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.
Jean Holthaus, LMSW, LISW has been providing outpatient therapy services since 1995 when she earned her Masters of Social work degree from the University of Iowa and has worked for Pine Rest since 1997. She currently serves as manager of the Telehealth Clinic and the Hastings Clinic and is also a Pine Rest Outpatient Regional Director. She is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), interpersonal therapy, and narrative therapy. She is deeply invested in walking with individuals struggling to find meaning an purpose in the mist of the struggles of life. She is also passionate about providing educational services which equip individuals to proactively address mental health issues. Jean started her career as a teacher after earning her BA in Elementary Education from the University of Northern Iowa in 1985. She was an elementary and junior high teacher for 10 years prior to beginning her career as a therapist.
Jean’s professional experience includes working with children, adolescents, individuals, couples and families within a therapist setting. She has also worked as a dialysis social worker in a hospital setting. Jean enjoys working with adolescents and adults dealing with abuse, depression, marital issues, divorce, spiritual issues, changes of life, parenting, and family issues. She participates with Faith Community Outreach, an initiative within Pine Rest that seeks to connect area clergy, churches, and ministries to services from Pine Rest as well as develop new services specifically designed to benefit the faith community.