We all experience moments of absolute chaos…the kids are screaming, the phone is ringing, something is boiling over on the stove or a major project must be completed for work. Emotions can overwhelm us, overriding our better instincts to not say something hurtful, cry, strike out, run away or scream. As a result, we end up feeling remorse or even embarrassment when our strong emotions subside.
The good news is that practicing some basic skills can help you find calm in the midst of chaos.
1. Pay Attention to Right Now
When you control your attention, you control your mind. Step back and observe the moment without reacting or judging. This sounds easy, but takes time and practice. Ways to exercise this skill include asking yourself:
• What can I see right now?
• What do I feel right now?
• What can I hear right now?
• What physical sensations am I experiencing right now?
2. Stick to the Facts
Much of the distress we experience in chaotic situations comes from assumptions and judgments we make about the thoughts, feelings or motivations of others. We can reduce our emotional reaction by staying focused on “what is” rather than what “might be” or “should be.” For example, “He is jumping on the couch,” produces less emotion and is easier to deal with than, “He is a badly behaved child who is disobedient!”
3. One Thing at a Time
Research shows people who concentrate on one task at a time are more effective than those attempting to multitask. That’s because attempting to juggle multiple tasks creates anxiety and intensifies emotions which decreases productivity. Fully participating in one task at a time increases our effectiveness, decreases our internal chaos and intensifies our enjoyment.
Practice these skills daily. Then when chaos strikes again, you can naturally access these skills to successfully manage your emotions and calmly find a path through the chaos.
This blog was featured in the Spring 2016 edition of Simply Good Magazine.
She earned a BA in Elementary Education from the University of Northern Iowa and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Iowa in 1995.