Mental Temperature Checks: The Secret to Staying Calm

I’ve been in a relationship for over a year now, and though my boyfriend is the sweetest person in the world, I often find myself getting upset at him easily. It wasn’t until I started going to therapy and working on self-improvement that we began having fewer arguments. 

As an emotional person, every minor inconvenience has a domino effect on me, whether it be turning in a paper last minute or skipping lunch. By the end of day, I turn into a cranky and upset girlfriend. Just imagine a short, 5’3” Asian girl stomping all around the city unable to control her emotions — that’s me. 

Living with my boyfriend 24/7 during the pandemic has taken a toll on my mental health and stress levels, both of which have made me codependent. I’m not proud to admit that I’m the immature one in this relationship, but because of our close proximity all day long, it’s easy to take all of my negative energy out on him. 

a man and a woman sit on a park bench looking frustrated

Unless you wake up in a bad mood due to a nightmare or a lack of comfortable sleep, many people start their day at stress level “zero,” their most calm state. But let’s say you run out of syrup to put over your waffles. That might bump you up to a “two,” meaning you feel slightly annoyed but quickly move on. Around afternoon, you miss the bus to work. Being late escalates your mood to a “six,” but you’re able to lower it down to a “five” by listening to music while waiting for the next bus. 

Once you’re home from a six-hour shift, you feel tired and ready to hop into bed. However, maybe your partner hasn’t washed the dishes nor done the laundry. That “five” now turns into a “nine” as you confront your partner and call them lazy and unmotivated. But wait — your dishes are in the sink as well. Doesn’t that make you a hypocrite, as you also forgot to do the chores this morning?

As you struggle to calm down, here are three questions you should ask yourself:

#1: How am I feeling? 

#2: Why am I feeling this way?

#3: Is the person in front of me the cause of my stress?

woman looking at the trees in front of the sun

Often, when we are in a stressful situation, we take our frustration out on the wrong people. We also tend to project feelings of insecurity or anger onto the person closest to us. My partner was rarely the cause of my problems. Rather, it was my lack of self-control that caused me to get to a “ten,” a point where all my built-up feelings explode and my boyfriend becomes collateral damage. 

By doing a mental temperature check and asking myself those three questions, I’m able to gain self-awareness and control over my next actions. Once I’m at a “six,” I know to listen to music or take a walk to calm myself. A rapid heartbeat and clenched fists are signs that I need to calm down, and by focusing on how my body reacts to a situation, I can de-escalate my emotions from there. Though it won’t be easy to achieve a level-headed mind throughout the day, it’s important to ask ourselves why we’re upset and how to bring us back down to a “zero.”