Do you remember the last time you flipped out over something that doesn’t seem like a big deal in retrospect?
We all do it sometimes.
“Losing it” looks different for different people. For some people it looks like becoming super defensive. It can look like lashing out at someone, shutting down, being destructive or maybe dissolving into tears. How you tend to do it depends on a lot of factors. Maybe I’ll write about that more on a different day. Anyway, you know you.
Most of the time, we are not planning on freaking out. No one likes it. There are times when things are actually really emotional or serious, but I’m talking about those times when your reaction seems out of proportion.
Here are 5 Reasons you might have lost it when it wasn’t that big of a deal:
ONE: The way you were perceiving what happened isn’t accurate.
Remember the whole discussion about thoughts and how they are pretty important? This is part of the reason. How you understanding something makes a difference in how you react to it. If you think the person who cut you off in traffic this morning is a sign that all of humanity are selfish jerks, totally unaware of anything beyond themselves, you might feel pretty upset. If you think that person maybe is finding an address for the first time and they were just so focused on that, they didn’t realize they cut you off, then you might feel annoyed, but be understanding. I mean, you have been that person before.
TWO: You are depleted.
Yes, in this world, we are all busy and trying to “do” lots of stuff. Maybe you haven’t been sleeping well, you are tired, you haven’t had enough time for yourself, you are stressed, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel of your internal resources and you need a break. You desperately need to recharge. Everything seems like a way bigger deal when you are depleted. And, you are going to have less energy to mindfully respond to what is happening inside and around you.
THREE: You are responding to something that happened in the past but feels similar.
For better or for worse, our brain is constantly scanning what it is going on and matching it to what we already know or have experienced. Think about when you go on vacation to the same place twice. The second time you go there, you are thinking about all the places you went, things you did when you went the first time. That is the brain’s way of integrating experiences. It onboards and makes sense of things by connecting them to something you already know. So, unknowingly, your freak out might have to do more with the past than with the present situation.
FOUR: You are triggered, this is a ‘hot button’ for you.
This is kind of similar to #3. But it is more of an on-going theme. Think about pet peeves. Not just little annoying ones like someone not putting the toilet paper on to the dispenser so it is “over the falls” vs “under the falls”, but ones that are pretty intense.
I get really upset when someone gives me unsolicited advice. If I am venting about something and then someone makes a suggestion, it is really hard for me to stay calm. I feel fire inside. I feel like saying: “you don’t think I thought about that? Do you think I am dumb?” I realize it is unlikely they are trying to tell me they think I’m dumb, but I sometimes feel like I’m going to lose it when that happens.
FIVE: What you are feeling are actually someone else’s feelings.
I know this sounds weird, but we unconsciously pick up on other people’s feelings and internalize them all the time. Some people are more aware of this than others. But, if you do not know it is possible, you are not going to be able to be aware of it.
Anxiety, irritation and tension are some of the most transmittable emotions. Being around other people in any of those states can make you feel that way easily. Think about when someone else is rushing, you inevitably feel that pressure of being rushed.
Instead of beating yourself up about what a monster you are for flipping out, consider that one of these 5 reasons could have been a factor.
This isn’t supposed to be a way to get you off the hook for acting like a jerk. But, it is a way for you to understand what happened to you so you know how to handle things better next time.
How can you do it better?
Notice how realizing that any of those 5 reasons were at play would require self awareness? Awareness of yourself in the moment, awareness about your past, awareness about your triggers.
That means, to handle life better and flip out less, it would be helpful if you:
- Build self awareness through practicing mindfulness techniques
- Work on dismantling your triggers
- Manage your stress levels
When is the last time you flipped out and didn’t mean to? Which reason might have been the culprit?