How to tell if you’re overreacting

Tune-in to your thoughts and feelings and learn how to evaluate situations in a calm, honest way

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful

We’ve all been there. It’s the heat of the moment, your emotions are flying high, and somewhere from the side-lines a niggling feeling inside you is asking, ‘Am I overreacting?’

The truth is, whether or not you actually are overreacting, you’re still feeling the things you’re going through – those emotions are real and valid, and concluding that you maybe blew things out of proportion doesn’t mean that you need to minimise those feelings. However, being aware of this can help you build clarity and self-knowledge, and also develop better relationships with others.

Here, we explore five ways you can assess whether you’re overreacting and how you can harness this to benefit your overall wellbeing.

What are the facts?

Take a step back, and consider the situation in the most basic, factual, unemotional terms possible – it may help to write this down, and also to explore the context. For example, maybe your partner left the milk on the worktop and now it’s gone sour, which led to a blazing argument. If that’s all that’s going on, you might be able to reflect on the scenario and conclude that, yes, maybe that was an overreaction. On the other hand, perhaps there were events that led up to this showing that maybe your partner isn’t pulling their weight at home, or you’re going through a difficult time and you need them to take on more responsibility. Assess the facts, come to your own conclusion, and set a course of action.

How are the people around you reacting?

Are they shocked by the way that you’re reacting and, if so, might that suggest you’re behaving in a way that is out of character for you? Tuning-in to our support networks when we need to talk out a situation is a great way to work through your emotions. Take a trusted friend through the scenario and ask for their honest interpretation. You may find this process alone helps you to come to your own conclusion, but having someone who knows you on board for the journey can be invaluable.

Is this something you would usually get upset by?

Sometimes, when we’re going through a hard time, our stress and emotions can bubble up to the surface before we’ve really identified them. You may have snapped over something today that wouldn’t have fazed you last week. If you find that this is the case, consider whether this outburst can tell you anything about your overall wellbeing? Are you squashing down stress or anger that you need to address? Or are you anxious about something that’s coming up in your life? Did you get enough sleep last night? Are you eating a balanced diet?

Will this matter to you in the morning?

Putting the situation into perspective, ask yourself ‘Is this something that will matter to me in a week’s time, a month’s time, or a year?’ How about the next day, following a good night’s sleep? If you think your feelings will fade with a bit of time, hold on to this. It doesn’t mean that, in the moment you didn’t feel them, only that you can look forward to putting them behind you, and moving on.

When we’re caught in the middle of something it can be hard to see a way out; thinking about the problem in this manner can help you create a pathway forward.

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