As the end of the year approaches, holiday planning, shopping, and travel can leave you feeling tightly strung. This tension can bubble up in times of conflict with friends, co-workers, and significant others, and it can be common to react defensively, says neuroscience expert Kristen Hansen of EnHansen Performance.
Instead of letting this seasonal stress and anxiety get the better of you, Hansen says there is a way to take control and learn to regulate your emotions (yes, it's possible, and it's actually pretty simple). In an article for Body+Soul, she explains the 30-second ritual she uses to reframe a stressful situation. It's called the 30-second circuit breaker, and it can be split into three simple steps that take you from feeling threatened and on edge to calm and grateful.
1. Breathe. The simple practice of slowly inhaling and exhaling forces you to take pause before reacting to a situation. It also starts a physiological process that calms you down due to the oxygen that reaches the prefrontal cortex. In other words, it helps regulate the "fight-flight-freeze" response.
2. Label. Take a beat to mentally become aware of the emotion you're feeling, and give it a name. Think to yourself, "I'm feeling overwhelmed," or "I'm feeling hurt." This switches your brain from thinking emotionally to thinking rationally. It also forces you to externalize, rather than internalize emotions.
3. Reappraise. Ask yourself a few questions to help you alter negative thoughts into positive ones and bring you back in control. Think, "what can I be grateful for?" or "in five years, will this matter?"
Next up: Here's how to deal with difficult people over the holidays.