We have all done it, at least once in a while. Things build up, we get irritable, someone says something (quite often it’s rather innocuous) and BOOM, we let fly. Sometimes, if we are skilled or luck, we catch ourselves in the middle of our rant. Other times, still from skill or luck, we catch ourselves pretty quickly after our eruption and are able to apologize. Barring those two options, we are out the door and the damage is done long before we might reconsider our words and actions.
If you work with someone who flies off the handle, you know how tense they can make the work environment. Even the best of days takes a turn for the worse when we are confronted with someone in the middle of a full-blown rage. If you are prone to a degree of anxiety, those rants can cause you distress that lasts for hours. The good news is that whether we are the recipient of the ire of someone who has just flown off the handle or the one doing the flying, our strategy can be the same.
The truth is that we fly off the handle because we aren’t handling (pun intended) our stress very well. It also happens when we are feeling rushed and don’t take the time to consider our responses to the statements and actions of others.
STEP ONE: We need to make sure we are taking good care of ourselves. That means taking the time to do fun things for ourselves on a regular basis. These things don’t need to be huge, complicated events – planning those can add more stress to our lives. Go for a walk, get a massage, read a good book, or treat yourself to a favorite dessert. Allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy your self-care activities.
STEP TWO: Spend at least ten minutes a day in silence. Turn off everything – your phone, laptop, tablet, television, radio. If it makes noise, turn it off. Then just sit in the silence and pay attention to your breath. When a thought comes up, give it a label such as “thinking” and then go back to your breath. Don’t judge anything that happens, just note it. This will have the effect of slowing down the pace at which things seem to move, and give you more time to consider your response to any situation.
STEP THREE: Pay attention to your self-talk. Notice if, when you make a mistake, you call yourself “stupid” or some other self-critical words. Gently correct yourself, saying “I am not stupid, I just made a mistake. I am intelligent and worthy of respect.”
STEP FOUR: Take three breaths before answering any question. If you feel anger rising, tell the person with whom you are interacting that you will have to get back to them in a little bit. Use the intervening time to assess what is really going on, what feelings you are experiencing, and how you would like to proceed.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, be gentle with yourself. Change takes time, and setting our goal at perfection will only add to stress, no reduce it!