At some point, everyone has experienced overreacting to the small stuff. And we’re all probably familiar with that awful feeling of regret and embarrassment that comes after we’ve cooled down.
But wouldn’t it be great if you could be one of those people who always keep their cool. The ones that make everything in life seem like no big deal? Well, you can, and we have the tips to help, right here.
Why Should You Stop Overreacting?
Before we dive into how to stop overreacting, why should you bother?
Well, because overreacting hurts your relationships and it’s terrible for your health too.
No one enjoys being around someone who constantly overreacts to even the tiniest things, so making a big deal out of little things will put a strain on all your relationships.
Plus, when you overreact, you usually feel angry or upset, and these feelings trigger your body to go into “fight or flight” mode, releasing a bunch of cortisol, the dreaded stress hormone.
These feelings can wreak havoc on your body, causing headaches, digestion problems, depression, increased anxiety…the list goes on.
And, big emotional reactions have been found to release interleukin-6, which is a marker for inflammation. The greater the reaction, the more interleukin-6 is released, leading to health risks like high blood pressure and heart disease.
So for the sake of your health, and all your loved ones, let’s kick overreacting to the curb. Here’s how:
Hit the Pause Button and Breathe
When you overreact to something, usually just a few seconds later you cool down and realize it, but at that point, the damage is done.
Whether it’s flipping off the person who just cut you off, or yelling at your boyfriend because he forgot to put the toilet seat down again, you can’t take it back.
And what if your version of overreacting is crying or feeling super depressed about the tiniest thing? You don’t deserve that.
So instead of getting to that point, create space between your emotions and your reactions.
As soon as you start to feel your blood boiling, your heart racing, or the tears coming, step away from the situation. Take a deep breath, in and out, and count to ten. If you need more than ten seconds, take another deep breath and keep going.
The key here is to breathe in through your nose, hold the breath, and breathe out through your nose again.
In India, this process of breathwork is a common practice called pranayama, which translates to control of the life force.
Even navy seals use this practice to prepare for extreme situations.
And research shows that purposeful deep breathing can calm you down, focus the mind, and promote patience and clarity.
Know Your Triggers
Often, we have certain things that really drive us crazy.
Personally, my trigger is feeling like I don’t have control of a situation.
Right now I’m in Thailand, and after almost 24 hours of traveling I walked into the apartment I got off of Airbnb, and it was still dirty.
Okay, not a huge deal.
Then I went to use the motorbike that comes with the apartment to find the gas tank completely empty.
Then, I found these little bug cocoons on the walls. At this point, I’m starting to overreact.
And testing out the unbelievably slow WiFi just took me over my limit.
So I freaked out. I got angry, frustrated, and annoyed. I got into a fight with my boyfriend and took a nap even though I had just woken up.
Obviously, none of this helped. And a few minutes into my unsuccessful nap, I realized it’s really not that big of a deal. I’m in a beautiful country experiencing a new culture and embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. Who cares about all that other small stuff?
Once I was back to responding normally, everything was sorted out with the host. Cleaners came to the apartment, the host provided a new and faster portable wifi router, and we even got a discount.
Identifying your triggers can give you the ability to stay ahead of your reactions, so you can skip the freaking out, fighting, and unnecessary naps and instead remember that it’s not that big of a deal.
Think back to this past month and all the things that just drove you nuts – all the stuff that caused you to overreact. Familiarizing yourself with these things, and remembering how it all wasn’t that big of a deal will prepare you for when they come up again.
Treat Yourself Well
When we’re hungry, thirsty, tired, or overworked, we aren’t as good as making decisions, and it becomes easier to let our emotions get the best of us. By practicing self-care, you allow your mind and your body to react better to all things in life.
It’s easy to view self-care as selfish or a luxury, but it’s the exact opposite. Self-care has so many benefits.
This study found that U.S medical students who practice self-care had less stress and a higher quality of life than those who didn’t.
Self-care doesn’t have to be an extravagant event like an expensive spa day. It can be a great night of sleep, eating healthy meals, exercising, or my personal favorite – taking a candlelit bath with a good book.
Shift Your Perspective
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.”
— Eckhart Tolle
Our thoughts are powerful, seriously. Take a look at this research from Stanford University.
The research found, among other things that:
- People who believe that the physical labor they do at work counts as exercise, live longer, regardless of whether they actually exercise.
- People who were told they were drinking a caffeinated drink when they weren’t, experienced a spike in blood pressure.
- People who expect to feel a lot of pain, do, and also require longer hospital stays and more pain medication.
- People who put a positive spin on the amount of pain they may experience, feel less pain, spend less time in hospitals, and require fewer pain medications.
When something bad happens to us, it’s easy to start moving toward worse case scenarios.
We fall into thinking “people always mistreat me” “bad things always happen to me” or “they never support me.”
When the words always or never pop into your head as you overreact, stop right there and shift your perspective.
Maybe your partner is snapping at you because they didn’t get enough sleep, or perhaps the person who just cut you off in traffic just got an emergency call.
Maybe these things are true (and often they are), but sometimes they won’t be. Sometimes the person who cut you off in traffic is just a jerk, but by shifting your perspective, it doesn’t have to affect you.
Think Big Picture
When something happens, that sets you off, and you feel an overreaction coming on, ask yourself the big pig picture question.
Is this going to matter in a month? In a year?
If the answer is no, then it’s small stuff.
It’s also useful to run off this checklist – if no one’s hurt or dead or if nothing irreplaceable is destroyed, you’re going to be just fine.
From Overreacting to Responding
While it’s important to stop overreacting to everything – for the wellbeing of yourself and everyone around you, you also don’t want to bottle up your feelings.
Feelings of disappointment, sadness, or resentment, no matter how small, cause more damage when they’re ignored.
If you keep shoving your reactions deep down, eventually something is going to happen that makes you explode, and you’ll have the most epic overreaction of your life. And chances are it’ll be to something as insignificant as spilling your coffee.
Instead, follow these tips and wait until you’re ready to respond rationally and calmly. If that means the situation has passed and you still need to express yourself, do it by writing a letter or journaling.
There will always be little bumps in the road, but there’s a lot more you can do than overreact. What’s your favorite way to keep your cool?