How to Stop Overreacting and Finally Gain Control Over Your Emotions

How to Stop Overreacting

Share this post with your friends and loved ones

Table of Contents

It’s normal to feel angry. It’s natural to react emotionally in certain situations. Just when does anger cross the line into overreaction? How can you tell if your emotions are taking control and getting in the way of your relationships, professional goals, or daily life? 

Sometimes overreacting is a way of communicating something important — and if your overreaction is consistently causing more harm than good, it’s time to find a new way to communicate and learn how to stop overreacting.

There are 2 different types of overreactions:

  • Reactive overreaction: this is when your initial emotional response is too strong for the event or situation that caused it.
  • Compulsive overreaction: this is when you feel like you can’t stop yourself from reacting, even though the reaction may not be appropriate or helpful.

If you’re struggling with one of these 2 things, you might be wondering how to stop overreacting. It can be helpful to start by identifying your triggers. These are the people and situations that cause you to overreact. Once you’ve identified these, consider whether your overreactions are helping or harming the situation at hand.

How to Understand Your Triggers

How To Understand Your Triggers

We have all experienced situations where we’ve overreacted. If you can recognize the causes of your buttons being pushed, you can learn to be more in control of yourself when your triggers are activated.

To figure out what triggers you here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you overreacting to something that has happened in the past?
  • Do certain people or situations always seem to set you off?
  • Do you overreact more than other people do in the same situation?
  • What are your physical symptoms when you overreact (e.g. fast heart rate, shortness of breath)?

Once you’ve identified some potential triggers, it’s time to start reflecting on how your overreactions are impacting you and those around you.

How to take a Step Back and Assess the Situation

Because overreactions are often not as simple as they seem. It’s possible for your overreaction to be about something deeper than the immediate situation. Sometimes overreacting can be related to past trauma or even just a sign that you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or emotionally overwhelmed.

If your overreaction is related to past trauma, it can be a way of expressing what you were unable to express at the time. This can give overreacting an important function, even though it may not seem like that from the outside. For example, overreacting might be your body’s way of telling you something about yourself or your situation is not right.

If your overreaction is related to feeling overwhelmed, it can be helpful to remember that you’re not alone. Many people struggle with overwhelming emotions at some point in their lives. It’s important to understand and accept these feelings rather than trying to fight them or bottle them up.

Here are a few tips to take a step back and assess the situation:

  • Stop and take some deep breaths. This will help you calm down and give yourself time to think.
  • Talk to someone you trust about what’s going on. It can be helpful to get another perspective, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused.
  • Remind yourself that overreacting is not always rational. Just because you’re feeling a strong emotion doesn’t mean it’s automatically valid or helpful.
  • Think about what you would like to happen instead of overreacting. What’s the outcome you’d like to see? How can you get there?
  • Ask yourself if overreacting is helpful in any way, or if it’s only making the situation worse.
  • Consider how your overreactions are impacting your relationships with others.
  • Think about whether you’re able to accomplish your professional goals when you’re overreacting.
  • Analyze the physical and emotional consequences of overreacting.

How To Respond Instead of React

When you feel yourself starting to overreact, take a step back and think about what you’re overreacting to.

Ask yourself: am I overreacting to something that happened in the past? Is there a way for me to respond instead of react right now?

If you find that your overreactions are related to the past, try not to focus on how things could or should have been different. Instead, focus on how you can respond more effectively in the present moment.

If overreacting feels like a habit that’s hard to break, try these tips:

  • Remind yourself over and over again that overreacting isn’t helping anyone, including yourself.
  • Practice taking deep breaths when you feel an overreaction coming on.
  • Identify positive statements you can say to yourself about the situation and/or about yourself.
  • Visualize a more helpful response before reacting.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Practicing self-compassion can be a helpful tool in managing overreactions.

While it can be tempting to beat yourself up after an emotional outburst, doing so will only make the situation worse. Instead of blaming and shaming yourself for overreacting, take time to reflect on how you can respond more effectively next time around.

Here are some helpful ways you can practice self-compassion:

  • Treat yourself with kindness.
  • Be mindful of how overreacting is affecting you and others in your life, but don’t let it define who you are as a person or what you’re capable of achieving.
  • Take responsibility for your response but don’t take responsibility for how you feel.
  • Remember that everyone makes mistakes, and overreactions are just a part of life.
  • Seek professional help if you feel like you can’t manage your emotions alone.

Dedicate time each day to practicing self-compassion. This can be as simple as taking a few minutes to sit quietly and breathe deeply, or writing down some thoughts about overreacting that make you feel better about yourself (e.g., “I’m not perfect but I’m trying” or “Everyone makes mistakes sometimes”).

It can be helpful to remember that overreacting is not a reflection of who you are as a person. It’s something that can be managed and improved with practice. And above all, try to be patient with yourself – change doesn’t happen overnight. With time and effort, you can learn to manage your overreactions and start living a more productive, satisfying life.

Seek Professional Help to Learn How to Stop Overreacting

How to stop overreacting through online therapy

If overreacting is causing significant distress in your life or the lives of those around you, it’s important to seek professional help. A Makin Wellness therapist can help you understand the underlying causes of your overreactions and provide tools to help you manage them.

Makin Wellness can help you understand and manage your overreactions. The therapists at Makin Wellness are here to help you live a more productive, satisfying life. Contact us at (412) 532-1249 or schedule an appointment at

Picture of Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

All articles are written in conjunction with the Makin Wellness research team. The content on this page is not a replacement for professional diagnosis, treatment, or informed advice. It is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before making any decisions or taking action. Please refer to our terms of use for further details.

Refer to our Terms of Use & Privacy Policy page for more information.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Faraz

    This is an excellent article on how to stop overreacting to situations. It is well-written and provides clear and helpful advice on how to gain control of your emotions. It also provides practical tips on how to practice self-regulation and improve emotional intelligence. The article is comprehensive and easy to understand, making it a great resource for anyone looking to better manage their emotions.

    1. Valerie W

      I agree, this is an excellent article, best I have seen! No need to look for any more articles on overreacting. This one is short and simple but spot on!

  2. Marion

    Wow. I needed to read this very helpfull , as I am overreacting to a situation in my life at the moment. Thank you.

  3. Joe

    I loved the article very much. I seem to have both compulsive and reactive types of overreactions. Throughout my life I lost almost 97% of my friends because of overreacting, I don’t trust a lot of people, easily irritated by just small details, if someone talks bad about me I won’t care if that’s a joke or tuth, what I think whenever I’m irritated is war, fighting and insulting. I know all these are bad and promise myself to play wise sometimes but it’s always been a lie. I don’t think if I’ll ever get off this habit since it’s now a part of my life, defines me and gives me the respecting friends

    1. Makinwellness

      I’m glad you found this article helpful! It’s important to know that what you are experiencing can be worked on and improved. With the help of a licensed therapist, you can work through the root issues that cause you to react the way you do, and develop healthier ways to cope and have conflict. Being irritated and finding it difficult to trust people do not have to be things that define you! You can find friends that respect you without having to react in the ways you’ve listed.

      1. Deborah

        I always end up hurting myself the most woth my overreactions. I tend to quit jobs, then regret it, then feel shame and lay awake at night feeling embarrassed and really bad about myself.
        Then the anxiety and loss of confidence in myself sets in. It can be a battle.
        Thank you for a great article. I will use it to help me in my never ending quest for self improvement.

        1. Makinwellness

          Thank you for your comment, Deborah. From what you mentioned, you seem to have some patterns of behavior that could be helped with counseling. You listed a lot of symptoms, but if you only try to work with your symptoms, you may be missing the bigger issue. A counselor can help you find the root cause of your behavior patterns and help you to minimize your current experience. I highly recommend you give us a call and get started on overcoming this struggle.

  4. Arnab

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise through your blog post. The information was well-researched, and I appreciated the way you made complex concepts understandable.

  5. Bryan

    I don’t often comment on articles such as this, but in this particular situation, I feel this advice was spot on. I often find myself “throwing my hands up” (and giving up) when situations become too stressful for my emotions. That ruins relationships and future opportunities to be successful. I have found if I can just control that initial explosive urge, I do much better at managing my anger. I have come a long way since my early days, but occasionally I still fail.

    1. Makinwellness

      Learning to regulate big emotions is incredibly difficult, but congratulations on recognizing the emotions within yourself, taking responsibility for those emotions, and then taking action to control them. That type of self-awareness is monumental. To err is to be human, and that’s ok. It sounds like you are doing an amazing job self-correcting when you see the signs surfacing again, so keep up the great work.

  6. Samantha

    This was exactly what has been in my thoughts but could not articulate what I am feeling, thank you very much! I feel hopeful and excited to know that I am not alone and there are ways to get beyond my overreactions and outbursts and then feel guilty for days patten. Thank you!

    1. Makinwellness

      We are so glad you found this post helpful and applicable to your current situation. Finding hope and ways to manage big emotions without guilt is a huge step of progress. Keep up the great work!

  7. Sophie

    Thank you for this post, it is helpful and summarises nicely all that is happening. I have been applying a lot of these already and I guess there is still some actions to take. But as many of the others I fear it is simply impossible to completely get rid of this. And it will eventually happen with all relationships, scarring them for life regardless of the great moments and heartfelt excuses.

    1. Makinwellness

      Thanks for your response, Sophie. I understand how it can feel as though you may not be able to control your emotions completely. Imagine that “controlling your emotions” is like a muscle that needs to be worked out, You can’t start on day one lifting a heavy weight. You have to start off with small movements and light weights. Eventually you will be able to lift heavier with more ease. Keep up the hard work and it will pay off over time.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.