Keeping Calm – 5 Strategies for Not Losing Your Temper
Updated: Jan 30
Here’s an understatement: patience does not come naturally for me.
As a hot-headed (and much younger) individual, when cut off by another driver, I would erratically honk and yell. When a neighbor repeatedly raked his leaves into my yard, I would stubbornly rake them back into their yard. When someone drunkenly stomped on my sandaled foot during a concert, I would look for them with crazy ideas of misguided vengeance.
These are good examples of bad-tempered immaturity and obvious impatience. The truth is, patience is a practiced art that I wish I had begun a lot earlier in my life. That said, it often only comes with experiences: friendships, relationships, marriage, parenthood, employment, families, finances, aging, travel, property ownership, politics and dealing with people in general. In the end, whatever life hands you, it is all about your attitude. If you conduct yourself with grace and composure, you win. If you lose your temper, you lose.
Having experienced much of what life has to offer, I have learned a lot. But what has really taught me true patience has been my daughter, Grace. Her name exemplifies goodness. She was born greatly impacted with congenital health issues, feeding problems, mobility and dexterity difficulties, communication and learning challenges – and yet a distinctly beautiful outlook and charming personality. From her I have learned, among other things, to be politely courteous (See the definition of “Grace” in Lexico, Oxford's Online Dictionary).
Here are five of my strategies for NOT losing my temper:
Responding to “the bad move” – Someone pulls a horrible move on you while driving, biking, walking, skateboarding, whatever: smile or wave at them. It throws them off and makes you feel better.
Responding to “the bad talker” – Someone says some infuriating comments in person: ignore them as if they have not spoken, totally invalidating their words. If by phone, say: “I am too upset to respond. We should try and talk when I am calmer.” If the communication comes by text or email, do nothing. Wait a day or so and then respond. You will be glad you did. Write your first response, then delete it and write it again.
Exercising - It works. Studies show that exercise:- running, walking, swimming, yoga or biking, anything physical - helps keeps us healthy and calm. According to the American Heart Association, "regular exercise reduces the harmful effect of stress."
Weighing your words – Words can be like knives. Use them carefully. Once they come out, you can’t take them back, especially if you text or email them.
Watching your actions – Don’t confront people. They could be lunatics and you could set them off. Also, just as important, kids are often observing us and they are looking to us to set a good example. Do the right thing!
The best thing is to just take the high road (aka, the road less traveled). It’s easy to get down in the trenches but it takes emotional fortitude to not overreact. When dealing with any situation or any person – a baby, teenager or the elderly, the abled or the disabled, the liberal or the conservative – take a deep breath. Collect yourself and just be kind.