7 Ways to Stop Overreacting to Stress
Have you ever had the impression that other individuals don’t respond to challenging situations the same way you do? Do you see other people handling difficulties, such as the need for immediate house repairs, unanticipated changes at work, or being mistreated, with composure, while you find similar situations very upsetting?
These recommendations could be helpful if you’ve ever felt like you overreact to stress and would want to be better equipped to handle it.
A self-compassion is a fantastic, helpful technique for improving your cognitive and behavioral flexibility. The wonderful thing about practicing self-compassion is that it doesn’t matter what brought on the stress or how you reacted to it. Whatever the reasons for your stress, practicing self-compassion can help you feel less overwhelmed by it and give you access to your most intelligent and imaginative (as in, creative problem-solving) sides of yourself.
I won’t recreate the wheel as I’ve published several self-compassion how-to articles. For a start, you may read them here, here, and here.
- Talk about past trauma.
Trauma may be the root cause of a person’s (apparently) disproportionate response to stress, such as becoming scared, frozen and avoidant, or furious.
I used the term “apparently outsized response” because reactions rooted in prior trauma may not be outsized in the first place. When prior trauma is triggered, you respond based on your experiences and the present occurrence, which may not seem like a big concern.
When we first suffer a trauma, we often do not understand its implications. Sometimes, we don’t fully understand until later when new events bring back memories and feelings from the past. For instance, I am presently pregnant with my second child and just noticed that I had more birth trauma from my hospital experience with my first kid than I had previously recognized.
Trauma responses often make a lot of sense when seen through the prism of your learning (i.e., life) experiences. These affect your standards for other people, institutions, and authority figures.
- Recognize times when negative past experiences are influencing your behavior.
Even when an event isn’t traumatic, it may impact our future conduct. For instance, I recently had a horrible encounter with some gas and plumbing professionals. I was fully aware that they engaged in a lot of deceitful “mansplaining” and upselling. I was thus on alert and skeptical when I had to phone air conditioning professionals this week due to my previous experience.
- Address Cognitive Errors.
How you process information cognitively affects how you perceive what happens.
I often talk about my tendency to overreact to emails connected to my job. Due to my anxiety tendencies, I usually interpret emails as having a nasty, dismissive, or annoyed tone when this isn’t the case. I’m aware that this seems to happen more often when dealing with new folks than people I know well and can trust.
I practice rereading any email that causes this response after 24 hours since I know this pattern. Every time I do this, I always respond quite differently.
Addressing your cognitive errors on the go is inefficient. There will be many that you don’t get to see again. But most of us can recognize some trends. Then, following my example, you may form routines to help you maintain a healthy mental equilibrium.
Whenever you find yourself dwelling on the worst-case scenario, try switching your mind to the best-case scenario as soon as possible. The worst-case and best-case situations will encourage you to consider alternatives in the middle.
- Recognize the influence of external variables.
When we experience stress, we tend to focus on how we individually will respond. Numerous extraneous variables, however, will also play a role in shaping your responses. For instance, access to paid maternity leave reduces the anxiety of having a new baby. Less sexism in the world and less pressure from employers to maximize profits at the expense of consumers would make it simpler for women to work with contractors.
Recognizing aspects connected to yourself and the larger environment and how they interact may help you respond with greater self-compassion and competence.
- Recognize your talents.
You will use your talents or reveal your deficiencies when dealing with stress. The more your awareness of your strengths, the simpler it will be to relate one or two of them to the problem at hand (e.g., creative problem-solving, social engineering, patience, conscientiousness, or whatever).
- Develop new strengths.
Your talents for addressing obstacles aren’t fixed. You will develop skills and polish your strengths via problem-solving experience. However, you may also consciously acquire new skills. For instance, my book Stress-Free Productivity promotes creative problem-solving, recognizing one’s abilities, and knowing when in the day/week one has the most potential to tackle obstacles.
Which of these seven suggestions do you find most useful? Whenever I discuss trauma in an article, I emphasize that readers should choose the solutions they find appealing. If a recommendation makes you feel worse, pass it on to another person.