Ouch. It hurts. Your day was going along fine, or maybe just OK. Then it happened. Maybe it was an irate driver blasting their horn at you. Someone crashed into your trolley at the supermarket and dumped their blues on you. Your boss or significant other made some snarky comment. Whatever. It hurts. It’s time for some emotional first-aid.
Here’s a few quick tips for emotional first-aid:
Take a few moments to centre yourself. Breathe. Take some long, slow breaths. Follow the breath in, feel it fill up your lungs, then exhale. Slowly. Till it’s all gone. Rinse and repeat. Most importantly, keep your awareness on the breath as it comes in, expands into your lungs, then contracts and exits.
Why is this important? Because it moves your awareness from your mind, which is smarting over whatever has hurt you, to your breath, which is not. The breath is just the breath. It’s always serene. It comes in, it goes out. Sometimes it speeds up if we exercise or something quickens our pulse. Even then, you can just choose to slow it back down.
Watching your own breath is like watching the sea. No two waves are alike. It rolls in and out. It’s calming, mesmerising. Let yourself be mesmerised.
Watching your own breath is like watching the sea. No two waves are alike. It rolls in and out. It’s calming, mesmerising. Let yourself be mesmerised. Slow, conscious breathing puts you into the emotional equivalent of the recovery position.
2. Control what you can control
Whatever situation you find yourself in when the emotional hit happens, its elements fall into two categories: those you can control and those you can’t. If you’re at home, you can go to your bedroom and have a quiet space to work things through.
Other times may be trickier. If you’re at work, can you take a break and go to the staff room or—even better—for a walk? There’s always the toilets if you need a few minutes to get yourself together. Been there, done that. If you’re driving, consider whether you need to pull over. Remember that if you’re feeling triggered you may dump your feelings on someone else or your judgment may be impaired. Even though you’re feeling crap, take responsibility for it and make everyone safe.
So, control what you can control and forget the other stuff. Most people are not going to be nice and helpful just because you’re feeling hurt. That’s mainly because they won’t even notice it. Most of all, don’t expect the other party to suddenly turn around, apologise or try to make you feel better.
3. It’s not about you
Ah, the other party. Yes, them. A couple of things about them.
Firstly, they can only see their side of the situation. Generally it’s all any of us can do. So they are acting from an information deficit position. Secondly, it’s not about you. They are either using you as an emotional dumping ground or something you did triggered an emotional reaction in them. Don’t beat yourself up over it. How they feel is their responsibility, even if you triggered it. That’s how emotionally mature people behave.
So let go of all that angry head-talk about the other person. Imagine a cosmic trash bin and dump all that negative talk in there. It’s not making you feel any better. In fact, it’s keeping you focused on the hurtful event and prolonging it. So move on. If someone is using you as an emotional doormat, establish proper boundaries. Emotional bullies don’t like being stood up to.
Emotional first-aid begins with basics. At all times, and towards all parties, be as kind as you can and be proactive. Instead of wallowing in misery, adopt positive mental habits. And get some of these snazzy Spongebob band-aids.