Did someone just say something that made you angry? Is your kid testing you and you are about to scream? Did your spouse or roommate just do something you asked them not to?
Before you react, you need to realize you are now on fire! Remember what the fire department taught you when you were a kid? – Stop, Drop, and Roll!
Well if you are emotionally on fire I recommend Stop, Breathe, and Think:
STOP – Whatever you are about to do -STOP. Don’t talk, don’t throw something, don’t even look at whatever or whomever has lit you on fire, just stop.
BREATHE – Then Breathe. Close your eyes and breath in and out for 10 seconds. If you need longer, do it again. Then ask yourself how you feel.
If you are thinking – I can’t just stop what I am doing. I have responsibilities. I can’t just walk away from my spouse in a conversation. I can’t just leave my kid (if they are too young put them somewhere safe first obviously – pack and play, high chair), or I have to answer the phone - you are forgetting something.
YOU ARE ON FIRE! What happens when you are on fire and you stand near someone else? They light on fire too!
What happens when you get angry at your spouse and you hang around? Is it a calm calculated conversation where you both feel heard? Nope. It escalates and then you are both angry and on fire.
What happens when you get angry at your kid and yell? Do they suddenly do what they are told? Nope. They cry or tantrum or yell back.
What happens if that next phone call is an important one and you are short or not thinking straight? Does that look better than just calling back 2 minutes later? Nope.
Once you have taken some breaths or walked away for a second, then THINK:
THINK - Can you think? Dan Siegel in his book, The Whole Brain Child, speak of upstairs and downstairs brain. Your downstairs brain, including you occipital lobe, is your flight or fight brain, your upstairs brain, or your frontal lobe is logic and reasoning.
When you are on fire you have dropped into your downstairs brain.
Once you have calmed down you need to take note if you can reason or if you still feel like you want to fight or flee. If you can't think, then don't talk. If you can, then continue your conversation or try again with your child.
When we stop, breathe, and think. It may not fix everything, but it can keep it from getting worse. You might still need to have a talk with your spouse about roles and responsibilities, but nothing regretful will be said if you take a moment to stop, breathe, and think.
You might need to set new boundaries with your child, but you have modeled amazing behavior, by showing them how to stop escalating, and come back calmly, instead of yelling at them.
I always say to my son, you can't control your emotions, but you can control what you do with them. It's hard, but only you can stop emotion fires!
Kristin Cronin Boone