How do you react to others? Do you feel angry or shut down?

Emotional Reactivity

How do you react to others? Are you cool calm and collected, or are you a little spitfire spewing venom and hateful words that you are not going to be able to take back afterward? If you are the latter then you could be considered to be emotionally reactive.

Emotional reactivity is when a person responds to a situation in a negative way with either words of anger or any other emotions that can hurt us and the people that we are interacting with.

I remember growing up and truly thinking of myself as a lion and trust me I certainly had a mane of hair that fit my temper. Whenever someone would talk to me, I would become defensive, angry, yelling, resentful, frustrated, aggressive you name it I was doing it. I become emotionally reactive to other people and when people are like that, it becomes extremely difficult to have positive and lasting relationships. 

I had a difficult time regulating my own emotions and would “fly off the handle” when I felt stressed, angry, or hurt. I was constantly going into my fight or flight which in turn caused me to become emotionally reactive.  For me, I would be fighting fit to verbally spar with anyone that came into my orbit. 


Fight or Flight

The thing to remember though is that as soon as you enter this state, your perception of the situation becomes altered together with your behaviors. We are no longer listening to what the other person is saying and all logic gets thrown out of the window. So what can we do?

First of all, we need to engage in distress tolerance skills, which are skills that allow us to get out of our fight or flight zone. This can be done by stepping away from the situation and doing deep, long breaths to try and calm ourselves down. It could mean holding our breath and submerging our face in a bowl of cold (please do not do this if you have heart problems). This will calm you down in a hurry. Intense exercise for 20 minutes will also help to calm you down, or briefly distract yourself by playing a game on your phone. 

Recognize your triggers

Recognizing your triggers is also helpful so that you can become aware of when you start to react negatively. Remember emotional reactivity is a way to protect ourselves, so it is also important to understand what is going on with your own emotions. Why are you reacting that way? What feelings and emotions are coming up for you? Once you can identify them, then you can change the way you react to others. 

Feeling tired, hungry, thirsty, or unhealthy? Any of these feelings can make a person overreact to any situation. Self-care is imperative in helping to calm down your own emotions and manage yourself in a respectful way.