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Getting a Grip
By Caterina Spinaris
Published: 03/12/2012

Dynamite There is no shortage of challenging situations in life. The issue is not IF but WHEN they will happen. Sometimes we find ourselves dealing with several such situations in one day. It is easy to end up feeling irritable and frustrated.

That is why we need tools to weather storms. The way we react to challenges can increase or decrease the degree to which we feel stressed. That is, we have a choice as to how much we upset ourselves, as opposed to viewing frustrations in ways that do not steal from us hope or peace of mind (at least not for very long)..

In a nutshell, what we tell ourselves about aggravating situations and how we choose to respond to them deter-mines if we’ll get horribly uptight, or if we’ll be perturbed but able to move on and perhaps even grow from the challenge..

Learning to “talk ourselves down,” to deescalate ourselves, is a coping technique that can be a life saver. When we calm ourselves down we are more in charge of our circumstances, as our behavior becomes more rationally intentional and less impulsively reactive..

Here are some things we can do or tell ourselves to lower our emotional temperature in order to detach from irri-tating situations and engage in constructive problem-solving..
  • Take a few deep, slow breaths. Exhale, breathe in, hold it, exhale. And again. Repeat.
  • Slow down and back up to get a better perspective on the aggravating situation.
  • Ask yourself, “In the long run, will this thing that is upsetting me right now truly matter? What will it mean to me ten years from now? Will I even remember it?”
  • Ask yourself, “Are hatred and hostility worth it, or could they cost me precious relationships, my job, my own self-respect or even my health?”
  • Tell yourself, “I’ll give myself time to cool down and examine the facts, one at a time.”
  • Tell yourself, “I’ll take a time-out to think about how I want to respond to this to make it a win-win situation.”
  • Tell yourself, “I am not going to take this personally. This is not about me. I’ll let it go.”
  • Tell yourself, “Sooner or later, this too shall pass.”
  • Tell yourself, “I’m human. And humans make mistakes, which are ultimately learning opportunities. I’m going to learn and grow from this.”
  • Tell yourself, “I choose to accept the situation as it is and focus on what good can come from it.”
  • Tell yourself, “My job is to do my best right now. The rest is not up to me.”
  • Tell yourself, “Baby steps add up. Just take the next baby step forward in the right direction and keep going.”
  • Tell yourself, “Patience! Good things take time. Weeds grow overnight. Oak trees take 20 years.”.

These are some ways we can talk ourselves down when we feel angry, discouraged or hurt. The point is to disen-gage our emotion-based fight or flight urges, and instead to engage our reason and some of our highest values..

I’d love to hear about some of your coping techniques. If you’d like to share, send me an email at caterina@desertwaters.com.

Corrections.com author, Caterina Spinaris Tudor, is the Executive Director of Desert Waters Correctional Outreach (DWCO, www.desertwaters.com) and a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Colorado. She works with correctional employees and their families, addressing the unique demands of the correctional workplace and its toll on staff and families. The mission of DWCO is to increase the occupational, personal, and family well-being of staff of all disciplines within the corrections profession.

Visit the Caterina Tudor page

Other articles by Tudor:


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  2. Canusxiii on 04/19/2012:

    In corrections it's not that easy to calm down,I agreed with you Jamestown0509.I being on the job over 7 years now,and is on occasions one of the hardest things to do.The inmates temp you.The staff ,well different quarks and personalities...... I usually try to deal with the problem by taking a deap breath ,count to four or with staff.I either talked to them or let it be known thru a fellow co worker.I can be difficult to deal with at times,but I know we all had to work as a team.We cannot led stress control us or anger.We cannot make the job any difficult them it is a times.

  3. jamestown0509 on 03/15/2012:

    Caterina in general those suggestions on descelating or diminishing anger work very well.However in corrections its not that easy to calm down. Unlike police officers on patrol who can simply drive their patrol car away from the scene to relax or get a cup of coffee, correction officers are assigned to a dorm, post or tier for an entire 8 hour shift. In some cases officers cannot leave their unit unless it is for lunch or restroom break. So the tensions that can mount in those situations everyday can be overwhelming to some officers. I have told new officers and close friends who work with me to leave the job at the jail and not take it home. That's a difficult thing to do because on a day when some inmate calls you every foul name there is, throws things at you or argues with you during a shift you just have to ignore that and pretend you don't work there after the shift. As a supervisor when a subordinate has a stressful encounter on his/her shift we try to find an escort officer to replace them for a while and get out of the unit to calm down and relax. In addition you really can't write a report on an incident when you are really ticked off and you need to make sure the report is accurate and void of rude comments and rants. Being a corrections officer is a challenging job and it obviously is stressful at times. Camaraderie among fellow officers is essential, your best line of defense is talking and venting frustrations with those who know what you are going through.

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