Do you know how to take control during an emotional hijacking and the explosion of overpowering emotions that come with it? Here's a simple strategy – breathe!
Reclaiming Your Emotional Power: Practical Ways to Prevent and Manage Emotional Hijacking
It’s hard to believe it takes ten seconds or less for your brain to become calm and regain control of highly charged emotions. - Linda Marshall, Author
You've had a great start to the day—a fresh cup of coffee in hand while reliving emotions and memories of your daughter's spectacular weekend wedding celebration. And then your phone rings.
When An Emotional Hijacking Happens
It's a neighbour who wants to give you an earful about the fact she couldn't get to sleep because of the loud music and laughter that filled the night air from the backyard reception. She has seized your emotions and set the stage for an emotional hijacking.
How To Control An Emotional Hijacking
An emotional hijacking is usually triggered by a situation that overwhelms your emotions and then takes control of your behaviour. Frequently, it's an explosion of overpowering emotions that appear to come out of nowhere. There is an urge to react to the situation impulsively, and you may say or do something that you will regret.
A Simple Strategy - Stop. Breathe. Silently Count To 10
Counting to ten is a simple strategy for preventing and derailing emotional hijacking. The ten count allows you to calm yourself rather than react. Learn more about the difference between responding and reacting here.
To take it a step further, counting silently to yourself while breathing is a basic mindfulness strategy for enhancing your self-awareness and self-management skills.
Mindfulness has changed my life, so I'm eager to share this exercise with you.
A Mindfulness Breathing Exercise Strategy
- Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Lightly close your eyelids.
- Breathe, take a deep breath, and hold for a count of five.
- Slowly breathe out through pursed lips—for a count of five.
- Repeat this strategy.
- Focus on your breath. When your thoughts wander, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
- Allow your breathing to find a natural rhythm.
- Observe how your abdomen expands and contracts and the sensation of the air as it enters and exits through your nose and mouth.
The phone rings again. It's your neighbour calling back for round two. Practice your new strategy.
Stop, Breathe, And Silently Count To Ten
This strategy for managing emotions may take time to develop, but with daily practice, this technique will reduce and eventually eliminate most emotional hijacking.
Part of controlling your emotions includes observing their effects. Here's how to do that.
Remember to breathe! You always want to manage your emotions rather than having them control you. Learning to prevent emotional hijackings will improve your emotional intelligence, empowering and preparing you for challenging situations. Connect with me for support to develop skills and strategies. Discover my consulting opportunities and emotional intelligence training.
This article was originally published on May 12, 2018, and has been updated (July 2023).
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