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  • Ricka Robb Kohnstamm

How do you find your way back with people you care about when you mess up?  

We're all been there.

We're overly tired or haven't eaten all day or are too hot, or one of the children has whined one too many times, or our young adult child is having a hard time again and we are feeling vulnerable, or the troublesome employee is picking on others again and we're hearing about it in our weekly staff calls.

Or maybe you are juggling too much already or you were turned down for the job you really wanted and are growing increasingly concerned about how the Delta virus is going to put everything at risk. Again.

Itchy feelings pile up, one by one, until they come cascading down.

Then we lose it.

We usually lose it with those we care about the most. The hurtful words fly wildly out of our mouths or across the texts, the hairbrush flies across the room, the doors slam.

And while that may momentarily feel like relief to ease those itchy feelings, it doesn't last and doesn't work. In fact, we are actively harming ourself and others, aggressively shoving our own itchy feelings onto others, slashing others with our words, harming our own bodies with spiking flight/fight hormones.

And even worse? The people who we really need to see us and hear us can't see or hear what we are really trying to communicate through all of the thunder...

  • "I am scared."

  • "I am overwhelmed."

  • "I am feeling deep loss."

How do you find your way back, with those you care about, and with yourself?

Take a deep breath and try these tools...

Notice. And then pause. Start to notice the amped up feeling that comes right before you lose it. Notice the urge to engage for what it is - instinctual fight/flight. Once you notice, discipline yourself to pause - excuse yourself and step outside, get a drink of cold water, shift your surroundings. Or, if you are actively losing it, notice and then discipline yourself to break the pattern and pause. "I would like some time to sit with this - I'll get back to you when I feel calmer." Stop the damage as soon as you become aware and then press the pause button. No one else is responsible for doing that for you. You are in charge of you.

Recognize and own the harm that you are causing/have caused by losing it. Did something happen that ticked you off? Of course. Were you pushed over the edge? Probably. And yet... you are responsible for the words that come out of your mouth, of the way you walk through the world, of taking ownership for your own reactions and responses. For the harm you cause others. Own it.

  • "I am feeling super uncomfortable right now so I am going to back up and cool down so I don't hurt you or hurt myself."

  • "I am completely overwhelmed. I don't want to add to that harming you or myself with my words. Please give me a moment or ten."

  • "I just said some things I already regret because I can feel the harm. Please let me cool down and circle back with you as soon as we both are ready."

Move into higher mind, reflect, take responsibility, then state needs.

  • "I'm sorry I went berserk last weekend. I know you well enough to know you are not doing things intentionally to make me crazy. I feel overwhelmed when I come home from work and so many things are out of place. Can we sit down and discuss how to handle this?"

  • "I'm sorry I blew up when the family was together a couple of weeks ago. It is important to me that I feel heard and sometimes I have trouble finding my place when so many people are speaking with such strong opinions. Would you be willing to think this through with me so that I can handle it better next time?"

  • "I started crying when we met last week and that made me uncomfortable. I have strong feelings and want to communicate them in a way I feel good about and crying is not it. I feel disappointed that I am not being included in leadership roles that feel meaningful to me and I feel like I am losing ground with you. Would you be willing to speak honestly with me about where I can best bring my talents to help our company grow?"

Then stand back, notice your patterns and commit to meaningful change. If you lose it when you are depleted, commit to having fruit on your desk and taking a walk outdoors each day. If you lose it when there are too many voices speaking at once, become aware ahead of time and plan your strategy. If you lose it when you are overwhelmed or feel out of control, notice and make a plan. You are in charge of you.

Then exhale.

Remember - harming is easy. But repairing harm is very challenging, and it requires intention and practice. The work is worth it, for others, as well as for yourself.

Actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.


Hello, I'm Ricka.

Ricka Kohnstamm Executive & Physician Coach Profile Photo

I'm a Nationally Board Certified (NBC-HWC) Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coach. I specialize in working with physician leaders, corporate leaders, non-profit executives and their families to navigate complex work and personal issues so they can strengthen their relationships, heal, and feel hopeful about the future again. 



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