By Jean Holthaus, LISW
Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services Pella Clinic Therapist and Manager

We all have moments of absolute chaos…the kids are screaming, the phone is ringing, something is boiling over on the stove, and a major project must be completed for work. In moments like this, emotions quickly become overwhelming and the desire to cry, hit something, run away, or scream wells up from the depth of our being. While we all experience these moments, most of us have limited skills with which to respond. As a result we tend to navigate these situations in ways that leave us feeling remorseful when our emotions subside.
While chaotic moments are difficult to successfully navigate, practicing some basic skills on a daily basis can strengthen our ability to find calm in the midst of chaos:

Pay Attention to Right Now: When you can control your attention, you can control your mind. Stepping back and observing what is going on in the present moment without reacting or acting is the first step in controlling your attention. This sounds relatively easy, but can be surprisingly difficult. Learning to observe what is happening externally or internally in the present moment without judging it or acting upon it takes time and lots of practice. Ways to practice include asking yourself:

What can I see right now?
What do I feel right now?
What can I hear right now?
What physical sensations am I experiencing right now?

Stick to the facts: Much of the distress we experience in chaotic situations comes from assumptions and judgments we make about the circumstances or what others are thinking/feeling. By focusing on the facts, we lessen our emotional reaction by staying focused on “what is” rather than what “might be” or “should be.” “He is jumping on the bed” produces less emotion and is easier to deal with than “He is an awful child who is constantly disobedient.”

One Thing at a Time: Research shows it is more effective to do one thing at a time than to multi-task. Attempting to juggle multiple things creates an internal franticness which intensifies emotion and makes us less effective. By fully participating in one task at a time, we increase our effectiveness, decrease our internal chaos, and increase our enjoyment of the task.
Each of these skills need to be practiced on a daily basis so when chaos strikes we can naturally access the skills to successfully manage our emotions and calmly find a path through the chaos.