Sober up! Use this first aid remedy to gain control of your emotions

Ever felt emotionally tipsy? Here’s a quick way to get your emotions under control.

We don’t tend to notice emotional drunkenness at the time.  It’s only when the ‘hangover’ sets in, with overwhelming feelings of exhaustion combined with “OMG what have I just done/said/destroyed?!” that we realise we might have tipped the scales emotionally.  

Those foot-in-mouth, stomach churning situations when emotions are running wild inside us and we’re eager to lash out aren’t easy to forget. Neither are the times when our over-excitedness leads to a dizzying rollercoaster ride, running at break-neck speed and totally out of control.

If we are lucky, we will be accompanied on the fairground ride by a compassionate friend. One who holds our hand at the critical moment, smooths our hair for the ‘smile you’re on camera’ moment and then helps our shaky legs off the ride to safer, firmer ground.  

However, we tend to get into these troubled situations unaccompanied and thus need to get out of them all by our lonesome too!  

Here is where we need to be our own best friends, the only person we can truly count on to be there for us 24/7. So, how do we calm ourselves down and prevent ourselves from causing any damage?

What to do

The best way is obviously no drinking, I mean, no emotions. However, we’re human beings not robots.  

What we can do though is control our intake of emotionally unbalancing situations and if we start to lose control, can’t think straight or act coherently, there is a simple first aid remedy. One which everyone should have in their back pocket in case of such emergencies.

The technique I’m about to show you was actually developed and used in health care for treating people with dependencies, as it was seen that they tend to act on impulse, unaware of the implications. I believe this technique is potentially life-saving for all of us. I’ve discovered that it can be easily applied in moments of emotional overload, where we become disconnected with reality and need to regain composure.

And it’s really easy to remember.

Sober up!

SOBER is an acronym meaning Stop, Observe, Breathe, Evaluate/Expand awareness, Respond.

As soon as you feel something different or strange in the middle of your chest area that’s the first warning sign that emotions are revving up.  

This is when we need to STOP.  Think of it as pressing the pause button on the situation. Pausing our mind’s frantic activity, and probably on our mouth’s too!

Next, we need to OBSERVE.  We can now take a look at the situation as if we are watching a film, taking a figurative step back and adding distance emotionally.  To see the bigger picture, without judging or criticising helps us accept it for what it is, even if we feel like we’ve just messed up! Ok, it is what it is.

Now comes the all-important BREATHE. If we have got to this point and we are still breathing then we’re doing ok, really, we are!  Concentrate on your breathing, feeling the air as you inhale and exhale. Count if it helps to focus your mind.

Repeat the SOB steps until you’re feeling calmer and more aware of your emotion and what is happening within you and around you.  

Now, you can EXPAND your awareness and EVALUATE, principally your emotional state and that of those in the situation.  

This will provide you with crucial information about how to RESPOND in the best interests of yourself and others.

Response may be in a verbal form, if you feel in control enough to continue. A response just as valid, and often a wise one too, is to add physical distance. Maybe with “excuse me a moment, I’m just going to pop to the bathroom”. Or even “could we continue this meeting at another time?”. This helps to diffuse the situation for all involved.

Once in a different environment, keep running through the SOBER steps until you feel clearer about the way forward.

Keep it in your back pocket

The SOBER technique has really helped me in emotionally challenging situations. Remember to tell yourself to “Sober up!” when you feel emotions rising and you won’t go wrong.

Lindsay Nixon

Emotional Intelligence coach Lindsay helps clients take their personal, sports and professional lives to the next level.

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