What types of de-escalation techniques could help in heightened emotional situations?

man and woman arguing

What types of de-escalation techniques could help in heightened emotional situations?


Learn to recognize physical signs of when you are starting to get upset. The more in tune you are with your emotional temperature, the more likely you can nip it in the bud before it gets out of control. Pay attention to signs like accelerated breathing or muscle tension. If possible, take a break, hit the pause button, and "reset". For example, take a walk, exercise, listen to or play music. Breathing exercises and calming visual imagery (imagining the ocean) are often helpful. Return to the discussion later. Plan this ahead of time and communicate this with family members so they know what to expect. Come up with a calming motto when things feel out of control (e.g. this too will pass). Another technique is to think about and label all of your emotions. Think through all the emotions you might be feeling. Research suggests this process can be calming. There are usually lots of emotions we feel at once and this can be overwhelming, or we don't notice any other emotions than anger. Focusing on exactly what it is we are feeling and digging deeper to understand all of the emotions, can be helpful. Shift your attention from what is going on and connect with the environment. For instance, identify 5 blue things in the room. This will momentarily distract you and calm you down.


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The contents of this expert answer were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research the Indiana Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems 90DP0036 and 90DRTB0002. NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this expert answer do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

Posted on BrainLine November 13, 2019.