Choosing Your Battles: How to Appropriately React

A man in recovery contemplates his addiction triggers.

Table of Contents

Not everything needs to be a fight. There are times when confronting issues can be critical, especially when your well-being is at risk, but not every inconvenience is a crisis and requires an extreme response. Viewing every situation as such increases stress and the chance of relapse. It’s important to be able to measure the appropriate response without over or under-reacting.

When You Assume Worst Case Scenario

If you’ve led a difficult life, you might be used to dealing with crisis after crisis. Constant exposure to scary scenarios can leave you feeling on edge. A life of instability can cause you to assume that every problem that you encounter deserves an extreme and immediate response. After a while, you may form a habit of reacting or overreacting even if the situation doesn’t require it. Responding intensely to every problem can lead to deteriorating physical and mental health.

The Physical Cost of Overreacting

Those who struggle with emotional control or overreact to their problems could suffer physical consequences if they don’t learn how to manage stress and respond appropriately to a bad situation. There are times when an intense reaction might be necessary. For example, if there is an emergency situation, reacting promptly could save a person’s life. However, not every single event is an emergency.

If you don’t regulate your responses to difficult situations, you only expose yourself to higher stress levels and high blood pressure. Your reactions could also harm others who might view your reaction as scary or inappropriate, thus further straining interpersonal relationships. If you are in recovery, high stress or not being in control of your responses could cause you to relapse if you aren’t careful.

Your Body Responding to Fear

If you’ve dealt with crises in the past, you might likely have developed PTSD. Those with PTSD often feel triggered by certain events or problems that may remind them of something they’ve dealt with before. People unaware of your situation might not understand why you’ve reacted the way you did, but little do they know, your response stems from a past event that you still haven’t processed or healed from.

Seeing this same problem play out again can cause a person to respond in fight or flight mode. Exposure to trauma might cause them to feel their specific trauma is happening again. Their intense response is out of desperation to stop it before getting hurt again. It’s an attempt to protect themselves from further harm or a perceived threat. The truth is, not every event similar to your trauma requires an intense response.

How to Deal With Sudden Stress

If a complex problem comes up that you aren’t prepared for, there are fortunately many exercises that you can try when tackling it. These exercises can help you calm down and clear your mind, allowing you to focus on the problem at hand instead of your emotional response to it.

#1. Count to Five. Taking a moment to ground yourself can help you calm down and gauge the appropriate response. Count five things you see, five things you smell, five things you can touch, and five things you can feel.

#2. Meditation and Breathing. If you’ve determined that a response isn’t urgent, take a moment. When people are stressed out, they tend to forget to breathe. Breathing will slow down your heart rate and bring more oxygen to your brain. Doing so can help you calm down and deal with the situation with a clear head.

#3. Take It a Step at a Time. If the problem you are attempting to solve is overwhelming, take your time to deal with the situation. Not every issue can be solved overnight. Some things take time. Get through each step, one by one, allowing yourself not to be overwhelmed by all of the details.

#4. Give It a Day. Not every problem needs an immediate response. Some things can wait a day to solve, especially if you aren’t in the proper headspace to deal with them. Taking a day to mull over the issue can allow you to plan how to react, enabling you to assess what response it deserves and how you can solve the problem in the future.

Dealing With Future Stress

When things quiet down and stabilize, be sure to learn more about how you respond to the problems that come up. Do you find yourself stressed out over specific issues? Ask yourself why that may be. Some reactions are due to unknown triggers. There might have been an experience that has caused you to respond this way. No matter the reason, accurate self-awareness is crucial.

Throughout the day, check in with your body. Your emotions might not be evident to you, but they can show how your body feels. If your body is tense, try to think about where this tension is coming from. What is in your life is causing you to feel anxious? How can you release this pressure?

It’s normal for problems to come up suddenly, but how you respond to them can impact your overall well-being. To lead a healthy life, you must learn to react to difficult situations without causing yourself or others harm. If you’ve dealt with traumatic situations in the past, or you are used to every problem being a crisis, you might not be used to measuring your reactions. If you have PTSD, specific events or issues might trigger a more intense response than necessary. You might not be able to process your traumas right away, but in the meantime, learning how to respond to triggers or react to difficult situations can improve your physical and mental health for the better. If you would like to learn more about how to gauge an appropriate reaction and deal with triggering situations, please call Jaywalker Lodge today at (866) 529-9255. We are here to help.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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