Ask Golden Willow

Step back and breathe


Dear Ted: I feel the external world and my internal world are going so fast that I can't catch up. I can feel myself become panicky and then I strike out in a reactive way that causes my friends, family and people I don't know to see an angry, irritated, mean person, which is not my truth. I have a kind heart and an unconscious sharp tongue that seems to lash out in all different directions, especially at my loved ones. Do you have any suggestions? Hissing Viper

Dear Hissing, Wow, that is a tough name for yourself and I can tell you don't like being the "hissing viper."

Yes, our world seems to demand that we produce and respond immediately, and no matter how fast we are going, there is a demand to be quicker.

Your body and mind will respond to this stress as distress and move into a danger alert mode in which your entire system thinks it is under attack. In that state, you will become hypervigilant in which you will be very protective of yourself and not very mindful of others.

Most of the time, loved ones are more permissive and tolerant, so you will usually take more out on them, taking it for granted that they will deal with it and still be there for you. You will also lower your inhibitions around negative behavior and show your "true colors" even if they are not your truth.

The hard part about this is that then you may feel guilty or ashamed. That causes more stress for you to the point you may even get mad at your loved ones for your feelings of guilt and stress.

I felt my blood pressure going up just trying to write and explain one of the many possible emotional roller-coasters people find themselves on when stressed. When the stress starts to become overwhelming, the mindful part of your brain starts to shut down, and you move into that survival response of fight, flight, or freeze.

You might lash out and become snappy or ragefully violent to yourself, others, or things. You may be a personality that moves into flight mode in which you feel you need to get out of the situation as fast as possible.

You think you have to move because your home does not feel safe or get to somewhere else because you feel you are coming out of your skin. You may wildly be looking on the computer for other places to live or look for things to do to make home feel safer, all in a state of a reactionary panic.

You may also have your entire system shut down and freeze, leaving you unable to move, think or make any decisions. Safety may be truly a concern at times, and action needs to happen immediately. But when this is not the case, it is always good to take a step back, take a breath, reground yourself and find safety within.

You can then move out of survival mode and make decisions that don't hurt you or loved ones. Stepping back and taking a breath can allow the internal hurricane to settle and allow you to not be the tornado that wreaks havoc.

Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Ted Wiard, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat at (575) 776-2024 or

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