Overreacting is normal – we all do it. One little fight and we’re convinced our relationship is over. One bad glance and your day at work is ruined. One compliment on your new dress and we’re suddenly worthy of being on the cover of Vogue (it goes both ways). But as time passes, we always look back at our initial reaction with a little bit of embarrassment and a little bit of regret.
There is real value in being able to choose how we respond to stressful or difficult situations. Research shows that learning emotional regulation skills can help us in a number of ways – in our relationships, our mental health, and our emotions. Best of all, emotional regulation isn’t difficult! All you need to know is your ABC’s.
– A is for Acceptance
While the totality of our reactions isn’t always justified, the root of it is real. The key is to acknowledge the way you’re feeling, why you’re feeling it, and accept them before an irrational action is taken. When we accept an emotion we’re having – whether it’s shame, grief, or anger – we make room for it and stop struggling with it. A lot of our issues don’t come from the emotion itself, but the ways we try and not feel it. Accepting that we’re struggling means that we can figure out what to do about it, rather than avoid it.
– B is for Balancing Emotions
Being aware of both your emotional state and the situation will help you understand what reaction is most appropriate. Balancing emotions might take some time to learn and a great way to get started is by reflecting on an argument and considering what might have been a trigger and some of the things you could’ve done differently. The more we can take a growth perspective, the more we can learn from these mistakes and change accordingly.
– C is for Cognitive Reappraisal
Cognitive reappraisal is just fancy talk for doing a self-scan on your thought patterns. For example, we can replace thoughts like “They hate me” with “They’re frustrated and need some time to themselves.” It’s not about changing reality, it’s about painting a larger picture to have a broader perspective. Once we take that into account, we can respond like a patient and sensible partner.