When an individual is stressed or anxious, it’s not uncommon to fall into a strong emotional spiral. The intensity of these spirals (like tunnel vision) make it difficult to function in daily life, and they often trigger reactive and unhelpful ways of coping. Below are 3 steps you can follow to cut off your next emotional spiral:    

Step 1 | Complete a Cost-Benefit Analysis of Acting from Your Emotionally-Driven Urges

Write down the pros and cons of following through with your typical emotional reactions or problematic behaviours (while you’re in a grounded state). On the flip side, what are the pros and cons of connecting with and acting from your true and wise self? Bring these lists to mind the next time you feel triggered.

Step 2 | Ride the Emotional Wave, and Put off Your Urge to React for Later

Recognize that it’s normal and human to have the emotions you are having. Know, also, that these emotions are temporary, and will pass in time. Intense, challenging emotions and the thoughts that accompany them don’t have to be taken so seriously. In fact, they are often an unreliable source of information, creating more of the things you don’t want if reacted from.

As such, try putting your inner demands/urges off for later. Commit to waiting at least 15 minutes before reacting.

In the meantime, distract yourself by going for a walk, laying down for a rest, talking to a friend, journaling, or otherwise doing something that makes you feel whole-heartedly good.

Step 3 | Use Your Emotions as a Source of Creative Energy

Trungpa Rinpoche once said that there is nothing wrong with negativity per se, as there’s a lot you can learn and create from it. The problem is in negative negativity – when you get caught up in a spinoff. With this being said, once you have accepted the presence of your strong emotions and diffused their power through distraction (Step 2), try using the rest of your energy to make something positive happen.

Connect with your personal values and change focus to the actions that characterize your true self. You can do this by asking yourself “what would my older or wiser self do?” or “what would my role model do?” Then, commit to acting accordingly.