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How To Stop Being Emotionally Reactive: 13 Techniques That Work

Amber Murphy

When we are emotionally reactive, we tend to be more stressed. We feel angry or often hurt because we react impulsively. Putting it another way, we overreact. Our perception of the existing situation confronting us becomes altered. This makes us prone to making the wrong decisions. So how can we stop being emotionally reactive?

13 Ways to Stop Being Emotionally Reactive

The following are sincere advice that may just be the antidotes for simmering down emotional reactiveness for your peace of mind:

Meditate Often

Woman with eyes closed in meditation

Meditation can help us live more mindful and examined lives. When you meditate, you’re practicing noticing thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them and telling yourself a story about these emotions.

When we’re emotionally reactive, it’s often done compulsively or unconsciously. Meditation helps us be more self-aware and more conscious of our emotions before we react to them. If you feel like you have no control over your emotions, or that you can’t help but react, meditation is a great solution.

Surround Yourself with Positive Thinkers

If it’s possible, surround yourself with people who are constructive in the way they think and feel. Whom you associate with has a powerful impact on how you perceive things. When a problem arises, and the folks you mingle with all give varying suggestions that result in cheerful ones, you are blessed. And you will statistically be less prone to stress.

When the wrong people give you advice that produces more enemies and animosity, run away from them!

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Make Decisions After You’ve Thought Them Through

One sign of being emotionally reactive is making rash decisions on the spot. Reacting without thinking is what generally gets us in the most trouble and causes the most emotional pain. It’s also what makes it harder to stop being emotionally reactive.

Get in the habit of thinking before you act. It sounds simple but it’s not easy. When you sense intense emotions bubbling up, use that as a reminder to stop, take a breath, and think. You’ll notice the physical response comes quick: clenched fists, sweat, heat on the face, etc. These are are signs that should remind you to turn inward first, think about the situation, and then react or respond. These few seconds of introversion can offer the clarity you need to respond more productively and positively.

Don’t Make Assumptions

You might be extremely sensitive. You perceive rudeness from somebody or from a specific group, and you emotionally react by being rude to them, too. You feel your value is being underestimated, so you also find ways to undermine the source. You sense manipulation, offense, or some sort of accusation, and you do the knee-jerk reaction of reacting to these parties in an offensive manner, too.

Tit for tat. A vicious cycle of negativity resulted because you were emotionally reactive. You never did your research to validate your perception of things. Instead, have the decency to give everyone who gives you negative vibes a decent chance to be heard and observed.
You will be shocked if, in the end, the other person also thought you were the one initiating the negative vibes yourself.

Don’t Let a Bad Past Experience Induce Emotional Reactivity

Little girl looking into camera crying

A previous negative experience may form a prejudice in your mind, even one you may not be fully aware of having. Remind yourself that whenever you are reacting to something in the present, you may be making an assumption because of an experience in the past. Disconnecting our previous experiences from our present ones helps us stop being emotionally reactive.

We allow past experiences with people, places, and things to inform how we react to similar people, places, and things in the future. While this is a useful heuristic on the savannah as a caveman, it isn’t as helpful as a human being in 21st century.

Be More Inclined Towards Positive Emotions

Paul Eckman, a well-known psychologist in 1972 had this suggestion that there are 6 basic emotions that are applicable to all human cultures – surprise, happiness, disgust, fear, sadness, and anger.

In 1999, he expanded his universal emotion list to excitement, shame, pride, satisfaction, amusement, shame, embarrassment and contempt. If you noticed, there are both positive and negative emotions here. Wherever possible, be more inclined towards the positive ones to protect your own emotional health because stressors could be significant sources of physiological diseases.

But there are also positive emotions in the list when used in an overreactive way, which could be reasons for poor health or conflicts with other people.

For example, when you are overly excited to eat your favorite food and overeat, this can cause indigestion or long-term health problems. Or when you amuse yourself unethically because another person with a disability walks funnily, you will be shown contempt.

The Emotions Will Come, But Move Towards Positivity

Robert Plutchik, another ardent observer of emotions, introduced an emotion classification system in the 1980s called Wheel of Emotions. Emotions are blended together with the same way colors are mixed on an artist’s palette. This concept is very similar to the useful Wellness Wheel.

There is happiness and sadness; trust and disgust; anger and fear. Let happiness conquer sadness. Look beyond your initial perception of a person who makes you feel anger, disgust, or fear. In the final analysis, trust might overcome all these emotions when you see a positive character in someone you haven’t noticed before.

Try Calming Activities

Man kicking back and relaxing on his porch

Lower your level of emotional reactivity by involving yourself in a relaxing massage or give yourself a complete spa treat.

Go on vacation to a peaceful place. Up in the cool mountains, down on the exciting beach, and the serenity of the woods are recommended locations to recharge and ease your burned nerves and upended emotions.

If going to the gym relaxes you, then be a member of one. Research shows that toxins are filtered out of your body and loads of emotional stress by sweating. If sweating is your thing, you can also go on a run or participate in a team sport.

Meanwhile, yoga and Tai Chi all have avid practitioners worldwide because of their emotion calming benefits. Tai Chi is ironically a Chinese martial art that is practiced for self-defense purposes. But it has health benefits, just like yoga. They both improve movement, your muscles and enhance your flexibility. As a result, your moods and emotions also benefit.

Be Punctual

You have an appointment for a job interview at 10 am. You estimate that your relaxed driving time towards that location is about an hour, as long as the traffic is expectedly moderate.

So logically, you need to be out of your apartment by 9 am or even earlier. But because of a previous bad habit of procrastination, you’re out only around 9:10 am.

You are under time pressure. You swerve through traffic, speedier than usual (but under the speed limit). You almost bumped that elderly lady while she was crossing the street. And you nearly collided with another car during an intersection crossing.

You’re highly emotionally reactive here because you’re pressured for time. If you’ve been faithful to the time you need to leave the house, you would have a pleasant cruise towards your job interview. Being punctual allows you to relax into situations instead of always feeling pressed for time.

Sleep Well

Your emotions and your ability to have enough sleep have an intimate relationship. Sleep deprivation makes you more emotionally aroused easily and more sensitive to stressful stimuli and scenarios (in a negative way).

Research has shown that enough sleep (6 to 8 hours) is essential to better cope with emotional reactivity in everyday situations. So when you need to stop working or whatever you’re doing because it’s bedtime, stop. The benefits far outweigh the cons.

If you need some help getting to sleep at night, try one of the best sleep apps available or a guided meditation for sleep.

Consume Food and Supplements That Calm You

An assortment of healthy food

The regular consumption of supplements and food that calms your nerves and will help stop being emotionally reactive, a problem for you, is a great habit.

Research has proven that dietary supplements that help lower your emotional anxieties include vitamin D, saffron, magnesium, chamomile, omega 3, vitamin C, L-theanine, CBD, curcumin, and multivitamins. But be well informed from professionals of the proper dosage of these supplements because too much of anything can produce undesired side effects.

Calming foods should be naturally rich in magnesium. Spinach, Swiss chard, and other leafy greens are examples. Other sources of magnesium are nuts, legumes, seeds, and whole grains.

Zinc is also a natural emotion pacifier. It’s an essential component found in cashews, oysters, beef, liver, and egg yolks. But everything in moderation, as usual.

You should also consider what to avoid consuming. For example, there are links between caffeine and anxiety that may make you consider avoiding that cup of joe in the mornings.

Research Extensively

Learn all you can about what can help you stop being emotionally reactive. There has never been a time in history when all knowledge is at the tip of your fingers and with the availability of internet.

Specifically, when you anticipate being part of a stressful situation, narrow down your research to that particular niche. Like if you’re about to meet the parents of your fiancee. Research what should be your most appropriate behavior so that less tension will ensue.

Laugh Often

Laughter and cheerfulness should be part and parcel of every effort to stop being emotionally reactive. Finding something funny in every situation calms your nerves and makes you prepare with excitement, rather than fear or disgust, for the next chapter.

A good old laughing spell pulverizes all emotionally reactive tendencies.

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