941-462-4807 meg@megyounglcsw.com

pissed We all get angry and scared. We all have a variety of emotions that we feel and how we express those feelings indicates “who we are.” No. I completely disagree with this way of thinking. The problem with this way of thinking is we make ourselves helpless. We believe we cannot change. You didn’t always respond this way. You don’t have to moving forward, either.
When we overreact, people may start to avoid us or not tell us important things out of fear of our reaction. We may start to dislike our own behaviors, but not be sure how to change them. We may start to beat ourselves up, saying things like “I’m an idiot; I can’t believe I did that again.” Or “I hate myself for acting this way, but I don’t know how to stop it.”
The downsides to not being able to control our emotions, aside from everything above, is the more we do a certain behavior, the harder it is to change. The brain gets used to doing something a certain way and it wants to continue that, especially if it works.
The problem with over-reacting is it aligns with the fight/flight response. When we experience an intense emotion, whether it is due to danger or not, the same physiological response happens in the body – increased heart rate, faster/shallow breathing, tunnel vision, inability to think clearly, shakiness, tense muscles.
When we over-react by yelling, punching, throwing, kicking, etc, all this does is align with the fight/flight. When we are truly in danger, yelling will alert people to where we are and that we need help (thus improving the likelihood of survival). When we punch, throw, or kick something, we are “fighting” (thus improving the likelihood of survival).
Since yelling, punching, throwing things, kicking, etc align with fight/flight, it makes it that much more difficult to not do those behaviors again in the future. We are wired for survival.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that when you over-react, initially you and your body feel better, right? However, logically you know it wasn’t the best thing to do in that situation, and you likely don’t feel good about it.
At the time, the release of energy was what the body was looking to do as the brain thought you were in danger. As you weren’t actually in danger, logic kicked in and told you this wasn’t helpful. However, physiologically it was very helpful.
Unfortunately, when something is seen as “good” to the brain, it is hard for the brain not to want it or want to do it again. Just like eating chocolate. Or seeing your best friend after years of not.
Eventually, you wind up having a very difficult time controlling your reactions to these emotions as the brain has been “rewarded” so many times. As frustrating as this is to you, the survival part of your brain is pleased with how quickly you react.
A lot of people struggle with controlling their reactions, especially when emotions get too high. Furthermore, there is always a thought that goes with the emotion, and when that thought and feeling are aligned, the behavior will attempt to align as well.
Whereas there is a purpose to your over-reactions, and the survival part of your brain is just doing its job, your over-reacting is causing a lot of stress and frustration for you, your family, and others in your life.
I’m sure there have been times in your life when you were able to turn off the anger, or not react to it. Maybe it was in public and you didn’t want to be embarrassed. But think about it. Have you ever been able to not overreact recently? This tells you that it is possible for you to not overreact in every situation.
When we can learn a 3 step process to stop and think before reacting, it is entirely possible to react intentionally instead of impulsively.
Our current behaviors do not have to define who we are. We have the ability to adapt and change.
Keep reading to learn how to stop and think before reacting in a way you do not want to
The biggest problem of not gaining control of your behaviors is nobody wants to be around you when you’re overreacting. The more you over-react, the less people will want to be around you. You wish that you wouldn’t respond this way; you don’t even like it yourself.
At the very least, you find yourself not being yourself. You may have found a way to not over-react to everything, but you’ve found yourself becoming quietly antagonistic. You are not as vocal about what’s bothering you, but you mumble under your breath, you notice that you think more negatively, and you don’t like being around people because they “annoy” you.
This is no way to live. It just gets worse from here. It takes a great deal of energy to feel even slightly irritated all the time. The brain and body are always on the lookout for the “danger” it knows is around every corner and therefore you don’t have the ability to rest and recover from the day. Rest and recovery is just as important to the brain as it is to the body.
Over time, the consistency of staying alert to danger all the time will cause changes in your body and brain in the form of behavior and words that others see and will eventually point out to you.
Although you struggle with controlling your actions right now, you have the potential to live the life you’re looking for. You have the ability to regain control of your mind and yourself and not over-react to situations that seem so trivial.
When we choose to implement a breathing technique into our day, there is a possibility for reacting to situations with intention instead of impulsivity. There is a reason that Eastern Monks have used meditation and breathing for so long. It is effective.
You have the opportunity to learn and use one skill that will start to change the way you react to upsetting situations and respond to those situations in a way that makes you feel good about yourself.
I know right now you’re thinking I’m crazy and breathing techniques won’t make you respond differently, but this one step is going to bring oxygen throughout your body and give you time to listen to logic your brain is telling you.
It is only step one, and you will need to listen to what logic is telling you, but you can’t think if you don’t stop and breathe first.
The key to achieving freedom from impulsive behaviors is to learn to stop and think before acting. This breathing technique is a wonderful tool to help you stop.
The reality is, you will need to practice breathing like this, even when you do not need it, in order to make it a habit for yourself. Additionally, you will need to retrace your steps after over-reacting to see what you did well and what you didn’t do so well, but that is for another blog.
Today’s blog is focusing on the first step of helping you respond to upsetting situations more effectively. It by itself will not stop you from overreacting.
When you follow a simple, step-by-step path, you will start to see more calmness and control throughout your day. You will notice changes in the way you think and how your body feels. With this tool in your pocket, you will be able to start the stop and think process.
Take a look at these next steps to see how you can achieve success in handling situations calmly and effectively.
One of the reasons you struggle with calming down in upsetting situations is because your survival brain hijacks your logic brain. It is impossible to think immediately after the adrenalin is pumped into your body because the first thing it does is turn off logic. Just react when you’re in danger.
It makes complete sense that you’re feeling overwhelmed and hopeless about settling down and not over-reacting. How are you supposed to calm down when you react before you realize it?
But it doesn’t have to stay this way when you start implementing the 4-7-8 breathing technique. We want to give time to allow the adrenalin to leave the brain and allow logic to regain control.
Be sure that just because logic has control doesn’t mean you will use that logic! This part will be up to you.
Step 1: Lean back in your chair with your hands behind your head, giving yourself a bit of a stretch.
Leaning back like this opens your diaphragm forcing you to breathe through your belly instead of your chest. This tells your brain that you are safe right this moment and can relax the tension in your body.
Here at Meg Young, LCSW, PLLC, I emphasize the importance of doing these techniques in a way you will get maximum benefit from them.
When you use the techniques in a way to get maximum benefit, you will see the results quicker, which will give you the hope and motivation to continue to use them.
Step 2: Breathe in to the count of 4. Hold for the count of 7. Breathe out to the count of 8.
Together with my clients, we learn why this type of breathing works and when it is most useful to use it. I practice with you to ensure you feel confident and comfortable using the skills.
Notice the difference in your head, muscles, and body as a whole prior to and after doing this exercise.
After you start doing this, you will be able to move on to the next steps in order to maintain control and calm in situations that upset you.
Step 3: Practice 200 times per day, whether or not you need to.
I mean this! Nothing becomes habit overnight, and nothing is harder than retraining your brain. You are wired for security and comfort. Going out of your comfort zone by practicing this is going to feel tiresome and annoying, but I promise the more you do it, the greater the likelihood you’ll be able to use it when you need it.
When you schedule a session with me, I help you understand this concept and set yourself up for success.
Adding this to your life will make it possible for you to gain control over your emotions and behaviors. It has the potential to allow you to respond in ways you only wish you could right now.
Achieving control over your reactions to situations that anger or upset you is not an easy task. I am very proud of you that you are looking into ways to improve your life. Life is a journey and we should not sit stagnant in our growth as a person if we can find ways to improve it.
You absolutely can get your life where you want it to be. You absolutely can feel good about your reactions to situations and your family and friends will not only notice this change, but will appreciate it as much as you do.
Meg Young, LCSW, PLLC has been working with individuals working on improving different aspects of their lives for many years. I have honed in on helping adults through the emotional aftermath of trauma, vicarious (or secondary) trauma, and burnout.
Your over-reactions are very common and you are not weak or a bad person. You have not failed and you will get yourself back.
Call me today to schedule an appointment to see how we can work together to help you meet your goals quickly and efficiently. 941-462-4807.