What types of deescalation 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.
Dr. Dawn Neumann is an Associate Professor at Indiana University School of Medicine in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Research Director at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana.