Written by eM Life
It was a relatively quiet Thursday morning at work. But inside my head, it was anything but peaceful. It was the end of the summer, I was trying to get in as much fun time with my kids as possible, and I was in the midst of a soul-shattering move. The stress of it all was getting to me. I could feel myself starting to crack. At that moment, I had a choice to make.
With what felt like, the weight of the world on my shoulders, I knew my worries were going to show in some form sooner or later. I also knew I couldn’t lose my cool in front of an office of people. I would have to deal with my feelings more constructively. So, I ran downstairs, got into my car and promptly cried my eyes out for 20 minutes. No one even noticed I was gone.
By giving myself space to release my pent-up emotions, I felt immediate relief. I was able to give myself the space I needed so that I didn’t project my emotions on anyone else. I got through the day and the weekend of the big move feeling more grounded.
We all have a great deal to endure each day, and much of it consists of feelings or thoughts we don’t want to share with anyone. This only adds to the shock, and hurt that can transpire when we lose control and react in a way that doesn’t feel good to anyone. Projecting those burdens onto others can sometimes make things worse.
Whether it’s saying something we’ll regret, overreacting, or just losing our cool, it’s important we recognize the signs that lead us to act in ways that prevent us from taking good care of ourselves and others.
How Mindfulness Relates
Our awareness of thoughts and emotions often lags behind our actions, and unfortunately others realize our frustrations before we do. This is one of the ways that practicing mindfulness can help us identify our tipping point, long before we’ve tipped. Mindfulness is learning how we can live in the present moment. Through the trained practice, we become aware of our inner experiences, like the thoughts and emotions we feel, without becoming overwhelmed by them.
Four steps to keep your cool during stressful times
- Become curious about what is happening. Are there visible queues around your habitual behavior like being short with others or pulling your hair? Consider the inner experiences unfolding as well – how are you feeling, what are you thinking? Notice what it’s like to relate to a difficult experience with curiosity.
- Take a mindful pause. This will allow you to step back from the situation and calm the intensity of your thoughts before responding. By creating space between the situation and your response, you’re able to gain perspective and see other ways of responding (ways in which we often don’t see in the heat of the moment). If you can’t see the situation from other perspectives, or don’t see more helpful ways of responding, acknowledge that you need more time. If you can physically walk away, do so. Otherwise, take a couple of deep breaths.
- Respond in the best way you can. Consider both timing and delivery. Maybe honesty is needed, but you’re not yet ready to have a productive conversation. If you’re not ready to respond in the best way you can, consider asking to come back to the discussion later. There are ways to advocate for yourself in a way that is done with kindness and respect, while holding firm to your boundaries and needs. A simple response could be, “I’m sorry, can we revisit the conversation after I’ve processed my thoughts?".
- Mindfully reflect. Although, mindfulness is about being in the present moment, we can still learn from our past by bringing our new-found knowledge to the present. Consider how you managed your response. What worked well? What felt challenging? What else would have been helpful? Are you carrying any regret or guilt that needs your kind attention?
Mindfulness throughout life
Mindfulness takes practice and can be worth the effort. Perhaps nowhere is this truer than when you’re faced with a pressing situation that’s pestering you to act out. Practicing mindfulness doesn’t mean we become immune to the chaos going on around us. Instead it means we can learn to see the chaos as it is without being reactive to it or blaming another person for our reaction. The next time your find yourself at your tipping point try these mindfulness strategies:
- Observe your thoughts, emotions and sensations while not over-identifying with them.
- Pause after observing.
- Respond in the best way you can. Even if that means taking a longer pause.
Discover eM Life where you can learn more about strategies to help you remain calm, clear and present regardless of the chaos, push and pull going on around you.
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Also published on Medium.