Silence at that moment can be powerful than words.


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