How To Overcome Emotional Reactivity And Build Emotional Stability

Updated August 28, 2020

Every human being experiences emotions. For the most part, we can handle them reasonably well. For some, however, control may seem impossible. They may lash out at others or explode when something angers or upsets them. As you can imagine, this may make personal and intimate relationships challenging to maintain. To lead a better quality of life, we must learn to regulate our emotions and improve our relationship with them. With the right help, you can learn how to better control your emotions and avoid exploding.

To help you get started, here is a guide on how to overcome emotional reactivity and build emotional stability.

What Is Emotional Reactivity?

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If you are emotionally reactive in situations that spark anger or other emotions that have a negative impact on you, you will already know what this problem looks like. However, some people may believe that they are acting reasonably or defending themselves against someone. To truly see this behavior for what it is, we have to see it from the outside.

Let’s imagine that you are in a relationship. Your partner is upset about something that you have done or said. In an instant, you are already fuming. You begin yelling at your partner and defending yourself with things that they may have said or done in the past. At this point, the fight is either going to continue until an apology is made or someone walks away.

The above is just an example that you may see in all areas of your life. For those who know how to regulate their emotions, they will accept the criticism, try to understand the other person’s point of view, and process the feelings that they may be feeling as a result. However, those who are emotionally reactive will immediately be triggered by things that upset them. This will cause them to overreact and cause more harm than good.

To continue with this behavior can make it hard to form and maintain close relationships. This can then exacerbate the negative emotions that you may be currently experiencing. The key to creating change begins with altering your current behavior so that you can act more appropriately in the future. But how can you get started?

6 Tips For Overcoming Emotional Reactivity And Controlling Your Emotions 

1. Walk Away From Situations That Challenge You Before You Have An Opportunity to React

If you know that you are prone to emotional reactions, walking away from a situation before it has a chance to spark a reaction is one method to use to avoid exploding. Although this may not be a realistic solution for every situation, it gives you a chance to calm down before you can react. During this breakaway period, you can focus on your thoughts, take a moment to work through the feelings and return to the situation with a better response. It will take some time to develop this skill. But once you have it down, you have a better way to regulate your emotions before they are expressed in a more harmful manner.

2. Find Relaxation Exercises That Can Help You Calm Down When You Feel Like Reacting

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Taking time to slow down when you are ready to react can help you collect your thoughts and cool down. For example, if someone says something to you that makes you angry, choosing to engage in a deep breathing exercise to calm yourself down can be a useful tool. Deep breathing is not the only exercise available, but it can be a great place to start. Whatever serves to make you feel more relaxed when you are feeling especially reactive, use it to your advantage.

3. Cultivate A Greater Awareness Around Your Thoughts To Improve Emotion Regulation

When we are used to reacting, we don’t often take the time to understand how we go from listening to react. For example, if someone says something to you, the next step may be to respond in the best way your know-how. However, reacting doesn’t have to be the response. Instead, listen to your thoughts when you feel like you will overreact to something. Ask yourself questions as you feel these unpleasant emotions. Why does it bother you? What are the consequences of reacting to the thing that is bothering you? Is there a better way to respond? Learning how your thoughts contribute to your action is the first step in creating change.

One great way to start seeing your thoughts is by journaling. After you react, write down the situation and your reaction. Then, evaluate the situation and figure out how you may have responded better at the moment. You may also want to engage in exercises like mindfulness meditation. This can help you learn how to let thoughts pass as they come and see thoughts objectively. The more you do understand your thoughts, the better suited you will be to change them once they start turning into a reaction.

4. Learn More About Your Triggers And How You Can Overcome Them

Certain things can trigger us and cause a reaction. For example, let’s continue with the example from earlier in the article. Let’s imagine that your partner says something to you about your appearance. While your partner didn’t intend to offend you, you immediately react in response and become agitated. The problem here isn’t necessarily what they’ve said but how you’ve reacted to it. In this situation, the trigger may be that you’re insecure about your appearance.

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Now that you are more aware that this is an issue for you, you can begin working on that problem so that it doesn’t cause a reaction. Then, when someone says something, you can accept it and work through it rather than reacting. Understanding what triggers us and how to respond appropriately can yield better results for everyone.

An easy way to get started on learning your triggers is to keep a diary. Making a note of the incident, your thoughts, feelings, and actions in response. Maintaining this takes a few minutes a day and can help you identify patterns. Also, if you choose to pursue therapy to help this issue, presenting this to your therapist can give you both some insight! The note application on your cell phone can be a wonderful tool for making this happen.

5. Don’t Make Assumptions About What Other People May Mean

Another excellent lesson to take away from the above example is to not make assumptions. Many of us are prone to misinterpreting what others have to say. When we make assumptions, we can respond the wrong way, which can make it harder for others to communicate with us. The key to effective communication is to learn why others say what they do. When someone says something that causes you to feel hurt or angry, take the time to figure out why they said it. Chances are that they are simply trying to remedy a problem or bring your awareness to something. However, when we become emotionally reactive, it can shut them down and make it harder to communicate in the future. Listen, process, and then respond. When you do this, you may learn that there are a lot of encounters that do not warrant anger.

6. Look For Healthy Ways To Release Your Emotions

A lot of people believe that the key to getting rid of anger is by suppressing and ignoring it. Unfortunately, anger doesn’t go away. Instead, those emotions will remain bottled up until there is no more room to store them. Then, you may end up reacting again! Instead, find ways to cope with your anger and let it out. Some ways that you can do this include:

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  • Working out or engaging in any other physical exercise that can help you release this energy and emotion
  • Screaming into a pillow
  • Writing down your emotions into a journal so that they are allowed to be let out
  • Crushing ice cubes or other items (but make sure that you are not being destructive and destroying things that you need)
  • Hitting a punching bag

Of course, you can also find ways to deal with anger that may distract you from the emotion and improve your mood as well. For example, doing things like creating art, engaging in a favorite hobby, or dancing around are great ways to process anger as well.

Remember, if you have emotional reactions, the idea isn’t to suppress your emotions. Instead, you should be focused on learning more about your emotions, how to process them, and what you can do to avoid outbursts in the future. That said, doing this on your own isn’t always easy. Sometimes, everyone needs a little help.

Getting Started With The Right Help

Although we would like to solve issues like emotional reactivity on our own, we could all use a little guidance. This is especially true if this is your first time seeking out ways to improve your reactions to things around you. The good news is that there are resources out that can help you. Mental health professionals can help you learn more about your emotions, your current behaviors, and what you can do to build better habits and cope with your emotions.

For some, finding help may be as simple as looking for therapists near you. For others, however, problems like time constraints or few local resources can get in the way. This is where online counseling platforms offer solutions.

For example, BetterHelp is an online counseling resource that makes it easier to get in touch with a licensed therapist, from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

Emotional reactivity can cause many issues in life. However, you do not have to let your emotions rule you. Instead, use the tips provided above to learn more about why you react and how you can start managing your emotions. Over time and with patience, you will be able to handle emotional reactions, without them interfering with daily life.


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