Man, I can overreact sometimes, well, actually most of the time. I overreact so often, that I recently got a tattoo on my arm of a storm in a teacup. A reminder to keep things in perspective.

Storm in a Teacup

Where is the control?

Just the other day on my way  back home from the box (crossfit gym), I was shaking my protein shaker, but didn’t check the lid. Nutella flavoured protein everywhere. Whose fault is that? Obviously the  makers of the shaker. 😉

Even though is was the fault of the shaker makers, the hard truth is, always, no matter what happens, the control is always with me. I am the one reacting. No matter what happens, no matter what it is, I am the one that reacts.

Now sure, my reactions come from a long history of influences, memories, stories, beliefs, and events. All these working together is beautiful dis-harmony leading to me freaking out when someone cuts me off in traffic.

So here is how I am choosing, that’s right, CHOOSING, to not overreact.

Find the source.

In my experience, my reactions lie somewhere in myself feeling insecure, feeling threatened, feeling belittled, not being validated. The guy cutting me off in traffic is obviously belittling my existence intentionally, right? Or maybe he is just in a hurry.

The source of the reaction is of course you, and the source of the specific reaction, might be insecurity for example. So get that sorted out. Or the source might be a strongly held belief, for example that you must be respected because you are ‘better’ than the other person (that would be a tough one to admit, and I’m sure you know many other people out there that are like that…)

Think, before you overreact.

Or to be more precise: Stop. Think. Choose.

This is advice a child psychologist once gave a friend of mine, something she teaches the kids that come and see her. It is probably the best advice ever, for all people everywhere.

Thinking is something humans can do, well most of us. We have a neo-cortex that helps us make decisions, we don’t have to live just in our mammalian brain, reacting to whatever is in front of us. Choose. The gods seems to think we have a choice.

The Mammalian Brain is the culprit (not me).

Is this really worthwhile getting upset about? Does it really matter? Do you want to hand over your entire morning to the rude guy behind the till in the store? No. I bet not, time is precious.

Perspective helps, and so does taking a second to use those frontal lobes. No wonder,  your mother told  you to count to ten. (The undo send function in gmail has saved my  butt more times than I would like to admit, sometimes just five seconds is more than enough to gain perspective)

Remember, whoever gets angry first, loses.

Drink a glass of water.

Not much personal problems in the world that cannot be solved with a glass of water.

  1. It breaks the pattern, just pausing to drink helps you to think for a second.
  2. Water is good for you, you are probably not tired/angry/hurt, you are just thirsty.

(Also, as a side note, no one can cry and drink at the same time.. so it helps giving a glass of water to a crying person too.)

So there it is, not a polished massive solution to overreacting, but it works. Slowly you build yourself new neural pathways by letting go of old beliefs, replacing them with new healthier ones, and by choosing to be in control.

And if all else fails, just rub your ears and say woooozaaaa

O, and you know what I did in my car with my windows full of nutella flavoured protein? I laughed, because how funny is that?

Your turn

How do you deal with reacting? What tricks have you learnt, not to overreact?


header image of storm by Mitch Dobrowner