Communicating with a significant other during a divorce or child custody dispute without being emotionally triggered can sometimes seem like an insurmountable challenge. It can be hard to remain calm and rational when the other person is pushing our buttons and being what we deem as “unreasonable.” Unfortunately, in cases like child custody, communication and a continued relationship are a necessity even after divorce.
During these times it’s important to keep your cool and your conversation focused, calm, and with an end goal in mind. It’s always best to take a break when things get heated, but when you can’t, there are steps you can take. If conversations with a difficult spouse or partner lead to yelling, screaming, anxiety or tears, read on for a mental trick that can help you keep your emotional balance during challenging talks.
3 Words – Pause, Breathe, Relax
Take a moment right now to mentally replay the most emotional parts of your last angry discussion with someone. Do your best to remember what they said and how it made you feel. Are you good and angry again? Great! Now take a moment to notice your body. If you’re really upset, you’ll find your face is pinched, your shoulders are tense and your breathing is short and shallow. This is a natural physical response to feelings of anger and stress.
In this case, your emotions are telling your body how to feel. But guess what? It works the other way around as well! Your body can tell your mind how to feel too. The trick is to make your body mimic how it reacts when you’re calm and relaxed. Begin with your breathing. When we’re upset, the chest gets tight and breathing gets rapid. You can experience significant relief from overwhelming emotions simply by taking a moment to relax your chest and diaphragm and taking a deep breath.
It’s not necessary to do deep breathing exercises, although they are often helpful. Instead, focus on keeping your torso relaxed and breathing even and regular. The effects of this “calm breathing” can be immediate, in part because mindfulness allows you to focus on something within your control.
You cannot control the other person, but you can control your reaction to them.
Simply taking this moment, which can be done very discreetly, to focus on your relaxation and breathing can be enough to diffuse an impending blow-up. Regular, even breathing and a relaxed torso is just the beginning. Next, focus on your face. Begin at the top of your head and relax your eyes and brows. Relax your cheeks and mouth. Maintain your breathing, keep focused on making sure your face is relaxed in every way. This technique can halt unwelcome tears in their tracks! It’s impossible to cry with a relaxed face and even breathing. Try it if you like!
Continue to relax your body and internally focus on your breathing. Work downwards relax your head, face, neck, shoulders, chest, abdomen, hips legs, knees, feet and toes. With practice, you’ll be able to master emotional control simply by modulating your physical response. Even if the other person gets worked up or instigates conflict, you can exhibit calm control over yourself and your emotions.