Strategies to Cool Your Hot Emotions: Using Mind and Body
First, let me note that one of the best sets of mind-body approaches to cooling down hot emotional reactions can be found in the various emotion regulation skills and practices in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (created by Marsha M. Lineman, a practicing Buddhist). These skills may be better suited for informed therapist than the lay public; however, the skills have been proven to be effective so all parties may benefit from practicing them. A less complex list includes many of the suggestions noted below.
- Drink lots of cold, pure water.
- Splash very cold water on your wrists and face (dive response).
- Move your body – sit if standing, and stand if sitting; walk if still, and be still if moving. Moving your body changes your internal physiology thus perhaps changing your emotional reactivity.
- Practice slow, deep abdominal breathing to calm down.
- Cry if it helps, especially if you are about to activate an aggressive action urge.
- Since emotional reactions happen quickly, learn how to use interoception as a way to become aware of inner body sensations that lead to related emotional behaviors.
- Practice befriending your emotional reactions by being curious about them and caring for them gently as if a newborn baby.
- Practice compassion and self-compassion when interpersonal conflicts lead you to emotional dysregulation.
- Do your best to STOP, pause for a moment to see if that helps.
- Practice RAIN skills- recognize, analyze, investigate, and realize it is not you just emotions. Thoughts and emotions may/may not be about reality. Since these steps are highly cognitive, they may bring control back into your executive brain and away from your limbic system.
- Practice being your own best friend. What would you suggest your best friend should do in such a situation. Again, thinking may restore frontal executive brain control.
- Know your limbic brain system, which overreacts almost all of the time. The best way to do this is to become more mindful about your emotional reactions. Study them!
- Do more meditation, yoga, and exercise! If you practice 20 minutes or more a day, you may not need the other skills above.
For more details refer to Lineman, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford Press. See also Nelson, K. October News. Retrieved 10-27-16. Smiechowski, J. A Quick Way to Cool Heated Emotions. Easy Health Options. Retrieved 10-26-16.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness