Are we a society of over-reactors?  As I scroll through my Twitter feed this morning, I’m trying to figure out how I feel about the Best Picture announcement.  I do not need to recap, as everyone with access to TV or internet knows what happened.  But watching the reactions, it lead to me wonder if we are a society of over-reactors, or if this is now “normal”?  In this scenario someone effed up.  No question about it.  But who effed up, and what happened isn’t necessarily important.  In my opinion, the way we react to said eff up is more telling.  I can completely relate, though.  I think I am a classic over-reactor in certain situations.  But I don’t typically react on social media.

I wanted to write a post about over-reacting, not because of what happens in the news every day, but because I don’t think we are aware that we are doing it.  The world reacted to Warren Beatty announcing the wrong winner for Best Picture last night.  And we saw this last year with Steve Harvey.  A lot of the reaction is in good fun, and dies down after a news cycle or so, but I think this type of reaction speaks volumes about our ability to handle situations.  Are we conditioned to over-reacting? Or do we just not realize we are doing it?

Again, I think I am a classic over-reactor.  I mostly let things fester internally, when they may not actually be an issue.  Someone might say something to me, and I read too much into it.  Or, I assume someone’s intentions are the worst.  I don’t necessarily react to the individual person with any kind of malice or strife, but I do tend to harbour negative feelings.  This negative self-talk is destructive as it leads to further questions and concerns about a situation.  And in most cases, a situation that only exists in my head.  At least this is how I over-react.  Some people lash out.  Some people take it out on their friends or family members.  Other’s take it out on the random barista who got their coffee order wrong.

mad face

Regardless of how you over-react to a situation, we should all take a moment to consider why we over react.

  • Consider what else is going on in your life.  Are you feeling overwhelmed by another situation, and the the wrong coffee order just pushed you over the edge?  You may also want to consider whether or not you slept enough last night, or when you ate last.  Taking care of yourself mentally and physically should always be your first priority.  It will ensure that you’re able to deal with and respond to situations appropriately.
  • While not always possible, it’s helpful to be able to identify when you are over-reacting.  If you can, take a moment and try to figure out what is happening.  Ask yourself if you think you’re over reacting?  If that line is too blurry for you, try talking it through with a friend.  Knowing that you’re going through a moment, even if you can’t see yourself through to the other side, is a big step.  Try to use this the next time you think you’re having an over-reaction.  Identify what’s happening physically.  Is your stomach upset?  Do you instantly get a headache?  Identifying the physical reactions will also help you understand why you might over-react.
  • Take a moment to breathe before responding.  If I receive an email that sets me over the edge, I close my email program down and don’t even respond to it right away.  Typically 24 hours is a good time frame before responding.  But that might not be enough time.  If the matter is urgent, at least take a few moments to breathe before responding.  Maybe give yourself 15 minutes.  Draft a response, but don’t hit send.  If you’re in a face to face situation, you might not have the luxury of taking a break.  Either way, take a moment to recognize how you’re feeling before you react.

Not all reactions are over-reactions.  There might be instances when you need to be firm or get a little upset.  Sometimes people need to see these reactions to understand the severity of the situation.  Or to understand where you’re coming from.  Being able to identify the differences though is important.  Crying over spilled milk is an over-reaction.  Being able to identify why you’re crying about the spilled milk is important.  Most of the time, its not the milk at all.  Maybe it’s just one more thing that has happened and you feel exhausted or overwhelmed.  I know that I am guilty of crying over the spilled milk.  It’s a hard pattern to break, but if you can identify what’s really going on you’ll be able to break the pattern… and hopefully have more appropriate reactions to situations.

By Staff Writer

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