How to Avoid Being Reactive

Does your teen feel overwhelmed and emotionally drained?

Does your child feel like he or she doesn't have control over his or her life?

One key strategy to combat these feelings is to avoid being reactive. When we are reactive, we allow events and other people to dictate how we react. We passively respond to what's going on and we struggle to keep up with life's demands.

We all face moments in our lives when our emotions become overwhelming. Whether it’s anger, anxiety, or sadness, our emotions can sometimes manage our actions without us even realizing it. Therefore, we must take responsibility for our actions. We must be confident, not hesitant. We must take a proactive approach, rather than a reactive one.

By taking ownership of how we act, we decide what we will do—not the other way around. We won't let the world around us determine our actions. Here’s how you can be proactive, not reactive:

Avoid blaming others –
Next time we face a challenge or things don't turn out as planned, we will avoid blaming others. It is not our parents' fault, our teacher's fault, or the world's fault. We will take responsibility for our successes and our failures because they are all a result of how we act. When we fail, we will learn from the experience. We will ask ourselves: “What is the lesson here?” or “How can I learn from this experience?” The more often we take ownership for our actions, the more our confidence will grow over time.

Take charge of your decision-making –
We know what's right and what's wrong. If we know that something our friends are doing is wrong, we won't follow along. We will stick to what we believe in, even if our values are different from other people’s. If we feel pressured by someone else to make a decision, we will take a step back and think about it first. We will take the time to consider the benefits and consequences of the decision before acting. Do we really want to do that? Does it align with our moral compass? We will take charge of our decision-making and do what's best for us.

Be mindful of your emotions –
We will be proactive by recognizing when we’re feeling upset, angry, or nervous before it becomes too intense. If we feel that our emotions are becoming overwhelming, we will take a few moments to cope with our emotions. If we’re frustrated with someone else, we will avoid saying something that we might regret later. If we’re anxious, we won’t let the emotion cause even more distress. Instead, we will replace negative emotions with positive ones by practicing relaxation, for example. We will help our bodies feel more comfortable and calm by relaxing our muscles. We can use our five senses to soothe ourselves. Some ideas are to go for a walk and observe nature, listen to a favorite playlist, bake cookies, or drink a cup of tea. When our bodies are calm, our minds will likely feel calm as well. Once we’re calmer, we are better equipped to make a decision.

Instead of letting life boss us around, it is crucial to take initiative. Don't simply react to a situation after the fact. Don’t let your emotions take control over your actions. It is important to avoid being reactive in order to feel in control and empowered. By proactively recognizing when our emotions are becoming intense, we can prevent further distress. Your teen can take charge, take responsibility, and determine his or her own success.