Overreacting: 6 Action Strategies to Help You Stop

by Gideon Hanekom
October 1, 2019

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All of us can often overreact to situations without even knowing it when we allow our emotions to take over. And the things that trigger these overreactions are different for each of us – unexpected bills, in-laws, kids, bosses, the car not starting, dog pooping on the carpet. It can be anything. But just because overreacting is common, doesn’t mean that it’s helpful or effective. In most cases, it is counter-productive. In this post, we’re looking at a few strategies to help you stop overreacting.

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As I’ve already said, overreacting might be common but it’s not necessarily helpful or effective.

The reason is that most overreaction is the result of an “emotional meltdown” or “overwhelm.”

And what typically happens when we lose control in situations and allow emotions to run wild, is that things tend to come apart even quicker.

Things also tend to escalate a lot quicker and we feel the situation much more intensely.

Consequently, something small becomes something big and we lose our ability to think clearly in the moment and deal effectively with the scene, situation, or problem we are faced with.

We are effectively rendered powerless.

So, with all of that being said, any strategy that can help you stop overreacting needs to be a strategy that has to do with managing your emotions.

Especially emotional overwhelm or a meltdown.

Because once you gain control over your emotions, you’ll be able to choose better reactions and actions, which will (most likely) leads to better solutions in those moments you need the most.

Now, just before we look at a few strategies to help you stop overreacting, it’s also important to remember that no one is perfect.

Everyone overreacts from time to time.

But it’s when your overreactions become the norm that you should 1) take notice, and 2) consider a better way to deal with overreacting.

Here are a few practical action strategies to help you stop overreacting:

  1. The art of not reacting.

In order to stop overreacting, you can try using the art of not reacting.

This simply means that when you’re presented with a certain situation, your goal will be to not react at all.

Instead, you’ll take the time to think (reflect) about the situation and then formulate your action or next step.

I know this sounds very difficult to do, but you’d be surprised how easy it is when you enter a situation with the intent to not react but observe to reflect before responding.

This, of course, is much more difficult when an unexpected situation arises but is definitely doable when entering a potentially loaded situation – like needing to have a difficult conversation with a colleague.

  1. Let out your emotions.

Let yourself feel your emotions as they come to you but find positive ways to express them.

Feeling emotions is completely normal.

And choosing to avoid overreacting is not about avoiding feeling anything or expressing emotions.

We aren’t robots.

Overreaction is when we allow our emotions to build up and blow up and then reacting from that state.

So, another way of stopping you from overreacting is to let your emotions out frequently and healthily.

Because when you let your emotions build up, they become stronger inside of you and the chances for an emotional eruption increase.

It’s difficult to stop yourself from overreacting when you’re full of pent up emotion.

A good way to let your emotions out frequently and healthily is to find ways where you can vent without any dire consequences.

For example, hitting a punching bag, exercising or talking to a friend.

I have found that doing weights, training jujitsu, mowing the lawn, playing video games, and talking to my wife are all effective ways to let my emotions out and keeping them from building up.

  1. Take time out.

If you tend to overreact with anger, it’s vital to allow yourself some cooldown time.

At least 30 minutes.

And it’s so simple to do – if you feel emotions building inside you, instead of bursting out, go somewhere where you know you can be alone.

Go and cool down.

It will help you to come back and respond to the person or situation with a clear head and in a way that actually resolves the issue at hand.

  1. Write it down.

Writing things down might feel a bit odd for some, but it’s quite effective.

When you write something down instead of reacting to a situation, you’re giving yourself a chance to externalise your feelings in a safe way as well as having something you can reflect on later.

Because writing it down is a way of giving yourself time to mull it over, i.e reflect on the situation.

Later, once you read what you wrote, you may even be able to see whether your reaction was an overreaction or not.

It might also give you some insights on how to respond differently to similar situations the next time.

  1. Practice relaxation techniques.

When you adopt relaxation techniques, you’ll find that you’re automatically more in control of your emotions.

And learning effective relaxation techniques nowadays is quite simple – just google it or look for how-to videos on YouTube.

Start with deep breathing techniques or yoga or meditation.

Relaxation will ultimately manage or even stop your stress, and you’ll be less likely to overreact and lash out with any negative emotion.

  1. Avoid judging.

Make it a point to stop judging yourself and others.

Judging others is often more about YOU anyway.

Judgement, in many cases, is really just psychological projection undercover.

When we’re struggling was something in ourselves about ourselves, we very often project it onto others as a defence mechanism of the ego in order to avoid dealing with those unconscious, uncomfortable feelings.

So, often when someone overreacts very strongly to something, it’s typically a sign of something they are dealing or struggling with themselves, internally.

It is therefore not that big of a leap to see judgement of others as a judgement of self.

And what that’s really about is you somehow falling short of your own ideal self, which is a self-defeating attitude and approach to life.

Not to mention super stressful.

Final thoughts …

Don’t sweat the small stuff … but take care of them!

If you find that you’re overreacting to all of life’s situations, it’s time to start with the small things.

Ask yourself why you’re reacting to small situations with such negative passion.

There could be an underlying issue you need to deal with first.

Are you overly stressed?

Is your mind focused on something else?

Answer these questions and solve these problems first by taking it one thing at a time.

Remember, those small things left the unresolved, compound in the end.

It just like weeds that we ignore when they’re little that end up overrunning our garden.

So, bring more overall awareness to your life so you know what’s going on and what tends to be the cause of potential overreacting.

Soon enough, you’ll gain more control over your emotions and consequent reactions.

About the author 

Gideon Hanekom

Gideon Hanekom is the creator of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a renowned relationship blog that ranks among the top 50 relationship blogs in 2024. The website shares valuable insights on creating healthy relationships life. Gideon holds a Master's degree in theological studies and transitioned into professional counseling more than a decade ago. In addition, he since completed post-graduate studies in Psychology at Massey University. With over seventeen years of marriage to his wife and two children, Gideon brings both professional and personal experience to his relationship advice. His articles have been featured on respected platforms such as Marriage.com and The Good Men Project.

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