In this podcast (episode #445) and blog, I continue the discussion I started in my previous podcast: how to not let other people’s words and actions negatively impact our mental health.
Sometimes it can be challenging to know how to respond when someone triggers you, even if you listened to my previous podcast several times. Emotions can run hot, which may make it a challenge to react well in the moment.
So, in this episode, I am going to walk you through an example to show you what the tips I spoke about in part 1 of this series can look like in real life. You can use this example as a template to think of ways you will react to people in the moment, and how you will wire these experiences into your brain.
Say someone seems jealous of you and makes snide underhand comments when you are around. You feel hurt, irritated, and can't relax around this person. You feel that you can't share what is going on in your life or be excited about things that are happening in front of them as they have a knack for bringing the mood down. When you see them, your mind, brain, and body respond—you become guarded and quiet, you feel a tightness in your chest, and you are weary because you don’t know what this person may say or do, or when they will say or do something. You are just waiting for something bad to happen, and this expectation is affecting how you feel mentally and physically.
First, take a moment to do some quick decompression exercises if you can, such as deep breathing, some yoga stretches, or something similar. This is a great way to calm the mind and brain down in the moment.
Next, acknowledge how you feel. Be honest with yourself—you don’t have to tell anyone else. How do you feel emotionally? What are you experiencing in your body? What are you doing and saying? What is your perspective? Write this down if you can, or think about it in your head. I find describing how I feel in a short statement is incredibly helpful, as it helps me organize my thoughts when I am upset and gives me something I can work with—things don’t feel so all over the place.
So, in the example above, you can say something like “I feel upset and angry. My chest feels tight. When I see this person, I start withdrawing—I do not feel like my usual bubbly self. I am weary.”
Then create an antidote statement, as I spoke about in part 1 of this podcast. This is the way you are going to reconceptualize what happened and find the “cure” to prevent this experience from affecting your mental and physical wellbeing.
Using the example above, you could say something like “This person is saying these things because they are frustrated with their own life. Perhaps they are upset because their own dreams and desires feel lost. Maybe they feel they are not good enough and are lashing out. Perhaps I can praise them for something I think they do well before they start speaking, or give them a compliment and smile at them. I think it is best I start the conversation this way, rather than let them take control. I know that I should be careful how much I share with this person as they are not in a place to handle what is going on in my life right now, so I will be careful but also friendly, You never know what someone is going through!”
And, if this person starts saying or doing something that upsets you, or starts acting in a very negative way, you can immediately shift the conversation to what is going on in their life, and think of a way that you can excuse yourself from the conversation (the bathroom excuse is a really helpful one!). Remember, there is more than one way to be “nice”. Sometimes the nicest thing you can do is remove yourself from a situation because you understand that, as much as this person triggers you, you are just not the best person for them to be around right now—this is a way to protect your mental health and to support the mental health of the other person.
In this situation, it is also a good idea to remember to be kind to yourself, not just the other person. Quitting a conversation is one way to do this. You can also tell yourself something like “I don't need to feel guilty about my success/joy etc. It is okay to be excited about what is going on in my life. It is also okay to be sad and hurt that I cannot share how I feel with this person right now. I only hope the other person will find their own sense of joy one day, and I am sorry they feel that they need to act the way they do.”
As you are doing this, visualize yourself in a coat of armor, which I also mentioned in part 1 of this podcast. See this in your mind’s eye protecting you from the “arrows” the other person is throwing at you. This armor is so strong that all these “barbs” are just bouncing off you into the air. As you do this, it will generate positive energy in your mind and brain, which acts like a shield that will help you divorce your own emotions from the situation and give your mind a break from the stress. It is also a great way to remind yourself that you are strong and protected from the negative side effects of the person’s words and actions.
You will need to practice these steps several times for them to be truly effective. Remember, whatever you think about the most grows, so the more you practice responding in this way, the more you build healthy neural networks into your brain that will make you more resilient and help you respond better to negative situations in the future. You are literally building health into your brain as you do this!
For more on managing how the words and actions of others affect you, listen to my podcast (episode #445). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
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2:08 3 steps to manage how people’s words & actions affect you
3:02 Practice really does make perfect!
5:09 An example to help you apply these steps & change the way your brain is wired
8:42 Why being kind to yourself is so important
This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.