How can I keep my calm when under pressure?

I suffer from bipolar and my girlfriend and I recently got back together after 6 months apart. I find that no matter how amazing things are - when I get upset my temper seems to flare up and I can’t keep my calm - even when I’ve done nothing wrong in my eyes (and in reality not in hers) - I need help to fight through this and maybe to truly accept my diagnosis.
Asked by Isle

How to keep calm under pressure?

Keeping calm under pressure is challenging. Managing your emotions and regulating how you feel when something happens takes time. Emotional regulation is essential to help you to become more "responsive" than "reactive." You can learn emotional distress tolerance skills by learning what your triggers are and recognizing your emotions. Distress tolerance is your ability to manage emotional distress using strategies to help you cope with emotional discomfort without making the situation worse. You can recognize when your ability to manage distress is low when you are overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed.

Emotional dysregulation can lead to emotional outbursts and trigger negative emotions impacting your moods and interactions with others. It can be challenging to feel like you have no control over your emotions and continuously find yourself stuck in patterns and behaviors you don't like. Emotional regulation is a distress tolerance skill that involves taking the time to acknowledge how you feel, noticing the triggers that impact you the most, and choosing how you will respond to how these triggers impact you.

It can be challenging to communicate and express how you feel if you are not mindful of how you feel, self-aware of what you need, or even able to address your needs. Your emotions are alarming you with what your needs are and how to cope with the emotions that you need. For example, if you feel insecure, your emotions tell you that you need to feel valued and fulfilled in a specific area to feel more secure and confident. To better understand why you are more emotionally reactive, try to explore and understand the contributing factors impacting you the most.

Notice your triggers. Ask yourself are your triggers internal triggers (thoughts, feelings, assumptions, expectations; or external triggers (people, places, situations, experiences), which are all experiences that impact your emotions. Focus on your body cues, behaviors that let you know when your emotions are escalating. For example, are you staring at a spot on the wall? Is your leg shaking? Do you feel hot? Is your heart beating faster? Do you feel queasy or dizzy?

Do the opposite of how you feel. In situations where you find yourself being more reactive than responsive, what do you do when you feel emotionally triggered? How do you react? Journaling, discussing your triggers, and reflecting on your experiences can help you better understand your feelings.

Deep breathing is another way to pause and regulate your feelings before responding. Try “Boxed Breathing,” in which you’ll breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and so on until you feel grounded. You can also tighten your muscles and release them while breathing, focusing on the breath, and practicing mindfulness all the way through.

You will learn that your emotions are essential and that validating them and choosing how to respond to them takes practice. Going to therapy to learn how to manage your anger and how to regulate your emotions is also helpful. There are also many self-help resources that you can explore on emotional regulation, anger management, and distress tolerance skills. You have already made a positive step toward improving your emotional well-being. Good luck, and I wish you the best.