Staying mad (or sad or sorry for yourself) narrows your judgment more than you can imagine; all you can see is how you feel, and any decision you make from that place will be not only questionable but very likely disastrous. You know staying there isn't productive, but you just can't seem to shake it. It feels good and at the same time you feel like a prisoner. So what do you do??? There's no quick fix to being that upset, but there are tools you can use. Here are some tools my clients have found helpful:
- Tried and true, remove yourself from the situation. Sometimes all you need is a tincture of time. And sometimes you have to force yourself to do this. Be strong! You can do it! Don't come back to the situation until you've calmed down. Nothing is as important as you think it is...or, put another way, nothing is as important as your risking what's important to you (your career, relationship, whatever) in a moment of extreme lack of judgment.
- Breathe. I mean really breathe. Breathe in deeply and think about the fact that this breath is a large part of what keeps you alive. It's a gift, it's free, it's always there for you. Breathing deeply calms you down, slows things down a bit, relaxes things instead of constricting. Not only that, but focusing on your breathing gives your brain something else to do. Focus on as many aspects of it as you can - how it feels going in, the temperature, how it fills your lungs...whatever you can think of. The distraction is as good as the oxygen you're getting while you do it.
- Think of things you're grateful for. This one might sound hard, but it's one of the best tools out there. List them in your head and don't stop until you start to feel better. Start with the obvious and go to the less obvious, or the ones you don't think about as often (like air, or toilets...). The deal here is that you have to honestly be grateful for what you're listing - you don't have to feel grateful in the moment (if you did, you probably wouldn't be feeling the way you are), but listing something you feel you "should" be grateful for but aren't doesn't count. Keep it up until your feelings start to change. Sometimes it takes what seems like forever, but I promise, they will change.
- Write. Writing about what you're feeling is an invaluable tool. You don't have to know what you're feeling to write about it, just write. Write it down as quickly as you can, using all the expletives you like (expletives are lovely when you're upset). Write anything that comes to your head and don't lift the pen until you've passed through the feeling. It works. (And be sure to destroy it afterwards - there's no reason on earth to keep something like that.)