We’ve all been in a scenario where you feel like one more, just one more thing is going to set you off and then it’s all down hill from there. Maybe you’re having a difficult day, you may not be feeling well, you get bad news, your job is overwhelming, or the kids aren’t listening… You have two options: diffuse the situation or go nuclear.
I tend to be the type of person who gets upset, blow up, and then I’m all good. I am able to vent my feelings and move on with very little thought to what irritated me in the first place. Do you do this?
It may be easier to blow up and then feel better, but think about the people around you. Do you want to cause friction between you and your spouse? Do you want to provide a bad example for your children? Do you want coworkers and colleagues to see you in an unprofessional light?
Even if you are not me, undoubtedly from time to time you are in situations where you can barely keep your shit together.
So what can you do when this happens?
There are several tactics I use that I believe could also be helpful to you. My main focus when writing this was from a parenting perspective, but many of the ideas below can be applied to a variety of situations. For example, I use deep breathing to counteract my anxiety when driving on icy streets or the walk away method when I get thrown under the bus at the office.
Let it roll off your back
Think: Will this be something that would still piss me off years from now? If not, just let it go.
Just accept it and move on
This is harder said than done. When my husband and I first moved in together, it drove me nuts that he would use a new towel when he showered each day. I got so aggravated about having to wash towels all the time! After griping about it, crying about it, and getting angry about it I finally came to the realization that this was something that was never going to change. So, I accepted it and moved on. I still do a shit ton of laundry, but I know it is not worth the fight or worth the emotional toll.
Pick your battles
Instead of arguing or getting upset about a lot of issues, decide what is really important to you and fight for it. Put all of your energy into one area that needs attention rather than trying to divvy it out among multiple issues. Approaching a problem that way will cause you to spin your wheels and go nowhere.
Ask for help when you need it
Asking for help can be hard on your ego, your confidence, and your pride. But everyone needs help sometime. People won’t think less of you for asking for help and more often than not, they are happy to help. Don’t carry the world on your shoulders, Atlas, so let others know when you need help. People won’t think less of you for asking for help and more often than not, they are happy to help. A few nights ago my husband at his brother’s house. I was trying over and over to put the kids asleep, but each time one kid fell asleep the other would wake the other up. We did this cycle for about forty-five minutes and were already an hour late for bedtime. I was pushed to my limits. I sent a text message to my husband:
Pls come home. I’m gonna lose my shit soon😫
By the time he got home I had the kids (finally!) in bed for the night and was able to finally sit and calm down.
I practice this with my three year old. Deep breaths in, deep breaths out. Repeat as often as needed. It will help release muscle tension, give you time to think, decrease anxiety, and steady your emotions.
Distract and refocus
This is a good strategy for both yourself and your children. When my son is insistent on hunting down the remote control for the TV or Xbox and will not give up at all costs, I try to distract him and help him focus on something new: Hey, is that your Avengers ball in the corner? Do you think you could roll it to your sister?
I do the same thing for myself. If I find myself getting upset about muddy footprints on the carpet, crumbs on the couch, or beer cans and bottles left on the kitchen counter top instead of being placed in the recycling bin, I go focus on something different and come back later when I feel calmer an can not let what was bothering me get under my skin.
Find your chill
Do something that will help you less tense and more calm. Listen to music, take a warm bath, take a walk, go to a yoga class, brew a new pot of coffee, whatever helps you take care of yourself is important. The more high strung and irritable you are the more likely you are to get fed up and lash out. The more chill vibes you project will also help those around you to stay calm, as well.
Plop your kid in the Pack ‘n Play, sit the crying baby in the crib, call for backup… as long as everyone is safe take five minutes to compose yourself, close your eyes, count to 100, do some stretches, or anything that helps you restore your patience.
Fake it ’til you make it
You might feel like a ragged mess who can’t keep anything straight, but try to project the appearance of being cool as a cucumber. I know it sounds counterintuitive to pretend that everything is OK when it is not- you can barely keep it together, right? But sometimes it really does help to think positively, get yourself into a pattern, get used to it, and begin to feel comfortable.
Don’t let yourself get to the point where you are too stressed out, depressed, run down, or in bad shape. Take care of yourself! You can’t take care of everyone else when you’re down for the count.
I think this is one of the hardest things for moms to do. We tell ourselves that taking care of others trumps our own self-care. It doesn’t! The whole home and family won’t fall apart in the length of time it takes for you to get a pedicure, call your BFF for a vent session, or to take a walk.
You, your needs, and your emotions are important.
Find your tribe
Surround yourself with friends, family, or anyone that you know you can turn to for help, advice, or even just a quick bitch session by phone. It is easy to feel isolated and alone when you have kids, you are stressed out from work, or maybe even having relationship troubles. Find the person, or people, that will have your back, no matter what- and be the same support system form them.
I have to admit that I swear a lot. Most of the time it is in my head or under my breath. I try not to do it in front of the kids. I don’t know what it is, but vocalizing your anger, frustration, or pain does help.
According to Time magazine,
Scientifically speaking, swearing is good for you. It deadens pain and enlivens our emotional discourse. We know that its effects are physiological as well as psychological; it raises our heart rates and releases adrenaline…
Use visualization techniques to center yourself, still your mind,or to go to your happy place. Mindful Minutes has a great list of different visualization exercises to help you feel better, wherever you are.
I like to picture myself at a beach along the English Channel in the early morning, a place where I spent a lot of time when I studied in France. I think about the sound of the waves and the seagulls, the feeling of the sand underfoot and the sea spray in the air. This is very calming for me.
What helps you stay cool under pressure? Do you have any tips or techniques that you would like to share?