Some of the unexpected things that we encounter in life can be pleasant – surprise birthday parties, random acts of kindness from strangers, or a rainbow appearing after a downpour.
But distressing things can also occur without warning — traffic accidents, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one.
As human beings, our instinct is to respond to these events with panic, anger, fear, or frustration. There is nothing wrong with feeling bad, but when we let these negative emotions get the best of us, we cause the executive network of our brain (which is responsible for problem solving) to constrict and work less effectively.
So instead of running around in a panic or falling into despair, we should try our best to keep ourselves calm and be patient so that our brain can come up with solutions to these problems.
Below are some ways can we control our response and channel positive emotions in the face of unexpected stress:
1. Accept that unexpected events are a part of life
As humans, we thrive on routine and predictability; but not only are the occasional mishaps unavoidable, they are inevitable. Once you begin to learn how to acknowledge this fact of life, you will find unexpected events and experiences less troubling, and you will become more receptive to deal with them when they happen.
2. Keep calm
When faced with an unexpected twist of fate, try your best to resist the instinct to launch into a tirade or run around in a panicked state. One shift you can do to keep yourself calm is to practice mindful breathing, you can do this by first closing your eyes, then begin taking a deep breath, and followed by exhaling slowly. Do this for 10 counts. Once you noticed that you were able to slow down your heart rate, open your eyes and try your best to take on the situation with a fresh mindset.
3. Look at it from another point of view
Maybe what happened is just a minor incident that’s not as bad as you initially thought? Maybe it’s something temporary that can be fixed in the long run? Getting fired from work could even turn out well, as you might even find a better and more satisfying job. Even if what happened is unequivocally a major disaster, like your house burning down, taking a pause will at least abate your temper or panic and help you calm down long enough to formulate a better response.
4. Don’t take it personally
When something happens, do not immediately label it as “good” or “bad”; it is your response to the situation that determines whether the event becomes positive or negative. For example, if your partner breaks up with you and you blame yourself, become despondent, or think that no one will ever love you anymore, then the break-up becomes something negative. But if you accept that it was not the right relationship for you, maintain a positive attitude, and believe that some good will come your way, then the break-up becomes a blessing in disguise. You never know what will come of a situation, so rather than assuming a situation is bad, which only generates a lot of unhelpful, negative emotions, make an effort to look ahead with optimism.
5. Focus on the solution, not on the problem
When you get hit with unexpected bad news, give yourself time to understand what you need to feel. Then pick yourself up and shift your attention to finding solutions. The moment you ask yourself what you can do to make something better, you have taken the first step in turning a bad event into a more positive outcome. You will also start to feel better because you have regained control over the events.
6. Believe in yourself.
If you are in an unexpectedly difficult situation, think back to all the other times you encountered challenges and obstacles and ask yourself, “What did I do to get through those events?” If you lack self-confidence, ask someone who knows you well to give you a boost. When you know that you have what it takes to handle the problem, you will start to feel better.
7. Train yourself to welcome the unexpected
Once in a while, take a different route when you go jogging. Order something else from your favorite restaurant. When deciding what to watch on Netflix, pick a genre that you have never tried before. Doing these small but trivial things will help you become more accepting of change and cope more easily with surprises and unexpected events.
There is nothing wrong with getting flustered or upset when something unexpectedly bad happens to you. But you must find a way to rise above the stress and turmoil so that you can come up with solutions to the problem. By following the above-mentioned tips, you will feel less agitated, find composure, and be able to manage difficult situations better.
Written by Jacq of Mindnation