How to Regulate Yourself During Difficult Conversations
Sharing your life with someone means having open and honest conversations, even when those conversations are a bit difficult. But that’s easier said than done.
During hard conversations, it’s common for many people to become triggered by something their partner has said. Calm one moment, but the next they’re thrown into “fight or flight” mode, their brain sensing danger. Before you know it, the most primitive part of their brain is activated in an effort to help us survive. And this is when we may start to feel out of control, impulsive, and confused. Because it’s fairly impossible to speak calmly and rationally when your entire body is in survival mode.
Luckily there are emotional regulation skills we we can do during emotionally triggering conversations to help keep ourselves calm and in the present moment.
Pause and Breathe
As soon as you start to feel triggered, pause and take a few slow, deep breaths. While deep breathing may seem like a cliche, it is actually a very powerful tool that helps us get out of “fight or flight” mode and into a more relaxed state. When we breathe slowly and deeply, it sends a signal to our brain that we are out of danger and in the current moment. Our breath is our greatest source of information.
Use Your Senses
Another effective way to regulate your emotions in the moment is to focus your attention on a physical sensation. You could take a sip of ice cold water and really feel the sensation of drinking, or you could run your fingers along the seam of the sofa cushion. This will alert your brain again that you are in the present moment.
Big Body Movements
In times of stress being able to move our body is another way to alert our brain that we are in the moment. Try to slowly walk around, do slow arm circles, move your shoulders up and down, or rub your hands together.
Lastly, try to prepare for conversations that you anticipate may be triggering. Plan a safe time for you to engage in the conversation, have access to your water and self soothing tools, and make sure you are in a physical space that is comfortable, familiar, and safe. Having a plan naturally creates emotional safety for us.
Difficult conversations are inevitable when you are in any kind of relationship. If you use these tips to regulate your emotions, you may be able to remain calm and communicate effectively with your partner.