13 ways to slow down your reaction time

Are you finding yourself reacting in a way that is hurting your relationships? Feeling more sensitive to comments that once didn’t use to bother you? Maybe you are feeling triggered by mundane things that seem trivial. Maybe you don’t understand why you are overreacting or have a short fuse, and maybe it’s due to unresolved trauma.

13 ways to help slow down your reaction time.

1. Think about responding before reacting

  • So often we just react without thinking about what we are going to say or how our words or behaviours are going to impact someone else or ourselves. Before responding out of hurt and anger, take a few minutes to breathe and figure out what and how you would like to respond.

2. Take a time out

  • We are so quick to react without taking time out to cool down. Assert your boundaries and needs in an argument, or when you are feeling activated. Taking 5-10 minutes, or even an hour or two can help create some space to allow yourself to figure out what is actually going on for you underneath. 

3. “Name it to tame it”

  • Do you know that naming an emotion has a physiological effect on your internal organs? By naming the emotion that you are experiencing, your internal organs relax, and it helps give a language/words for what you are feeling. Anger often masks other emotions such as embarrassment, sadness, loneliness, disgust, and fear. How many times have yelled at someone who cut us off? We aren’t angry at them that they did that, we are fearful that they almost hit us and could have hurt us. It is important that we figure out the emotion actually going on, and “name it to tame it”.

4. Four-square breathing

  • We have all heard our counsellors or friends tell us to breathe. Although it depends at what stage you are in, deep breathing is so beneficial. Four-square breathing is taking a deep breath in from our bellies for 4 seconds, holding our breath for 4 seconds, breathing out for 4 seconds, and holding it for 4 seconds (hence the name). 

5. Know your triggers and set a game plan

  • It is so helpful to know what makes you tick and causes you to have a short fuse. Once you know what irritates you or causes you to blow up, you can set a game plan for what you do when this happens. It’s so much easier to make a game plan before something happens versus during the moment. If you can identify your triggers, then maybe you will have the opportunity to give yourself space to calm down before you react.

6. Practice self-care = slow reaction time because more energy

  • Self-care is huge when it comes to your mental health. If you have taken care of yourself, put yourself first, and are in a calm state, it’s much more likely that when you get triggered that you will not react as strongly. If you are sitting at an 80/100 because you are so stressed, something that triggers you only 10% more will feel like you are going to explode, versus taking care of yourself and being at 0%, going up 10% will likely not cause you to react as strongly. 

7. Re-phrase your script

  • Think about what you want to say before you say it. Practice what you want to say, and then imagine what you said will sound like or be interpreted by the other person. Rephrasing your script can change a lot in communication. 

8. Come from curiosity, don’t draw a conclusion – don’t assume

  • How many times have we started a fight because of an assumption? There was a reason they said, “don’t assume, it makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. Come from a place of curiosity. “I wonder if this is what you meant as that’s how I interpreted what you said” or “I’m curious if you were trying to say…”. Coming from a place of curiosity is a game-changer!

9. Check-in with your body

  • Our bodies say a lot. They tell us if we are anxious, upset, angry, happy, or scared. Is your chest tightening? Are your hands feeling hot? Is your throat restricted? Are your eyes watering? Does your stomach hurt? It’s important to listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us. Pay attention to your body as many it is trying to warn you that you are about to react. 

10. Display empathy – understand their perspective

  • Empathy, empathy, empathy. When we feel ourselves about to react, it is so hard for us to want to try to understand the other person’s perspective. Even if they are in the wrong, their feelings are valid. Likely the other person is not going to be willing to listen if they are feeling activated as they will be on the defence. Instead of just yelling to get your point across, try to understand their perspective and display empathy – this is not only just putting yourself in their shoes, but actually feeling what they are feeling. 

11. Ask questions

  • This is similar to the idea of coming from curiosity. Ask them questions, and try to not only communicate effectively but comprehend what they are trying to communicate. 

12. Ask yourself “Why am I feeling this way”

  • Some people might argue this, but I believe that anxiety is an inhibitory emotion that is replacing one of our core emotions of anger, sadness, fear, excitement, disgust, or sexual excitement. When you are feeling anxious or find yourself about to react – ask yourself “Why am I feeling this way”? Are you hangry, tired, or had a long day? Did what they say trigger something from a previous relationship? Do you need some space before proceeding in a heavy dialogue? It’s okay to set boundaries and communicate to others that you don’t have the emotional capacity to handle a certain type of conversation. 

13. Find healthy ways to express emotions. 

  • Yelling when you’re angry or throwing things is never an effective way to communicate how you are feeling. Something that we often forget is to actually use words such as “I am sad”, or “I am feeling angry right now”.