Have you been involved with a powerful emotional meltdown? If so, you already know that one of the worst feelings in the world is to feel like you’re making things worse. A breakdown is a lot like an earthquake. It often occurs without warning. And just as you wouldn’t expect to be able to predict when the next big earthquake will hit, you can’t predict when your loved one will have a meltdown.
You want desperately to calm someone down but don’t know what to say or do. This is common – and it’s OK – we all want to be helpful; we just don’t always know-how. Knowing the right thing to say or do during an emotional meltdown can be challenging. It is even more difficult because some words and actions can worsen things.
One thing you never want to do is tell someone to “calm down.” Your instincts might tell you that if a loved one’s in a panic…you should try to calm them down. You might even be prone to saying, “I know you’re upset, but try to calm down a little.”
But the words “calm down” have never had a soothing effect on anyone. If you were to say those words, the person would only be further agitated. That’s why supporting someone in distress is very challenging. Here are a few things you can do to calm someone down.
It’s important to let them know they’re being heard.
When someone you care about is going through a hard time, you must let them know they’re being listened to. By listening to what they say, you can help them feel understood and validated and give them an outlet for their feelings.
Touch is a meaningful way to communicate empathy.
Touch is a compelling way to communicate affection and empathy. One simple, easy way to respect someone’s essential boundaries – is by putting an arm around them. Being kind means recognizing people’s needs, and the need for touch is a basic human need. If this makes the other person uncomfortable, getting consent first is essential.
Control the tone of your voice.
Your tone of voice will have a substantial effect on your feelings. If you want them to calm down, speak calmly. Try not to panic or show emotion. Calmness will make the person feel safer. It will encourage them to calm down and think about what you say.
Get more out of your conversations – make eye contact.
When you want to show someone you care about them, being present and engaged is crucial. That’s why eye contact is so important. The eyes are the windows of the soul, so to speak, so use yours to let the person you’re talking and know that you are present and engaged.
When in pain, deep breathing can help.
When people are in pain, their breathing often becomes strained. If you’re in a position to help, remember that the body will usually follow the environment’s energy. Try breathing next to them as you take a deep breath in and out. Since their body will often mimic the energy around them, it will also help them breathe more easily. It usually works better than telling them to breathe.
Always show love and care.
It’s essential to show that you care. If you notice someone going through a hard time, and there is mutual trust between you, you can lean on their shoulders or in a lap if it feels safer and they are comfortable. You can also help the other person by providing a comforting touch or a reassuring hug.
Deal with stress during a conversation.
Getting overwhelmed or stressed during a conversation will make you unable to process what your partner is saying, leading to more problems. If you’re flustered, it’s essential to know that the other person will pick up on your distress, which can prevent deep understanding from happening.
So, if you notice yourself getting nervous or experiencing any physiological signs of stress, such as sweating, shaking, or feeling tight in the chest, try to recognize what’s happening and take a break. Remember, you are doing great work here. You are making a difference.
It’s okay to take a break while helping them.
It’s essential to take care of yourself during your support. Sometimes, even if you want to be there for someone, it is exhausting. Being a pillar of strength for others is often rewarding, but stepping away for a while is perfectly acceptable if you feel like your energy is drained.
If you must calm down a person in a stressful situation, refrain from making accusations. Instead, offer consolation and show that you’re sympathetic to what they’re dealing with. Be patient and understanding. What you say has a lot to do with how your loved ones feel. This is something to consider when dealing with distress.