The Psychology Behind Emotional Reactivity (And How to React Less Emotionally)
There are many unpredictable moments in life. Someone cuts in front of you at the bus stop, someone interrupts you in the middle of a conversation, and someone ignores what you’re saying to make fun of it. I’m giving these examples because I’ve had these experiences and let me tell you, it’s not easy to maintain a rational front when these events happen. I might react differently, but I know some people who would react emotionally to these instances.
Holding back emotions is hard enough, but when you have to hold back your emotional reaction – that can be a different thing altogether.
In a world where emotional growth and awareness are gaining steady popularity, it has become almost imperative to learn how to react less emotionally to situations that bring out the worst of our emotions. Uncontrolled emotional reactivity can often cause us to make impulsive decisions, cause a strain in our relationships, and increase our stress levels.
Lucky for us, there are ways to deal with emotional reactivity by understanding the psychology behind it, signs of emotional reactivity, potential triggers, and more. Let’s explore more about how to NOT react emotionally in this blog.
Understanding Emotional Reactivity
Emotional reactivity means when you react hastily and intensely to an emotional situation, without allowing room to think rationally. It’s the knee-jerk reaction that can turn a minor emotion into a major one. This emotional reaction is driven by our fight-or-flight response, often forgoing cognitive responses and resulting in actions and words that you may regret later.
Some common examples of emotional reactivity can include;
- When you receive constructive criticism at work and you react emotionally by lashing out at the person who offered said feedback, damaging the professional relationship in the process.
- When you face a challenging situation, you feel anxious and this hinders your ability to think clearly and rationally and look for a solution.
- When someone says anything against your beliefs and opinions, you become overly defensive and react emotionally rather than engage in a constructive conversation.
Signs of Emotional Reactivity
But, how to know that you’re reacting emotionally? Watch out for these signs of emotional reactivity;
- You respond instantly to a trigger without considering the consequences of your actions
- You exaggerate the intensity of emotions beyond what the situation demands
- You experience physical changes in your body like increased heart rate, tensed muscles, or shallow breathing when emotionally triggered
- You feel remorseful or guilty after your emotional response. Regret in such situations is almost instant
- You feel powerless in the face of emotional reactions and even the slightest thing can trigger your response
These are just some common triggers of emotional reactions. Sometimes, it can be easy to see what triggers your emotional reactivity, but not always.
So, try to pay attention to your emotional reactions and what prompts them to know your triggers. Only by knowing what triggers your emotional reaction, can you learn how to react less emotionally.
How to React Less Emotionally?
Here are some tips for you to stop being emotionally reactive and stay in control of your wayward emotions;
1. Work on Mindful Awareness
Try to practice mindfulness to stay grounded in the present moment. During this, observe your emotions without taking immediate action. Practicing mindful awareness might help you think rationally and react rationally as well instead of being too emotionally reactive.
2. Pause And Reflect
Before you react, try to take a pause. Practice this exercise daily for it to become a habit so that the next time you’re faced with an emotional trigger, you will automatically pause before you react emotionally. You can do this by taking a deep breath and allowing yourself a moment to reflect before you act or speak.
3. Label the Emotion You’re Feeling
You can also learn how not to react emotionally by labeling your emotions. Whatever you’re feeling, name it. This can help reduce its intensity and encourage you to think rationally rather than emotionally.
4. Develop Empathy
Try to put yourself in others’ shoes and understand their point of view. When you become empathetic, you understand how emotional reactivity can harm others’ emotions, not just yours. This practice of developing empathy is also a good way to deepen connections with others and develop a broader view of your emotional reactions.
5. Focus on Solving the Problem
Instead of focusing on your emotions, try to focus on solving the problem at hand. When your focus is on finding solutions rather than emotions, then it can foster rational thinking. Channel your energy into constructive problem-solving rather than emotional reactivity.
6. Find Healthy Outlets
To react less emotionally, you can try engaging in activities such as exercising, journaling, and creative expression to release any suppressed emotions. These kinds of activities can be categorized as healthy outlets because other than offering a space to release emotions, they foster a sense of creativity and reduce any lingering anxiety.
Overcoming emotional reactivity is a testament to your growth and well-being. Understanding the psychology behind emotional reactivity, its signs and triggers, and how to react less emotionally, you can learn to regain your sense of control over your emotional response once more.
Just remember, learning how not to react emotionally all the time is a process that needs self-awareness, patience, and effort. As you develop an emotional balance, you might find yourself navigating through life’s unpredictable challenges and triggers with resilience and a rational mind.
I hope this article helped you learn how to react less emotionally in unpredictable situations. Let me know what you think about emotional reactivity and how to overcome it in the comments below.