How to manage panic attacks

Find out how to manage panic attacks

Knowing how to manage panic attacks helps
Knowing how to manage panic attacks helps

This was initially a guest post on Happiness between tails and I’m now sharing it with you. As someone who’s experienced and had to manage severe panic attacks, I understand just how frightening and debilitating they are.

I never want to experience another one and if this is you too, let’s look at how to prevent them.

First tho’, in order to overcome panic attacks, you’ll need to understand what they are. We’ve all had feelings of anxiety – it’s our body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come.

For example, you may feel anxious about a job interview. During times like this, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal, but some people find it harder to control their anxieties.The most severe form of anxiety can trigger panic attacks.

What is a panic attack or panic disorder?

Panic attacks might follow stressful life events
Panic attacks might follow stressful life events – Image Pixabay

We have panic attacks and panic disorder; one episode is a panic attack, which might occur following a stressful life event i.e death of someone close.

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder where you regularly have sudden attacks of panic or fear. You experience regular and subsequent attacks. It’s a common yet very misunderstood illness and lots of people with this disorder won’t ever seek help due to fear and stigma.

The attacks can occur often and at any time, seemingly for no apparent reason. It feels like a sudden, unexpected rush of intense fear and anxiety along with a flood of frightening thoughts and physical sensations – so, panic attacks are not merely psychological.

What you should know about panic disorder

Panic attack symptoms are similar to some physical illnesses
Panic attack symptoms are similar to some physical illnesses
  • Many of the symptoms of panic attack are similar to some physical illnesses i.e. heart attack or over-active thyroid. See your GP to rule these out.
  • It’s a chronic condition and can lead to changes in behaviour, like avoiding situations or events.
  • People dread the onset of another attack, and the fear of having one is just as debilitating as the attacks themselves.
  • Panic disorder knows no boundaries as it affects people of all socio-economic groups and races. It’s more common in women than men. It can also affect children and the elderly.
  • Although the exact causes are unclear, panic disorders can run in families.
  • While many attacks are be triggered by stressful life events, they can also occur ‘out of the blue’.
  • Be aware – anti- malaria medication, cold and flu medications, appetite suppressants and even too much caffeine can trigger panic attacks in some people.

If you experience panic attacks, you might then begin to avoid events or situations because you’re afraid of another attack. However, avoidance can create a cycle of living in “fear of the fear”, which only adds to your sense of panic. This can cause you to have more panic attacks, leading to diagnosis of panic disorder

What are the symptoms of panic attacks?

Panic attack can feel like a heart attack
Panic attack can feel like a heart attack – see your GP

If we encounter a situation that threatens our safety, we’ll experience a series of reactions known as the ‘fight or flight’ response – triggered by the release of chemicals that prepare your body to either stay and deal with a threat or to flee to safety.

During a panic attack, we’ll experience similar symptoms, even when there’s no real threat involved. A panic attack might happen in response to situations that others find harmless. Symptoms include physical and physiological symptoms:

  • Racing heartbeat, palpitations
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or nausea
  • Difficulty breathing, like you can’t get enough air
  • Dry mouth and unable to swallow – if you do need fluids, just take smalls sips to avoid choking
  • Shaking, trembling
  • Sweating and hot flushes or sudden chills
  • Sudden need to go to the toilet, the body needs to lighten to fight or flee
  • Numbness or tingling sensations, initially in your fingers and toes
  • Your face, feet and hands might go white (as with the tingling, this is the blood leaving your extremities to rush to where it’s needed most i.e. heart and muscles)
  • Chest pains – you might think you’re having a heart attack – one way to tell is – if your fingers and toes are tingling, you’re more likely to be having a panic attack. However, if you’re afraid call the emergency services to check

You might experience negative thoughts

tender redhead woman with finger on lips
Embarrassed by panic attack — Image by Pexels
  • I’m so embarrassed, everyone can see me panicking
  • I feel like I’m dying or I’m having a heart attack.
  • I can’t cope with this!
  • I’m so stupid, I’m never going to get rid of this feeling.

and feelings of:

  • You’re going mad or crazy.
  • Being out of physical or emotional control.
  • Unreality/detachment from yourself or your surroundings.
  • Heightened sound and visual awareness, and hypervigilance (for flight or flee you need to hear and see clearly and be vigilant).

A panic attack generally lasts between 4 – 20 minutes, although it often feels a lot longer. However, they have been known to last an hour. I had them one after another, and all night for around three months and it felt like torture. It’s no wonder I became psychotic!

How to manage panic attacks

Practice breathing through your panic attack
Practice breathing through your panic attack — Photo by Pexels
  • Breathe as slowly and deeply as possible, exhaling firstly through your mouth – slowly for a count of 8-10 seconds, then in through your nose slowly and so on.
  • Some people use a paper bag to cover their nose and mouth, and breathe in an out. This is known to work but it’s not something I’d teach because you’re not always going to have access to a paper bag.
  • Recognise that this is a panic attack and tell yourself that it will pass, because it will.
  • Use muscle relaxation techniques – try slumping your shoulders, letting them drop down from your ears, give your jaw a little wiggle then let it relax, uncross your legs, unclench your fists and lay the palms of your hands lightly on your thighs (remind yourself that your body cannot be relaxed and tense at the same time).
  • Try to get to a quiet space and sit down if necessary and continue with the breathing.
  • If you’re at work or outside, ask for help, I know this might feel a little embarrassing, but do ask if you need to.
  • Count backwards slowly from 100 or
  • Look around for 5 things that you can see and name them out loud i.e. “I can see a red truck,” etc. You can go onto things you can hear, smell, taste, or touch in the same way – until the panic subsides. This technique will help you stay in the present and grounded by using your five senses.
  • Put a few drops of lavender (known to ease anxiety) on a tissue, exhale then breathe it in slowly.
  • Call emergency services if the symptoms continue or get worse, or if you’re afraid it might be something else i.e. heart attack.

How to manage someone else’s panic attacks

How to manage someone else's panic attacks
How to manage someone else’s panic attacks — Photo by Pixabay on Pexels
  • Ask the person if they’ve had a panic attack before, and what they think might help or has helped them in the past.
  • Encourage them (or tell them quite firmly if they’re confused and unable to follow directions) to breathe (as above). Do this with them if necessary, as often they think they can’t breathe and won’t be able to do this alone.
  • Follow the above steps and call emergency services if necessary.

Self-help to combat panic attacks

Notice the tension in your body
Notice the tension in your body — Photo by Pexels
  • Listen (regularly) to free mental wellbeing audio guides online. These will help prepare you so that you can manage your panic attacks as you need to.
  • Search and download relaxation and mindfulness apps or online community apps.
  • Learn other skills like visualisation to help you relax and practice them often.
  • Notice when your body is tense i.e. when your shoulders are up round your ears or your fists are clenched and let them relax. When your body is constantly tensed up, it’s effectively telling your brain you’re on alert, tensed and ready to fight or flee.
  • Ask your close friends or family members to support you by gently pointing out when you’re all hunched up and tense. Even better, perhaps they’ll give you a light head massage, or lightly rub your arms and hands in a soothing way.
  • Practice the breathing exercises often so that you’ll be able to use them easily when needed. Honestly, practice this all day, every day — it’s a great feeling and you’ll have it ready to use when you need it.
  • Try mixing lavender oil with other aromatherapy oils like geranium or camomille to produce your own stress reliever.

I really can’t stress enough the need to practice the coping techniques. You know you wouldn’t be able to drive say on a motorway after having just one lesson. It takes practice!

Treatment for Panic attacks

Talking therapy for panic attacks
Talking therapy for panic attacks — Photo by Pexels

Treatment aims to reduce the number of panic attacks you have and ease your symptoms:

  • Psychological (talking) therapies and medicine are the main treatments for panic disorder
  • Depending on your symptoms, you may need either of these treatments, or a combination of both

When to get help

See your GP to rule out other causes
See your GP to rule out other causes — Photo by Pexels
  • If you’re having suicidal thoughts, please seek professional help. Or talk to someone close.
  • See a GP if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of panic disorder. Regardless of how long you’ve had the symptoms, if panic attacks are interfering with your life, work, or relationships you should seek professional help.
  • Although panic disorder is a medical condition in its own right, there can sometimes be a physical reason for your symptoms – and treating it can bring the anxious feelings to an end. See your GP to rule out any other causes and don’t self-diagnose.

Over to you


Have you ever had panic attacks, or do you know someone who has? Do you have other coping techniques that might help readers? Do you think you’d be able to support someone having a panic attack now? I look forward to your comments as always and I’m happy to answer any questions.

How to break up with a narcissist

Do you need to break up with a narcissist?

How to break up with a narcissist and red flags to look out for
How to break up with a narcissist and red flag to look out for

In a previous post How to spot a narcissist, we looked at narcissistic traits and I showed you some examples. Before we move onto How to break up with a narcissist, take a look at some the red flags to look out for.


  1. will claim deep emotions, but display none. A narcissist will tell you they love you but after a period of time, they stop showing it. They lack the motivation to maintain their romantic façade, and employ defenses to avoid closeness, according to Psychcentral. They become cold, critical and angry, especially when they’re challenged or don’t get their way. So I suppose in some way, they do have deep emotions, just not the nice ones.
  2. are dismissive of your skills, abilities or achievements and hate it when you ‘show off’ any of this to them. I was once told to “shut the f*ck up, all you do is talk about that f*cking job!” He actually overheard me telling a group of colleagues that our ward had won the annual award for excellence.
  3. don’t like when you do something without including them i.e. one of my exes sulked when I took my sons and their girlfriends to Portugal for a week. It was “why didn’t you take me as well?” He actually wanted me to pay for him to come on holiday, and pay all his expenses! “I don’t get holiday pay so I’ll lose £1000 if I take a week off!” he’d whine.
  4. talk constantly of their exes and how wonderful they were? One ex always spoke of his gorgeous ex, and he criticised my weight whenever he could. “You’re getting a bit lardy-arsed there girl.” he’d delight in telling me when in company. Oh how I laughed when we bumped into his ex — if you’ve ever seen the movie Shrek, think Fiona.
  5. try to please you to win you over initially, but once they’ve made their ‘catch’, they just please themselves. One ex drove me to and from work (3-4 minute walk from my home) in the beginning. I thought he was so sweet with all the driving me around but he had an ulterior motive — jealousy. He was keeping tabs on me.
  6. are emotionally unavailable and keep you at a distance, ‘cos they’re scared if you get too close, you won’t like them. I realised that in each of my three relationships, although I thought I loved them, I really didn’t like them.
  7. are motivated by the chase. It’s the chase, not the catch that motivates them. Once they’re victorious, they can lose interest, and move on to the next conquest before it gets too emotionally intimate. If not, they’ll be emotionally unavailable, as above.
  8. have an astonishing amount of crazy’ people in their past i.e. One ex described his mother as a mad woman, his father a psycho and an ex of his should have been Sectioned. And I took it all in! I felt for him and tended to attribute his behaviors to those ‘crazy’ people

This list is not exhaustive and you may know of other red flags?

Almost anyone can be a narcissist

How to break up with a narcissist
How to break up with a narcissist — Photo by Vinicius Altava

And let’s be clear — not all narcissists are men and not all men are narcissists. I’ve only used he/him/his for ease and brevity. Narcissists might be women like your mother, your sister or even your best friend.

In fact, most us have some narcissistic traits. Looking out for our ourselves and our own needs is quite a good thing really. In fact it’s crucial to being a happy human being and building positive relationships with others. Okay, I get that.

Still, I always wondered why I attracted these narcissistic men. I mean, was it me, did I come across as weak or needy? Moreover, what did I ever find attractive in said narcissists (other than their absolute gorgeousness)? Well I’ve found some answers.

“Studies show (Brown, 2013) that narcissists market themselves in attractive, deceptive packages. They may present with a swagger, intense eye contact, charm, knock-your-socks-off seduction……..”

Thinking back, yes my exes had those traits, and that’s why I found them attractive — I mean, who doesn’t like a bit of swagger? However, around eight to twelve months in, I noticed red flags and realised they were actually there early on. (Mind you, it took a lot longer the first time, with the boys’ dad.) Yet I chose to ignore them.

As for why they chose me? I’ve read that narcs are said to target successful, attractive, self-sufficient, and intelligent empaths as partners? Hmmm, it wasn’t my innate qualities like empathy and compassion that attracted them then? Yes, it was those too. These qualities give narcissists an ‘in’ to conduct their manipulation and suck the life out of their victims.

Most people wouldn’t entertain narcissistic abuse past a very early point. However, people with empathic traits are something else: they have a need/wish to fix people, help and heal.

How to leave a narcissist

How to leave a narcissist - girl waving bye bye
How to leave a narcissist – Images by Pixabay

You’ll already be exhausted from constantly battling their behaviours, so leaving a narcissist is always going to be tough. But it is possible. Just trust your gut, maintain firm boundaries, and keep reminding yourself why you must walk away.

Here’ some of the things you must do to leave your narcissist:

  • Re-engage with your family and friends circle if your narcissist has kept you away from everyone. You’re going to need some support in both getting away from your narcissist and staying away. Don’t be embarrassed to reach out to them. Your family and friends will more than likely know that it’s your narcissist that’s split and divided you all. They’ll be delighted you’ve made your mind up to leave and will no doubt be happy to have your back.
  • Report any abuse to the police or at least tell your GP what’s been happening. You may need a written record if you wish to go court at a later date. Your GP might also be able to help in accessing refuge and mental health support for you and any children
  • Log out of any devices he might have access to and change any passwords he knows so that he can’t track or trace you. Buy a cheap phone to use in case he has a tracker on your old one. You don’t want to go through all this just for them to catch up with you when you least expect it. It will also stop him being able to contact you and trying to wheedle his way back in.
  • Look out any documentation that belongs to you i.e. passport, proof of address, bank statements. If you can’t physically take them because he’ll know you’ve done so, take copies or screenshots on your phone. You might need these when you try to get housing or for financial transactions like hire purchase for furniture.
  • Hang on to every bit of money you can get your hands on and hopefully you’ve been able to squirrel some away. You’re definitely going to need your own money, so perhaps you’ve been saving for this day. Give all the cash you have to someone close for safe-keeping so that your narcissist can’t get to it.
  • Don’t tell them you are leaving. Arrange a time when you know they won’t be around and have a friend or a taxi pick you up. Have them take you somewhere safe. You might have to use the police for this if you fear violence or other retribution. If you tell them you’re going, you know they’ll only manipulate you into staying. So don’t!

Other things to consider when leaving

Cut other toxic relationships
Cut other toxic relationships — image from Pinterest

While the following are not as high up the list, it might be a good time to

  • Cut out any other toxic relationships like the friend who jumps up and down and says “I knew it!” when hearing the news. Or like my friend who said “None of us liked him, and Jenny says he chatted her up at your party.” Hmmm! She could have told me at the time rather than letting me marry the pig!
  • Throw out any gifts, letters or cards that will remind you of your narcissist. They’ll only have you crying into your white wine hot chocolate and weaken your resolve. Avoid any alcohol if you’re the type of drinker who gets sentimental and weepy. Your narcissist would be delighted hearing you sob into the phone, telling him you still love him. That would only tighten their vice-like grip on you once again.
  • Do some work on yourself like improving your self-esteem, confidence, or coping skills. You’ll need all your wits about you, and more, to get through leaving a narc because it’s hard, trust me. You can find lots of psychological and mental health information, support and resources online like websites, blogs, online apps and tools.
  • Make a list of why you won’t be going back to your narc and won’t give them any more chances. You’ve probably given them one too many already. Did they keep their promise that they’d change? Long-term I mean? They will not change and you cannot change them. No matter how many chances you give a narcissist, the results will always be the same.

Over to you


Again, there are many other things you might choose or have chosen to do when leaving your narc. I’d love for you to share them with us. What are your thoughts on narcissists or the people who stay with them? I look forward to reading any comments and answering any questions.

“A” for addiction

Find out what causes addiction and who it affects

Andrea Watson from Life all day writes about Addiction

Because it’s not an area I cover, I’m delighted to be able to post this article about Addiction and who it affects. It’s written by Andrea Watson (see photo) from Life all day.

Andrea has a bachelor’s in psychology and loves applying psych to everyday life, helping other people, and breaking the stigma. Why not take a look at some of her other work.

Understanding Addiction in 2020

No, I’m not talking about applesauce here, dear readers, I am talking about addiction. What is it? How does it come into being? And most importantly, whose fault is it? Well, those are the questions we seek to answer today. And for this post, I’m breaking out the big guns; Peer Reviewed Journal Articles! 

This is no baloney, folks, addiction is prevalent around the world. And we’re not just talking about hard drugs here. We’re talking coffee, video games, cigarettes, pain pills, social media, sex; just about everything we can’t get through our day without. From here on out though, the main context will be hard drugs. So strap in and we’ll get through this together. 

Defining Applesauce. I mean, addiction.

The phenomenon of addiction is common and world-wide. Addiction can affect every area of a person’s life, including family relationships, health, public safety, and economic prosperity in an insidious manner. Some think addiction is purely neurological. Some think it is a moral failing, and some believe it’s society’s fault.

You can define it in different ways, but for this post we are going to stick with the theory that addiction is a syndrome that combines interpersonal, biological, and societal dimensions. You could even add family systems and spirituality in there and not be off the mark (Caan, 2012). For a more up-front and less scientific definition, consider this:

“Addiction is Hell. You want to die when you’re using and you want to use when you are sober. It’s like a perpetual merry-go-round of pain where everything blurs and disappears but the drug.”


Who Does Addiction Affect?

Anyone. Everyone. Not only addicts, but families of addicts. Policemen and women and military personnel engaged in fighting America’s “War On Drugs”. The economy suffers. The black market prospers. Families of the drug mules are affected. Relationships crumble. Politics ignite tensions. 

Taxpayers spend money to support the upholding of the law (another subject entirely and a soapbox issue of mine). We see overcrowded jails and prisons as a result of addiction and bad politics. It is a plague in North America. Some countries deal with addiction far more effectively than the U.S. does. But here, we are all about punishment and making that money.

How Does Addiction Happen?

Isn’t it a bad choice? A weakness of character, a sin even? No. No, and no again. I’ll give you a hint: it involves compulsive behavior. One article by Kenada, (2019) with lots of huge fancy words says that addiction happens because the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus sends a bunch of different types of projections to the ventral tegmental area, which is associated with reward information processing and reinforcement learning. Too heavy a read for me. 

What does it mean? Basically the author was saying it’s all about brain chemicals. Not quite. It is most widely accepted that addiction stems from a combination of environmental, genetic, and epigenetic factors.

So who you were born as plus what your environment is like plus how your brain changes after drug use equals addiction. I’m barely holding on here. So the hyper-focus on the drug combined with compulsive behavior patterns and lack of control make addiction what it is (Anderson, Penrod, Barry,, 2019). There. 

So…Who’s Fault is it, Again?

The answer is…it’s nobody’s fault. It doesn’t even count as a fault as far as science is concerned. It’s a pathology. A real, true disease. The addict is no more responsible than you are. I know, it’s hard to believe. But trust me, this is science we’re talking about here. I read the big hard words and everything. 

So, Who, Then, do we Punish?

Nobody. Don’t punish anyone. The whole thing is counterproductive anyway, especially in the face of addiction. A better question would be, “What can we do to help?” Aha! There are answers for that. First and foremost, an addict needs love and support. Not, “hey, call me if you need anything” support.

The need real, actual support. Treatment. Education. Unconditional love from families and friends. Addicts need unconditional positive regard from providers. Shelter from the raging storm that is addiction. The addict needs a lifeline. Someone to be there without judgement for when they really need a hand up.

We may not be aware, but many of us know addicts in our own lives. Gamer? Possible addict. On prescription pain meds? Possible addict. Smoker, coffee drinker, overeater? Addict, addict, addict. Even eating disorders have been lumped in there during recent years. We can be understanding. We can be kind.

Over to you


Do you know an addict? Perhaps it’s someone in your family, a close friend or a colleague? What are your thoughts on their addiction? is it part of a dual-diagnosis? Do you blame them for the ‘state’ they’ve got themselves into? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on addictions and I’m happy to answer any questions.

Andrea @ Life all day

Passive-aggressive behaviour in relationships

How to deal with passive-aggressive relationships

Are you the one with passive-aggressive behaviour in your relationship?
Are you the one with passive-aggressive behaviour in your relationship?

My previous post What is passive-aggressive (PA) behaviour covered what it is, and how it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. We learned how it involves behaviours designed to get back at another person without them recognising the underlying anger. We also looked at PA acts in the workplace, and how to change it.

What’s more, we learned that PA is a defence mechanism that allows people to get what they want — under the pretence of still trying to please others. They want their own way, but they still want everyone to like them. They’ll tell you everything’s ‘OK’ but watch carefully, you’ll spot how their actions subtly belie their words.

In this post, we’ll explore more signs of, causes and how to combat passive-aggressive behaviour in relationships. It might just save your sanity!

Causes of passive-aggression

Family dynamics can contribute towards passive-aggressive behaviour in children
Family dynamics can contribute towards passive-aggressive behaviour in children

PA can be a helpful way to deal with certain issues (and to avoid tantrums in front of others). However, long-term, it can cause problems, particularly in your relationships.

“Someone who uses PA may be afraid, or feel resentful, angry, or frustrated, but they act cheerful or pleasant. Then they’ll find indirect ways to show how they really feel.”

While the exact cause of PA remains unknown, both environmental and biological aspects might contribute towards its development.

Healthline wrote “Parenting style, family dynamics, and other childhood influences may be contributing factors. Child abuse, neglect, and harsh punishment can also cause a person to develop passive-aggressive behaviors. Substance abuse and low self-esteem are also thought to lead to this type of behavior.”

Passive-aggressive parenting

Mum and teen arguing - Are family dynamics and parenting styles responsible for passive- aggressive behaviour?
Are parenting styles responsible for passive- aggressive behaviour?

PA behaviour can stem from a child’s experience with anger. If you grew up with rage, yelling and hitting, like me, you’re more likely to grow up afraid of anger.

I watched panic-stricken as my dad regularly beat my mum since I was about knee-high. Later, as a teen, I got the same panic whenever someone raised their voice anywhere near me.

PA can also come from parents who treated anger like it was on the “Naughty list.” You couldn’t be angry and don’t dare try to express it! Sad — Yes. Cheerful — Yes. But, anger, don’t even go there!

So again, you’re afraid of anger because perhaps you haven’t seen it in action or you weren’t allowed to be angry. It wasn’t so much that I was told I couldn’t be angry, but when I tried to tell dad to stop, he just shouted at me to get back to bed.

If we grow up thinking that anger is ‘bad’ or it’s not allowed, we don’t learn how to feel it. Moreover, we don’t know how express it in ways that are healthy or beneficial to our relationships.

Signs of passive-aggressive behaviour in relationships

Are you the passive-aggressive partner?
Are you the passive-aggressive partner?

If you spot PA behaviour in your partner or family member, you might recommend they see their GP or other professional. It’s tough being in a relationship with a partner who acts passive-aggressively, so address it a.s.a.p. Specific signs of PA behaviour might include:

  • Resentful and opposing requests i.e. having to take his suits to the cleaners and pick them up again, twice a week or having to complete his tax returns. You’re getting fed up and resentful having to do these tasks.
  • Procrastinating and intentional mistakes in response to others’ requests i.e. you ‘forget’ to pick his suits up, or you deliberately wrote the wrong date on his tax return.
  • Cynical, sullen or hostile attitude i.e. You eye-roll when he asks why you haven’t picked his suits up, or you put your earplugs in when you know he’s itching to moan at you. Sometimes, you just huff and puff around him but when he asks what’s wrong you say “Nothing!”
  • Frequent complaints about feeling underappreciated or cheated i.e. You tell him, ten times in a row, how fed-up you are, having to run around after him all the time.

Some other signs of PA behaviour include:

  • Not responding to their emails, phone calls or texts.
  • Always missing events with the in-laws or his slimy boss.
  • Avoiding going to bed at the same time.

Common passive-aggressive phrases

I’ve borrowed and adapted the following from Psychology today “10 common passive-aggressive phrases that can serve as an early-warning system for you, helping you recognize hidden hostility when it is being directed your way:

1. “I’m not angry.”

Denying feelings of anger is classic PA behaviour. The passive PA person insists, “I’m not angry” even when he or she is seething on the inside.

2. “Fine. Whatever.”

Sulking and withdrawing from arguments are primary strategies of the PA person. They use phrases like “Fine” and “Whatever” to express anger indirectly and to shut down direct, emotionally honest communication.

3. “I’m coming!”

PA people are known for verbally complying with a request but behaviorally delaying its completion. You ask your partner to clear the kitchen after dinner. He happily responds, “Yep, give me a minute, I’m coming,” but half-hour later, he’s still playing games online!

4. “I didn’t know you meant now,” He laughs.

While all of us like to put off unpleasant tasks from time to time, people with PA personalities rely on procrastination as a way of frustrating others and/or getting out of certain chores without having to directly refuse them.

5. “You just want everything to be perfect.”

When procrastination is not an option, a more sophisticated PA strategy is to carry out tasks in a timely, but unacceptable manner. You cooked his steak well-done when “you damn well know I like it medium-rare!”

6. “I thought you knew.”

PA people express their anger covertly by choosing not to share information when it could prevent a problem. You forgot to tell him his mum’s making lunch on Sunday and he’s booked to play in a golf tournament. You know how he hates letting his mum down, “Oops, sorry, I thought you knew about lunch,” you smile.

7. “You’ve done so well for someone with your education level.”

The backhanded compliment is the ultimate socially acceptable means by which the PA person insults you to your core. When your snotty sister-in-law says, “Don’t worry; your hair will grow back” or, “You’ve put weight on, it suits you.” The chances are you know how much “joy” a PA compliment can bring.

At first, the PA person (ex-sister-in-law) may seem nice and pleasant, and often appear to be really complimentary. It may take a while for you to recognise that her compliment was a cheap jibe, designed to upset you in some way.

8. “I was just kidding.”

Sarcasm is also a common tool of PA people who express hostility aloud, but in socially acceptable, indirect ways. When you show that you’re are offended by biting, the hostile joke teller plays up his role as victim. “Can’t you take a joke?” he’ll grin at you in front of others.

How to combat passive aggressive behaviour

If PA behaviour starts to rear its ugly head during any dispute, try to follow some of these tips:

  • Take a metaphorical step back. Calm down by taking a few deep breaths. There’s no point in continuing if either one or both of you are in a negative frame of mind as the PA will start to creep in. One or both of you will zone out, play around absentmindedly on your phone or do the eye roll, then huff and puff. Take a minute or so to relax and regain your composure.
  • Talk to your partner about whatever issues you have, as soon as they happen, and way before the frustration or resentment sets in. Communicate clearly, concisely and assertively. Take the time to make sure your partner knows what being PA looks like and how it’s affecting you and your relationship.
  • Try to stick to one or two issues at a time; it shouldn’t be total character assassination. Be specific. If you don’t like him cutting his toenails in the living room and letting them flick all over the place, then tell him exactly that. And listen to how your partner feels or thinks, don’t make assumptions. He probably didn’t realise this act grossed you out.
  • Ask your partner how they think the ‘problem’ can be resolved. Tell your partner how you think it can be resolved (Don’t cut your damn toenails in front of me – it makes me feel sick). Flesh out ideas between you. If you’re direct and state the issue, you’ll be able to solve the problem much easier than if you skip around it. Write both your answers down.
  • You might want to scribble down the pros and cons of each of your ideas. Choose the solutions together and see which one will work best so that you both win.
  • Carry out the solutions. If he says he will stop cutting and flicking his toenails in the lounge, then he must. Okay, so you might have to remind him the first hundred few times. But he must stick to it.
  • If your solution was for him to do his nails in the bathroom and he continues to cut them in the lounge, you’ll both have to go to the next solution. No, not the one where he says you could cut his nails for him! Or not the one where you say you’ll take the garden shears to his feet.

So, to wrap up


We’ve covered

  • PA behaviour in relationships
  • Common PA phrases used in relationships
  • the causes of PA
  • PA parenting
  • the signs of and how to combat PA behaviour in relationships

Truth be told—while momentarily satisfying or briefly convenient — in the long run, PA behaviour is even more destructive to relationships than aggression. Over time, virtually all relationships with a person who is PA become confusing, destructive, and dysfunctional. PA behaviour is about power and control.

Break the cycle by stepping away from the PA behaviour, choosing to create a new pattern for you and your family. If you’re the person with the PA behaviour, you might want to get professional help.

Over to you


Do you recognise any of the above signs in yourself or someone close to you? How did you overcome PA behaviours in others? Are you aware of your own PA behaviours and have you had to work on them? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and any questions you might have.

What is passive-aggressive behaviour

How to identify passive-aggressive behaviour

Passive aggressive-behaviour at play
Passive aggressive-behaviour at play

Passive-aggressive behavior might be a feature of some mental health disorders, but it isn’t considered a recognisable mental health condition.

However, passive-aggressive behavior can interfere with your relationships and create difficulties at work, for both you and those around you.

Have you ever come across or been the recipient of passive-aggressive behaviour? The chances are that you have but perhaps not realised it at the time.

Have you ever, or do you display passive-aggressive behaviour? Again, the chances are that you have and maybe you weren’t aware of it.

Remember that time your best friend got a promotion only a fortnight after blagging that amazing new job? What about when you told hubby not to bother with Valentine’s Day, and he didn’t? Maybe you sulked a wee bit, and the next day your best friend or partner asked how you were. You smiled “Fine!”

I think most of us know that whenever someone tells you that everything is “fine,” it generally means the opposite.

Someone who uses passive aggression may feel annoyed, angry, resentful, or frustrated, but they act neutral, pleasant, or even cheerful. They then find indirect ways to show how they really feel.

What is passive-aggressive behaviour?

Passive aggression and the angry smile
Passive aggression and the angry smile

In The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, “passive aggression” is defined as a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008).

It involves a range of behaviors designed to get back at another person without them recognising the underlying anger.

So, passive-aggressive behaviour is when somebody expresses resentment or animosity indirectly. Rather than showing hubby your resentment and explaining why he’s such an arse, you’ll behave in ways that distress or frustrate him. You didn’t receive a card or flowers, so now you’ll let that special Valentine’s Day steak dinner dry up!

Rather than telling your friend you’re a little jealous about her fab new job and pay rise, you’ll not contact her for the rest of the week. Perhaps you didn’t want to deliberately upset hubby or your friend, but that behaviour in itself can be really upsetting!

People with passive-aggressive behavior express their negative feelings, often subtly, through their actions instead of openly addressing them. This creates a disconnect between what the passive-aggressive person says and what they actually do.

Passive-aggressive behaviour in the workplace

Passive-aggressive behaviour at work
Passive-aggressive behaviour at work

For example, I’d propose that our Charge Nurses take the lead on planning the nursing rota. Curtis, with his passive-aggressive behaviour opposed the plan, but instead of voicing his opinion, he’d agree to it.

Since he was actually against the plan, however, he resisted following it through. He’d purposely miss deadlines, leaving staff nurses not knowing their shifts for the coming week.

There’s always that someone at work who tests your patience to the max, right? And while you probably can’t tell them to f*ck off how you really feel, there are some subtle ways to get back at them. I know, cos I’ve used them against or received them from narcissistic bullying bosses!

Morning Tessa, nice to see you.” Cue big smile to the b*tch who interviewed me for the third time and still refused to offer me the job. I’d only been acting up in this job for two years and we’d won three awards for Excellence.

I’d say “Thanks for your feedback Tessa! I’ll keep it in mind!” I could do my job with my hands tied, wearing a blindfold so Tessa’s negative feedback was unfounded.

“I’ll go through the Trust Policy and get back to you!” I beamed when Kate, my Modern Matron, told me to get all staff holiday plans a whole year in advance. Of course, I knew the policy was that staff could request any holiday leave as and when.

Curtis always used passive-aggressive responses like “Okay, if that’s what you want.” Then he’d continue to type everything in capitals and say “Ah, I forgot. Anyway, I think it looks okay!” when I explicitly said to type in lower case – because typing in capitals is called shouting and it’s considered rude.

Passive-aggressive doesn’t mean you’re bad

The angry smile of a passive-aggressive person
The angry smile of a passive-aggressive person

Being passive-aggressive doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Often it’s “a strategy we use when we think we don’t deserve to speak our minds or we’re afraid to be honest and open.” says psychotherapist Tina Gilbertson, LPC, author of Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings.

It’s not always a bad thing either. Passive-aggressive behaviour might be a way to retaliate if you’re at the wrong end of a power dynamic. Like me and Tessa. Although she was my boss, she felt threatened by my twenty years of HR management experience, so had to publicly undermine me.

Or me and Curtis. Upset because I was sent in as Acting Ward Manager, the job he’d expected to get, he was deliberately passive-aggressive. Sadly, rather than telling Tessa to “stuff her job” or yelling at Curtis to “grow a pair”, I retaliated with passive-aggressive behaviour of my own!

If you’ve encountered acts of passive-aggression then you’ll know just how frustrating, overwhelming and exhausting it can be. And if like me, you’ve been guilty of it, stop! It’s not very adult-like and it’s not the best way to resolve things.

The following post will explore more signs of, causes and ways to change passive-aggressive behaviour, particularly in relationships.

Over to you


Have you used passive-aggressive behaviours or have you been on the receiving end of them? How did you handle them, or not? What are the best passive-aggressive phrases you’ve used to get back at someone? I look forward to any witty one-liners I could pinch, any comments or questions.

Whoo hoo! Outstanding Blogger Award Tag

Outstanding blogger award tag

A massive thank you to the lovely Jess from Beyond the front cover for The Outstanding Blogger Award Tag! I truly appreciate this timely award which followed a month fraught with stressors that pushed me right to the edge!

If you haven’t already checked out Jess’s blog then make sure you do. It’s a great read and I think you’ll really enjoy getting to know Jess! She shares her life, hopes, struggles, and musings, always with a smidge of wit and many a giggle.

Rules guidelines for the Outstanding Blogger Award tag:

  • Have the link to the creator’s original award post
  • Answer the questions provided
  • Create 7 unique questions
  • Nominate 10 other bloggers. Neither the award’s creator nor the blogger that nominated you can be nominated
  • At the end of 2020, every blog that ping-backs the creator’s original post will be entered to win the 2020 Outstanding Blogger Award

Jess’s Questions:

Transverse Myelitis hurts
Transverse Myelitis hurts

What was your reason for starting your blog, and does it still follow the same structure now? I contracted Transverse Myelitis and was disabled at the age of 50. I was medically retired from the job I adored as a mental health ward manager. This caused a lengthy major depressive episode with near-crippling anxiety and suicidal ideation.

I felt hopeless, worthless, and useless and that I wasn’t giving anything back — after everything our NHS had given me. When the mental fog began to lift I thought how using both my personal and professional experiences might support others. Hence the start of my blog last year.

Mental Health 360⁰ has grown and evolved in ways I never expected and has given me a lifeline back from the edge. The positive feedback from readers encourages me to continue providing evidence-based information, and advocacy for people experiencing mental illness.

What is your favourite non-blogging activity? Oooh, that’s easy — cooking is my all-time favourite thing to do.

Which of your blog posts is your favourite, and why? I think it was the one with quotes because it was such a different post for me. I felt I gained a little strength from looking through so many quotes to find some that expressed how I felt at the time.

What takes the top spot on your list of things that shouldn’t be annoying but really are? I can’t stand it if people are eating or drinking noisily! Hubby’s a slurper and he slaps his lips – aarrgghhh!!!

2020 really hasn’t been the best year, but can you share something great that happened to you? I think getting to see so much of our grandchildren was great for me because they always make me smile 🙂

If you let someone borrow a book and they returned it with dog ears how would you react? I wouldn’t be happy and if they didn’t apologise, I would have to point it out. I wouldn’t go as far as having them replace the book, but if they offered to – I’d accept.

Which book genre do you rarely (if ever) read, and why? Science fiction just doesn’t do it for me 🙁

My questions

  1. When was the last time you had a really good belly laugh and who were you with?
  2. If you could change one thing about people, what would it be?
  3. What and when was the last exciting thing that happened in your life?
  4. Where would be your dream destination and why?
  5. Who would play you in a film, the story of your life, and why that person?
  6. What does the term mental health mean to you and is this something you talk about in general?
  7. Why did you start blogging and what’s the main theme of your blog?

The following are a few of the blogs that have recently come to my attention:

Lady P Diary

Roxy 743

Keshi’s Thinkings

The eLPy Dimension

Macalder Blog

Rethinking Scripture

I love these Blogging Awards as I think it’s a fun way of getting to know a bit more about our fellow bloggers. There’s no obligation to take part, but I hope you’ll all participate and I look forward to reading your answers.

Over to you


I really didn’t enjoy September but things have gotten better this month. What was your month like? Has anything good or exciting happened? On another note, I start planning Christmas around this time of year but I know many would say this is too early. What about you? When do you start to plan, if ever?

Beware – domestic violence red flags

Spot the red flags in domestic violence

abused woman - She missed the domestic violence red flags
She missed the domestic violence red flags — Photo by Pexels

To honour National Domestic Violence Awareness Month I’d like to highlight the red flags I observed in my own relationships. I’ve previously written about domestic violence; what it is, the myths, the statistics, and what you can do about it.

This time, I want to highlight the red flags so that you recognise what to look out for. Knowing the signs might help you take the necessary action to keep you and your children safe. Understanding that it is domestic violence, and that it won’t stop on its own might help you get to safety — before it kills you.

Looking out for others

If you know someone else who’s experiencing domestic violence, share this post and other online information with them. You might just save their life. At the very least, you’ll be showing them that you care and that you’re there to support them in whatever way you can.

NO More‘s great slogan for 2020: Together, we can help our friends, neighbours, and communities by #Listeningfromhome.

They continue “………….. Even as lockdown restrictions are lifted, the abuse will not simply end. It remains a critical time for survivors, and greater awareness, education, and bystander intervention are desperately needed. We need to help those who are experiencing violence during this unprecedented time.”

Red flags to watch out for

While domestic violence is perpetrated by both male and females, for brevity and ease, I’ll use he/him throughout. These are some red flags to look out for — an abuser might exhibit some of these signs at any point in your relationship (or someone else’s):

  • Discouraging you from spending time away from him, say with your family or friends. This is a form of control, possibly designed to stop you from telling or showing (bruises) others what’s been happening.
  • Being jealous of your friends or time you spend away from him. You’re his possession now, you belong to him. If you loved him you wouldn’t want to spend time away from him. “Huh, right. And he just wants to be your friend? No way. He just wants to get into your knickers.” So you seriously aren’t allowed male best friends?

“I hope everybody understands why someone is jealous of something. It is because jealous people feel threatened that someone might take away what belongs to them.”

Looking slutty? Showing too much cleavage? Photo by Pexels
  • Telling you what to wear or not. You can’t wear short skirts or makeup because it makes you look slutty or you’re putting yourself out there. He might tell you you’re showing too much cleavage or you shouldn’t be wearing tight t-shirts. He’ll make you feel uncomfortable in chosen outfits such as pointing out (what he knows you see as) your worst bits. “Hahaha, nice muffin top, have you looked in the mirror?”
  • Making you feel guilty for any problems in your relationship. I mean it’s your fault that he gets angry all the time, right? You shouldn’t have made him angry, or you shouldn’t have laughed at him in front of your family. You deliberately make him jealous by flirting with anything in trousers.
  • Being charming and witty one minute and intimidating or threatening the next. He’s always sweet and playful in front of everyone, but the minute you’re on your own, he turns nasty and spiteful towards you. He’ll be nice to your friends but afterwards he’ll bitch about them to you and put them down, trying to get you to feel the same way.
  • Threatening violence against you, or someone you love, to ensure you comply with his wants, wishes and needs; so do as you’re told. If you threaten to leave him, he might tell you he’ll scar you so no one else wants you, or that he’ll take the children from you. He’ll say he’s going to kill you ‘cos if he can’t have you, no one else will.

“Each time a woman stands up for herself without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

Maya Angelou
  • Belittling you such as telling you you’re a terrible wife, you don’t keep the house clean, and your too lazy and lardy-arsed to cook a proper dinner. Oh, and you’re a crap mother too. He might even tell you how ugly and fat you are, and how much better looking and slim that fit bird down the road is. And she’s had three kids!
  • Embarrassing or shaming you, making snide remarks when in the company of others. This can be quite subtle or just plain out there. If someone compliments your outfit he’ll tell them how you struggled to get your fat arse into it or about the big pants you’re wearing. He’ll throw things back in your face, like any sensitive secrets you’ve told him about your past. It could be after telling him your mum had been mentally unwell some years back. He’ll delight in throwing “you’re a nutter, just like your mother” back at you.
Forced into unwanted sexual acts - threesome with two men
Forced into unwanted sexual acts — Photo by pexels
  • Pressuring you to have sex, even if you don’t want to. This can be just tutting or sighing when you say you’re tired. He might become verbally abusive like “what, again, ffs!” or “you’re effin’ frigid you are.” and “if you’re not giving it to me, you must be giving it to someone else.” so you give in. Otherwise he’ll make your life (more) miserable. Or he might become physical like grabbing or pawing at your intimate areas and making lewd comments. Worse still, he might force you into sexual acts that you’re not willing to engage in.
  • Intimidating you physically, possibly with weapons. Pulling your hair, grabbing you or raising his fists to you should be warning enough Then there’s punching and kicking walls, doors or windows. Throwing things around or at you, particularly food or hot liquids is a definite no-no. I had an Indian take away thrown at me, it missed and hit the wall, making an almighty mess. But that was my fault cos I shouldn’t have moved (out of the way)? He might point a knife or other sharp object in your direction or even at your face or neck. It’s possible he might strangle you.

“It is not the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds of the heart and the scars on the mind.”

Aisha Mirza
  • Taking charge of you money, controlling banks accounts so you have little or no access. He earns the money, pays the bills, puts food on the table, and clothes on your back! Another form of control, letting you know who’s the boss and keeping you right where you are. You’ve got no money to go anywhere and you can’t leave him, can you?
  • Stopping you from working; perhaps he doesn’t want you to have access to your own money. He might be scared that you’re financially independent and that you can afford to leave him. Or if you do work, being jealous of your colleagues and watching what time you get home, asking where you’ve been, and who with.
  • Intentionally damaging your property; jewellery, clothes or your car i.e. letting your tyres down just as you’re about to go out with friends. Perhaps he’ll cut or rip up your clothes, “you want to wear low cut tops? Wear that,” after he took the scissors to the vests I wore under my suits for work.

Do you always feel like you’re walking on eggshells for fear of upsetting your partner? Do you think it’s you who always gets things wrong, it’s all your fault? “If I didn’t do this, he wouldn’t get angry” or “if I didn’t smile at the party last night, he wouldn’t have been so jealous”?

“If you’re on the receiving end of any of the above, perhaps it’s time for you to get professional help, or get out?”


Over to you


What’s your thoughts on domestic violence and red flags? Can you think of any more? Would you intervene if you witnessed domestic violence? What would you do if a friend was experiencing domestic violence. Would you feel equipped to support them? I’d love to know what you think and I’m happy to answer any questions.

Scammed by SEO fraudster – be warned

Don’t get scammed by this SEO fraudster

Scammed by SEO fraudster
Scammed by SEO fraudster — Image by Pixabay

I’ve been scammed by an SEO fraudster — a trusted blogging friend — be warned and beware! I. am. so. bloody. angry. An unusual post for me, you might think. But I believe my fellow bloggers should be aware.

I’d been blogging for about eight months and was plodding along nicely, happy with the steady stream of new readers. Then I noticed (let’s call her) Debby, who’d started to comment regularly on my posts. One message read “Reading brings us unknown friends they say. And after reading all of your posts I have the feeling I’ve known you for a lifetime.”

In hindsight, I think Debby baited me with her kindness and flattery? She told me how good my site looked and that my content was great. That should have set my alarm bells ringing, right? But Debby had already done some great work for another really trusted longer-term blogging friend and massive influencer. She’d been happy with the outcome and alarm never entered my head.

I believe Debby hooked me when she suggested “submit your website to my free backlink builder and web submission service.” Whatever that all meant? But no doubt, her clever use of the word ‘free’ had me reeled in and in effect, she’d ‘done me up like a kipper‘.

SEO’s a foreign language

Backlinks score and social media marketing are bad
Backlinks score and social media marketing are bad — Pixabay

Debby later reported how much work my blog needed (scary) but that she could easily fix it (phew)!

Since I’ve no idea about SEO, Focus keyphrase, optimizing Meta Tags or Descriptions, or HTML, Debby’s help was appreciated. Her comment “your backlinks and backlinks score, and social media marketing” was just as confusing, until I read “are all bad.”

Still, Debby said “not to worry, I can fix all that, it won’t take too long and it won’t cost much.” I was sold. I paid her first request of £200 via Paypal, and Debby started work on my blog. She kept in contact every couple of days, and after a few weeks, she showed me how she’d changed my hyperlinks (?) She said many of mine were doubled up due to “My journey through a psychotic depression” posts I-IX.

“This of course is not good from an SEO perspective,” said Debby, “and could potentially devastate your rankings.” Ah, this I understood — sort of.

Then I got sick

I was mentally and physically ill
I was mentally and physically ill — Image Pixabay

Debby went on to tell me what else was needed and said the next part would cost £250 and could I pay it via Paypal again. I did so on 21st July. Debby only contacted me twice after that, both emails being advice related, explaining things I could be doing on my blog. I wasn’t well physically or mentally, and told Debby I’d get onto these tasks as soon as I was feeling better. I said I was happy for her to continue with what she was doing.

Within about ten day, I hadn’t see any changes to my blog and I never heard from Debby again — despite several emails asking if she was okay. When I still got no response, my concern for her well-being grew. I contacted my Influencer friend who tried to get in touch with Debby on my behalf, to no avail.

I think I’ve given it long enough now to know I won’t hear from Debby again, and I’m bloody angry! My anger and tears are no doubt born out of sheer frustration and sadness. Frustration because of the time and energy I’ve had to spend, and sad because people can be so damn sh*tty! More than that though, I’m so effin’ angry for letting myself be fooled. And of course, at the loss of my money.

Scammed by yet another online fraudster

I was scammed by online fraudster
I was scammed by online fraudster — Image Pixabay

Long story short, I’ve also been scammed by online fraudsters to the tune of £473.76 over three months. I only noticed it on my bank statement because they used a store I haven’t used since circa 1993. You can tell I’m really not good at checking my bank balance regularly.

I’ve now had to cancel my card, change my passwords for online banking and other online stores I use.

My bank manager is looking into whether they can refund this money at least. In the meantime, and on the bright side, without a card I’m unable to spend as haphazardly as I usually do.

Carry on blogging – now there’s a big question

Image ClipArt

Obviously having been scammed, I was unsure about continuing my blog. I didn’t believe I could feel any worse. Yet after reading a good friend’s blog about whether post size matters, I’m now thinking my blog posts are too long. And I wonder if I’m doing anything right. Apparently long posts are too long to concentrate on for some and their attention can waiver.

A comment mentioned that if we can’t be bothered to cut our own words, why should others bother to read them! Another said they’d read if the content was good.

Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with the post or the comments and I simply can’t fault the writers. The post raised perfectly valid questions and attracted perfectly valid comments. The fact is, the post was brilliant because it made me question myself and my own posts. The trouble is, I don’t like my answers.

Since becoming a bit more au fait with stats and insights, I can see monthly comparisons and my likes and comments have changed. They’ve gone down steadily month by month. So, is it because I’m too wordy and full of myself, making my posts too long or is it that my content’s crappy?

Moreover, lots of odd things have been happening with my blog and because a certain person had access to it, I’m becoming more paranoid. Now some of these oddities might be WordPress nuances, and perhaps I ought to have contacted a ‘Friendliness Engineer’. But the odd things happening are many, and I just don’t have the energy any more.

Last minute thoughts

Perhaps blogging is impacting on my mental health. Maybe I’m spending too much time, sometimes days due to lack of concentration, researching, writing, and editing. Perhaps I’m overwhelmed by the amount emails I respond to each day or the many blogs I’m reading, and commenting on.

Posting angry letters to myself

Trust me, I’m not seeking sympathy. I suppose I’m seeking clarity of mind. When I was first ill mentally, I’d write angry letters to my ex and post them 2nd class to myself. I’d receive the letters a few days later and read over them, thanking God that I hadn’t sent them to him. Things always seemed much clearer when I read all this stuff days later. Let’s see.

How to improve your emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence and how to improve it

Improving Emotional Intelligence
Improving Emotional Intelligence — Image by Pixabay

In How to talk to angry people, we looked at how to knock the wind out of an angry person’s sails and how to diffuse angry situations. While the techniques discussed were emotional intelligence (EI)-based, the post didn’t explain what EI is and isn’t, or how to improve your emotional intelligence. So today, this post will do just that.

We’ll explore what it is and isn’t, together with its key features, and the management of EI at work and elsewhere. We’ll also discover whether it’s beneficial and if so, how to improve your emotional intelligence.

What emotional intelligence is

Managing Emotional Intelligence ---
Heart & mind managing Emotional Intelligence — Image by Pixabay

The concept of Emotional intelligence is attributed to Professors Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer (1990). In this American Psychology article published in 2008, they wrote of EI

“Emotional Intelligence includes the ability to engage in sophisticated information processing about one’s own and others’ emotions and the ability to use this information as a guide to thinking and behavior. That is, individuals high in emotional intelligence pay attention to, use, understand, and manage emotions, and these skills serve adaptive functions that potentially benefit themselves and others”.

John D Mayer, Peter Salovey, & David R Caruso

So EI is being able to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to

  • relieve stress
  • communicate effectively
  • empathise with others
  • overcome challenges and
  • defuse conflict.

What Emotional Intelligence isn’t

Happiness and motivation are not Emotional Intelligence
Happiness and motivation are not Emotional Intelligence – Photo by Pexels

It’s not friendliness or pleasantness, calmness, optimism or happiness, and it’s not motivation. John D Mayer says that “while these qualities are important, they have little to do with intelligence, little to do with emotions, and nearly nothing to do with actual emotional intelligence.” He continues  “It’s especially unfortunate that even some trained psychologists have confused emotional intelligence with such personal qualities.”

That’s not to say you can’t be super pleasant or friendly, ecstatically happy and optimistic, calm or motivated. Of course, these are all great attributes and will work fantastically alongside EI. But let’s not confuse the two.

Why it’s important to improve your emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

Strong EI helps us to build stronger relationships, succeed at university or work, and achieve our career and personal goals. It can also help us to connect with our feelings, turn goals into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to us. EI is having the ability to

  1. perceive emotions in oneself and others accurately.
  2. use emotions to facilitate thinking.
  3. understand emotions, emotional language, and the signals conveyed by emotions.
  4. manage emotions so as to attain specific goals.

Key features of Emotional Intelligence:

The ability to sense others' emotions
The ability to sense others’ emotions — Image by Free Images

According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize EI, there are five key elements to it:

  1. Self-awareness — the ability to recognise and understand personal moods, emotions and drives and the effect of them on both self and others. Imagine being angry with hubby but you hide it from the kids because you don’t want to upset them.
  2. Self-regulation — being able to manage your thoughts and actions. Managing our thoughts isn’t always easy as we often have Negative Automatic thoughts (NATs), which can be difficult to control. Self-regulations means having the ability to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, and adapt to changing circumstances. And while some of us can control our actions, others might smash a plate or slap someone in the face.
  3. Internal motivation — the force that leads you to achieve a goal because of personal satisfaction or desire. Examples might be running a marathon or starting your own business.
  4. Empathy — the ability to sense other people’s emotions, along with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. Remember that old saying “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”
  5. Social skills — are the skills we use everyday to interact and communicate with others. They include verbal and non-verbal communication, such as speech, facial expression, gesture, and body language. Some people appear to ooze these skills, charming and engaging everyone they come across. Others might be less skilled, they feel shy, get tongue-tied or stand out as a wallflower at parties.

Emotionally intelligent people are able to:

Feeling jealous on the tennis court – image from Pixabay
  • identify what they’re feeling i.e. anger, fear, jealousy, rejected
  • know how to interpret their own and others’ emotions, despite some of their differences like age, office hierarchy or social standing
  • recognize how their emotions can affect others, such as the hope and optimism contagion we often see in leaders at work
  • regulate their own emotions so that they ‘don’t blow a gasket’ when that same disruptive colleague disagrees with yet another perfectly viable suggestion
  • manage other people’s emotions so that the above colleague might feel less argumentative or disagreeable. They understand that, when happy and relaxed, someone will be more likely to agree to taking on a task than when angry or stressed.

Put more simply: EI is the ability to make emotions work for us, instead of against us.

Emotional Intelligence in the workplace

Nurse team leader with high EI
Nurse team leader with high EI – image from Pixabay

People with high EI appear more able to deal with colleagues or customers’ complaints, or to mediate conflict between others. They often also excel at making strong and positive personal connections with seniors, colleagues and customers.

Staff teams with high EI are far better at working together. They use appropriate and effective communication skills, tend to trust each other, and value input from others. They’re able to understand and empathise with the feelings of others, and generally respond positively to their suggestions.

The best team leaders understand people; they know how they work, and how to influence them. They know how to inspire them, and lead them in the right direction. Effective leaders tend to have a solid understanding of how their own emotions and actions affect the people around them.

The better the leader relates to and works with colleagues, the more success they’ll garner. EI is an essential people skill and, to succeed in a competitive workplace, developing it is vital.

Not many of us like change, but EI gives us the tools we need to deal with any changes that might come our way. At work, I’ve seen people face change with crossed arms, rolling eyes and negative attitudes. But I’ve also seen staff with EI responding in much more positive ways, and inspiring other team members to feel the same way.

Using EI in other situations

Managing emotions - active listening and making others feel heard
Managing emotions – active listening and making others feel heard

Most of us know someone who’s a really good listener. Whatever the situation we’re in, they always seem to know just how we feel, know what to say and how to say it so we don’t feel upset or offended.

They’re always considerate and compassionate, and able to instil positivity and hope in others. Even if we can’t come up with an immediate solution to our problem, we’re often feeling less distressed and more optimistic.

Even changes at home, with our families and children can be managed with EI, by using empathy and acknowledging any fears, ensuring everyone feels listened to and heard.

Whether it’s with an angry partner or a moody teenager, we’ll no doubt have to face difficult conversations in our personal lives. These tough talks will no doubt stir up all sorts of emotions, but having the right skills will ensure you’re able to handle them effectively. You’ll be able to emotionally connect with the other person before finding an effective solution.

How to develop and improve your Emotional Intelligence

Practicing Emotional Intelligence can help retrain your brain
Practicing Emotional Intelligence can help retrain your brain

While some people naturally have high EI, it’s still a skill that can be practiced and developed. Practicing EI behaviors can help your brain adapt to making these behaviors become automatic, and replace less helpful behaviors. So practice:

  1. Honing effective listening skills. People with EI listen to understand before responding, rather than just waiting for their turn to speak. This allows them to respond appropriately and shows their respect for the person speaking who, in turn, feels listened to and heard.
  2. Practice using effective communication skills and assertive communication, and learn how to say ‘NO’, and mean it. Ask someone close, or a mentor maybe, how you come across during conversations, particularly in times of stress and conflict.
  3. Try to remain open to feedback from others. You don’t have to agree with or believe them but just listen, take a breath and become aware of the emotions this evokes. Think about how you might have responded had you’d done so impulsively.
  4. Practice maintaining self-motivation and a positive attitude, as they’re contagious. Remember, self-motivation in the emotionally intelligent person promotes motivation and positivity in others. They’re motivated to set and attain their goals, and are resilient in the face of the challenges in reaching them. Try to be aware of the self-motivation, or lack of, in others and observe their moods. Use your self-motivation and positive attitude accordingly to affect an appropriate shift in the negativity of said others.
  5. Seek ways to become more self-aware. Be aware of your own many and various emotions, and how they affect people around you. See if you can determine the emotions of someone close, asking them if you’ve got it right. Watch other people when they’re communicating, paying attention to their body language, any facial clues or gestures and see how this affect you or others.
  6. Practice staying calm by learning some breathing techniques or other strategies that you’ll be able to use quickly and easily during stressful situations.
  7. Become more aware of the people around you, at work or in social situations. Observe how they behave and relate to others, and if you like what you see, ‘steal’ it, and practice it.

Last thoughts

Emotional Intelligence can be learned — Image from Unsplash

The above are only some of the skills mastered by high emotionally intelligent people, but they’re enough to start with. However, I can’t repeat enough how practice is vital — you wouldn’t drive down the motorway after just one driving lesson, would you? Nor would you beat a Grandmaster at chess, having just played the game once or twice.

Remember that building and maintaining effective relationships is key to engaging effectively with others. Someone with high EI doesn’t take the negative emotional reactions or responses of others personally. Rather, they’ll try to understand the source of those emotions and the values that are meaningful to others. This allows them to engage appropriately rather than avoiding the person who often ‘blows a gasket’ either at home, socially or at work.

Improving EI can help us feel more confident in our dealings with others, particularly during times of stress or conflict. EI is beneficial and if mastered, it enables us to maintain strong relationships and attain a happier and more fulfilled life.

Over to you

Image from Clipart

Do you recognise the emotions you feel and are you able to manage them without allowing them to overwhelm you? Can you motivate yourself to do things, like exercise or relaxation, and in turn motivate others, perhaps to join you? Are you able to sense the emotions of others and respond effectively?

How to talk to angry people

Do you know how to talk to an angry person?

Receptionists have to know to talk to angry people waiting in busy A&E departments
Receptionists have to know to talk to angry people waiting in busy A&E departments

Have you ever come across a group of angry people, or an angry person, and not known how to talk to them? Perhaps you’ve had to deliver bad news to your team about cutbacks, redundancies, or a reduction in salary, particularly recently?

Are you a nurse or other professional who’s had to cope with the angry family of a patient? Or a rowdy group of drunks fooling around in the A&E department? I dare say we’ve all come face to face with at least one angry person in our lifetime.

Unfortunately, I’ve had a few angry people men crowding my personal space, fists clenched, close up and spitting with rage. Some had me back up against a wall or cowering in fear, and one turned to physical abuse.

But let me tell you something now, I won’t ever allow this kind of behaviour again, and I hope you won’t either. It’s never acceptable – ever!

Recent tales of anger and aggression

Angry young man
Angry young man

A group of angry young thugs attacked my nephew on his way home from a night out. They surrounded him, swearing at him for ‘looking at them’ and ‘saying something nasty.’

My nephew was tipsy, but he tried reasoning with them. However, he’d barely spoken when one of the thugs headbutted him and he stumbled and fell to the ground. The rest joined in, kicking him in the face, head and upper body.

Fortunately, a car stopped, the thugs ran off and the driver called both the police and ambulance. My nephew was badly bruised and sustained a cracked cheek bone and a broken nose.

My friend was in a store recently and she inadvertently queue-jumped. She hadn’t realised that the group behind her were adhering to the 2 metre rule. She just saw a space and strolled into it.

A group of angry young ladies verbally abused and threatened her, despite her sincere apologies. My friend left her full trolley, and the store.

My nephew and my friend later wondered if there was anything they could have said or done differently. The thugs appeared to be on a mission, and nothing Tommy said would have stopped them.

On the other hand, Louise might have been able to calm the situation as it was broad daylight and she was surrounded by people. However, had I been her say last week, when I felt desperately low in mood and anxious, I might have panicked and done what she did. Today, I would have handled it differently.

Reasons to be angry

Rightly or wrongly, people are angry and protesting
Rightly or wrongly, people are angry and protesting — Image by Pexels

While the above tales may be extreme, it appears that people are becoming more angry, and about many things. Americans are living in a big ‘anger incubator.’ Americans are angry about the death of George Floyd. They’re angry about police violence and the country’s legacy of racism.

Around the world there’s anger provoked by the coronavirus pandemic: anger at public officials because they’ve shut down parts of society. Or anger because they aren’t doing enough to curb the virus.

People are angry about having to to wear masks, or angry toward people who refuse to wear a mask. Others are angry with anyone who doesn’t see things their way.

In London, everyone from tenants, residents, shop-keepers, businesses and black cabbies in London are angry. They’re angry and taking to the streets because of Sadiq Khan’s ridiculous road closures and under used cycle lanes.

We’re surrounded by anger – we get angry at t.v. or the news, and if it’s not that, it’s social media. If it’s not politics it’s soaring crime levels.

But anger is normal, right?

Anger is normal but rage is not
Anger is normal but rage is not

Anger is a normal but very powerful human emotion that can range from slight irritation to strong rage. There’s good reason for anger too. It lets us know that there’s a barrier in the way of something that’s undoubtedly important to us. It’s this barrier that evokes an emotion in us, which leads to our anger.

You see, anger doesn’t act alone. It’s always driven by another emotion like fear, anxiety, jealousy, disgust, frustration or other strong feelings. And often, rather than show any of these emotions, for whatever reason, we become angry.

Think about the man who you’ve just told is about to lose the job he desperately needs. Rather than express sadness or disappointment in front of you, his male boss, he might show anger. Behind his angry shield, he’s feeling threatened — not by you, but by the loss of his job, his salary or his status.

As women, because we often get “Oh, don’t turn on the waterworks,” we don’t. We get defensive, and angry (mainly at that comment).

So how do we talk to an angry person

Angry people are often stressed
Angry people are often stressed

We all know how easy it is to become upset or flustered when we’re confronted by an angry person and we don’t know what to say or do. If we don’t know how to respond, we can easily make the situation worse. However, when we respond calmly and with empathy, we stay in control, and can diffuse the situation effectively and courteously.

Let’s take a look at a few simple ways to reduce the anger and maintain a sense of calm. While the angry person is raging and waving their hands around, or blustering, red in the face and finger-pointing:

  • Take a few slow and deep breaths. Effective breathing techniques will slow your heart rate down and have a calming effect on you.
  • Try to maintain a relaxed but confident posture — hold your head up but let your shoulders drop down from your ears, unclench those fists and relax your jaw. Crossing your arms, heavy sighing or tutting and rolling your eyes is a surefire way to add fuel to someone’s fire.
  • Try to remain or at least appear calm but for crying out loud, don’t say “calm down!” to the angry person who’s about to blow a gasket. If you didn’t already know this — it’s like a red rag to a bull.
  • Listen actively, and show that you’re listening by giving appropriate eye contact, just don’t stare or glare. Try to understand what’s driving their anger i.e. they feel hurt, judged by you or others in some way, they might feel let down, disappointed, disrespected or afraid.
  • Once you’ve listened to them, do not say “I understand but,” or “okay, but.” We’ve all been on the tail end of that response. A simple change of the word ‘but’ to ‘and’ can often make a difference, and that’s another post.

An example might be

Receptionist at busy GP surgery

The lady with two screaming toddlers who fumes at the receptionist in the doctor’s surgery. “I’ve been waiting for almost an hour, I’ve been up all night with these two and I need to be seen now.”

The receptionist smiles and says “I understand, but everyone else has been………”

“No you don’t bloody understand……….” fumes the lady. You don’t know that hubby screamed at her to keep the kids quiet so she’s upset and and tearful. It can soon escalate into something like “….. you patronising old jobsworth.”

  • Responding to someone’s needs calmly can be the key to gaining cooperation from the emotionally agitated person. In tough situations, the issue at hand isn’t usually the actual issue. How you handle the issue becomes the actual issue.
  • Show empathy, kindness and compassion, and an apology can go a long way too. You might say “I’m really sorry you’ve had to wait for so long and I appreciate how frustrating it must be. I’ll go and see if there’s anything I can do.” Then go and do just that.

Acknowledge their anger

Upset and stressed— Image by Unsplash
  • Acknowledge their anger. If someone expresses anger and you fail to react to it they’ll feel like they aren’t getting through to you. Think about how you would feel in a similar situation. Imagine you’ve been charged £15.00 by the bank for going overdrawn by 59 pence. You explain to the bank teller that you were only overdrawn for a few hours because your salary went in at midnight.

The bank teller might say, “I can see you’re annoyed and I’d like you to know that getting to the bottom of this is just as important to me as it is to you.” Or “I think I understand what’s happened here, but please correct me if I’ve got it wrong.”

You’d feel listened to and understood, and you’d calm down. You know it’s not the teller’s fault and that at least they’ve offered to help fix the issue.

So we’ve covered how to breath and relax, remaining calm and listening. Then apologising and using your effective communication skills like empathy and kindness to help calm the angry person. Understand what’s driving their anger and acknowledge that, responding calmly and taking any necessary action to fix the issue.

When we’re able to diffuse someone’s anger, it can help us to deal with others who perhaps lack the emotional intelligence to manage their emotions. Let’s explore this further and continue with more strategies to diffuse anger in the follow-up post.

Over to you

When was the last time you had an angry person shouting at you? What did it make you feel like? Or were you angry and someone dealt with your complaint inappropriately? How could they have handled it differently? I’d love for you to share your experiences or just comment, or ask any questions.