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Seeing red? 4 Steps to Try Before Responding

Stress can derail coping abilities and contribute to emotional explosions unless you employ tools to cool down.

August 12, 2023

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Breathe. Count to 10. Take a walk. These strategies have long been advised to help you pause and rethink your reaction when you're seeing red and an inch away from exploding. Under normal circumstances — maybe a little stress at home or at work — those strategies can be useful. But you may find they're less effective in the pressure cooker we've been living in during recent years. What can you do to avoid reaching your boiling point?

For insight, I turned to psychologist Stuart Ablon, founder and director of Think:Kids in the department of psychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Ablon is an expert at defusing explosive behavior among kids and teens with severe developmental delays in problem solving, flexibility, and tolerance to frustration — the skills that keep us from melting down.

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