Time out – not just for kids – adults need it too!
Parents give children “time out” to separate the them from a situation that has caused them emotional turmoil and give them time to gain control of their emotions. Hopefully as the child calms down and relaxes they will think about what has happened to upset them and learn to handle their reactions. It is a very good and effective concept when done calmly and without harsh criticism. It’s a chance to learn about emotions and how to deal with them. Time out however, isn’t just for children, it is a very effective coping strategy for adults too. Unfortunately we adults don’t always give ourselves a time out when it is most needed.
I am an emotional reactor. This means that I deal with new information emotionally first, then after a bit of time I process the information objectively. It’s not the best way to deal with things, but it is how some of us work. So when something happens I, and my family and friends, know to expect an emotional reaction. I have come to learn that when I have an emotional response, as I recently did in a situation I blogged about, I am much better at dealing with the issue if I take a “time out”. So if you’re like me and react to things emotionally here are some suggestions that work for me when dealing with runaway emotions.
1. Take yourself away from the situation. Go to another room and pick up a book or turn on the television, go outside or inside, go to the other side of the gym, the street get in the car and drive away, go for a walk, log out of email, social media or off of the computer. If you’re in a car, airplane or somewhere you can’t get away do something to mentally separate yourself from the situation. Turn up the radio, put in your headphones, turn your head away, close your eyes (unless you’re driving of course!) and think of good things! I know it sound cheesy (“these are a few of my favorite things”) but there is a reason there is a song, it works!
2. Next acknowledge the emotions and don’t feel guilty about them. You might feel bad if about your actions if you reacted badly to others, but you just need to learn how to control your reactions in the moment.
3. Take as much time as you need to regain control of your emotions. Sometimes it may only take a short walk for a few minutes to calm down, but other times it may take days, weeks or even months. Give yourself as much time as you need to put everything in perspective.
4. After some time and good perspective the next thing to do is often the hardest. When you have figured out what triggered the emotional reaction and determine if it is something that happened one time by chance, or if it is something that happens often. If the same situation happens over and over, days or weeks apart, then it is time to cut yourself off from the triggers. This sometimes mean distancing yourself from people or places you thought you “enjoyed”. It can be a difficult thing to do but in the long run it is the best thing for your mental and physical health. I will discuss this in another blog soon.
The main thing for an emotionally reactive person to do is to be honest with yourself about your emotions and learn from them.