How not to freak out

Anger is the go-to feeling for most people because it’s outward-directed —angrily blaming others can feel deliciously sanctimonious. But often it is only the tip of the iceberg, and if you look beneath the surface, you will glimpse submerged feelings you either weren’t aware of or didn’t want to show: fear, helplessness, envy, loneliness, insecurity. And if you can tolerate these deeper feelings long enough to understand them and listen to what they are telling you, you will not only manage your anger in more productive ways, you also won’t be so angry all the time.

Lori Gottlieb, Maybe you should talk to someone (2019)

Most of you know that I repeat myself over and over again. When the going gets rough and you feel overwhelmed by anger, sadness, stress or disappointment … you need to look after yourself! Find out what goes on and take responsibilty towards regulating your emotions.

Simple rule: when we feel overwhelmed self care takes priority over our responsibility towards others.

Maybe you find the airplane analogy helpful. Before take-off, cabin crew never fails to inform us that in case of an oxygen drop we are to pull the oxygen mask and place it firmly over our nose and mouth before taking care of our children… (and some of you know that, as a child, this announcement used to freak me out as I would think I’m going to die here as my parents get all the oxygen…)

So what does that mean for our real life with our partners and our kids?

I’d like to suggest a few steps that will help you regulating your moods and emotions – in ways that are consistent with your values and goals: not to hurt those around you!

First of all, think carefully about what helps you to calm down. And come up with your own individual plan. Nobody needs to understand your strategy – as long as it works for you that’s all that matters

So when you are feeling overwhelmed and emotionally destabilized and you’re starting to realize you won’t be able to cope REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE SITUATION ASAP. Concentrate very hard on yourself (and not on those around you…) and try making out what you actually feel. What exactly do you feel? Is it panic? or hurt? or lonelyness? or exhaustion? or hunger? or sadness?

Everything you feel you feel. It’s normal to always feel something. Some good, some bad and some neutral. And emotional pain is normal, too. It’s part of everybody’s life.

Now you can start doing something that will make your feeling feel that it can take a backseat. A few ideas: find a quiet room (bathroom, bedroom, balcony?) and breathe! Watch short funny videos. Go out jogging. Dance (always a good idea). Take a shower. Think of something beautiful. Breath. Breath. Breath. Never underestimate the power of breathing! In his book Instant Calm Paul Wilson writes:

“Mentally reassure yourself that good breathing is the most effective way ever conceived to control feelings of stress and anxiety”

People are extremely different with respect to what makes them calm down. Try out all sorts of things – even the most bizarre strategy is a good strategy if it helps you to soothe yourself! You’re the expert and the responsiblity to regulate your emotions is entirely yours. But – and this is extremely important! – you have the right to fail at this sometimes, too.

Agreements are key!

So come to an agreement with your partner to help each other in these emergencies: it’s important for both of you to know that you have each other’s back in this.

If you’d like to find out more about an approach that involves meditation and the practice of self-compassion try looking at

Or you could look up Toni Parker’s article on

One more thing. For all the wrong reasons, our brain tends to generalize when under stress. You know that moment when we start thinking Everything is awful! Even though we obviously know very well that even under the current circumstances not everything is awful!

So feel free to start your personal list:

  1. Three things that are just awful right now.
  2. Three things that are just as awful as always.
  3. Three things that are better than usual right now.
  4. (I have no idea why there’s a 4. here and I can’t make it go away)

Until next time! Stay safe and keep well.

Warm regards


Spread love ❤️ not germs 🦠