How To Stop Having A 'Knee-Jerk Reaction' To Everything
Do you ever think back to a television show or movie that you used to really enjoy and, while you still have a powerful amount of nostalgic feelings for it, years later, you can't help but give it major side-eye?
That's how I feel about the original Beverly Hills, 90210. Although the reruns immediately take me back to when I was in high school and even college, Lord, did they have some pretty racially-ridiculous episodes (like the one that had Vivica A. Foxx in it or the one when West Beverly High was scared to have a dance with a Black high school). And where were the Black people?! OK. But I digress.
The reason why I'm bringing it up at all is because there was an episode when fine-as-he-wanna-be Brandon was dating this chick named Emily. One night, she got him on ecstasy without telling him. When he found out and broke up with her, she made up a lame reason to spend the night at his house in order to seduce him. They made out for a bit and then he stopped and told her he was done. The next day, when Emily told Brandon that she didn't believe him because of how into her he was while he was on drugs, he said something that has always stayed with me:
(Paraphrased) "Emily, that was nothing more than a physical reaction…like when your doctor hits you on the knee or something. It didn't mean anything."
Hmph. Don't get me started on how a lot of us could stand to ponder that when it comes to casual sex in general. But when it comes to the focus of this particular piece, as a pseudo-pop-off-in-recovery, there are also some of us who could live a much simpler and peace-filled life if when something or someone triggers us, we wait for the immediate impulse to pass before saying or doing anything too.
Because, like Brandon, oftentimes once the initial feeling subsides, we calm down and our common sense takes over, we tend to see the situation—or at least how to approach it—very differently. Sometimes, whatever "it" was didn't mean as much to us as our feelings first told us that it did.
If you know you are prone to have knee-jerk reactions to everything, here's what I've learned to do in order to reroute taking that kind of approach:
Relax. Relate. Release. Literally.
True A Different World fans know where the phrase "relax, relate, release" comes from—Whitley's therapist (played by Debbie Allen). In one episode, as she was expressing to Whitley that Whitley couldn't control Dwayne's feelings, only her own, the therapist introduced what we all should keep in the back of our minds whenever we're offended, anxious, or straight-up pissed: "You need to relax, relate, and release into reality."
The reality is, oftentimes us going off only makes matters worse. So, no matter what has transpired, take a moment to breathe deeply (relax), think about what's got you so heated (relate), and release as much pop-off energy as possible before saying or doing anything else.
Respond vs. React
Have mercy, the amount of drama I could've spared in my life if I had mastered this, years and years ago. Although responding and reacting might seem like the same thing on the surface, they aren't. When you're responding to something, you're reacting in a way that is favorable (a way that is positive or at least advantageous). When you're reacting, you're either reciprocating what was done to you or you're acting in opposition to something or someone. See how responding is a lot more beneficial than reacting?
Now, I'm not saying that by choosing to respond, you have to be a doormat or punk yourself out. I'm just saying that…if your co-worker says something crazy, if your boyfriend does something inconsiderate, if you and Comcast are having it out for the third time this month (SMH), take a moment to think about what you can say or do that will work in your favor rather than against it. Thinking before doing is the cornerstone wisdom of responding vs. reacting.
Remember That Nothing Is EVER Truly Deleted Online
Two reads that are worth checking are the think piece "Social Media Has Created a Generation of Self-Obsessed Narcissists" and a science-based article "Narcissism and Social Networking." They both provide some interesting food for thought that back up another reason why a lot of us are probably having more knee-jerk reactions than ever—we are constantly taking in info and commenting online. As a direct result, we've become soooooooo opinionated that we sometimes forget that other people have the right to their opinions too; that they shouldn't be cyberbullied into thinking like we do. (Narcissism is a beast, y'all.)
Back when I used to have a Facebook page, I must admit, things were pretty lively on it. It was more of a "Hey, check out this article and let's all discuss" kind of forum and one of my rules was no comment (even when folks came for me) got removed. Boy oh boy, did that lead to some pretty interesting conversations/debates/flat-out arguments.
On one hand, it was cool to see and take in so many different perspectives. At the same time, it can get really easy to be so comfortable sitting in our homes while hamming away at our keyboards that we forget we're not just talking to a handful of individuals. Unless we're inboxing or DM'ing (and even then, things are usually not as "private" as we'd like to think), there is an entire audience of other individuals who are watching (which sometimes means trolling) too. Strangers. Acquaintances. Enemies. Haters. Even bosses or prospective employers.
A wise man once said, "The internet is not written in pencil but ink." When it comes to your online activity, if you find yourself getting offended or even just feeling some type of way, walk away from your computer or put your phone down for 10 minutes or so. Listen to a favorite song or hit up a friend and vent your frustrations before you decide to type anything.
If you don't do that, while you can delete whatever your emotional reaction was, if it was inflammatory enough, there's a chance someone caught it (and saved it) before you could remove it. And shoot, even if you do remove it, when it comes to what's expressed in cyberspace, it's still around…somewhere (check out "Experts: Deleted Online Information Never Actually Goes Away").
Embrace the Sensei Power of Silence
Sometimes, when my pop-off spirit wants to rise up and take over, I'll think back to Mr. Miyagi from the original The Karate Kid. Remember how calm he was when he was teaching Daniel-san how to fight? (#waxonwaxoff) Mr. Miyagi was always so calm and soft-spoken, no matter how mad Daniel got. Why? Because he knew his own power. He didn't have to prove it.
Trust you me, lately, I have been floored by some of the nasty capabilities of human nature. But now, more than ever, I have learned that silence is not only golden, it's oftentimes the most effective approach to matters. Leonardo da Vinci once said, "Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence." Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Speak only if it improves upon the silence." Euripides once said, "Silence is true wisdom's best reply."
When you know your own strength and power, you also know how important it is to conserve it. Silence is not a weakness. It is a tried and true superpower.
Ask Yourself If You Can Stand by Your Actions a Month from Now
Because I've learned all of what I just shared, I'm going to leave the details out. But something happened to me recently that, let me just say would've had Shellie from two years ago using some of the dirty cuss words. Shellie circa 2019 is like, "I don't even feel like dealing with the fallout later." Avoiding the drama that could ensue from me "getting things off of my chest" makes it worth it to just…leave things where they are.
Back to the whole doctor hitting you on the knee thing, when something or someone gets underneath your skin, it's a natural reaction to what to do something. Don't feel bad about that part. All I'm saying is they already used up some of your precious energy and time, even if it's just internally. Before giving them even more of it, decide if you want to possibly deal with the consequence of your knee-jerk reaction a month or even a year from now. If the answer is "no," then do what you need to resolve the matter without making it bigger than it already is.
Knee-jerk reactions are understandable. More times than not, they are also totally unnecessary.
As someone who used to be the queen of doing what was unnecessary, please choose wisely, y'all.
Featured image by Getty Images.
In My Feelings: Why You Can't Let Your Emotions Control You - Read More
The Empath's Guide To An Emotionally-Balanced Life - Read More
10 Things That Are Making Your Life Unnecessarily Complicated - Read More
Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
The first big leap was moving to a new city and getting settled into my new home. The next big leap? Was finding community and belonging. Moving to a new city excited me! I looked forward to having my own apartment, decorating it, and exploring what the city had to offer. I also found excitement in the thought of meeting new people and expanding my connections. When it actually came down to it, I felt nervous. I heard that making new friends as an adult can be hard because we all have different responsibilities and schedules that may not align. I knew in order for me to really feel at home in my new city, I had to create community.
Having a community of people who I can share memories with, lean on in times of need, and inspire each other is something I always valued. I took a moment to truly center in on what I desired from the new friends I would make. Then I realized it all would have to start with me. I had to be centered and confident in who I was to attract who I desired to be aligned with. As someone who moved to a new city and established quality friendships, I gathered these six tips that helped me feel grounded and create community in hopes that it will help you, too.
6 tips to start building community and making new friends in a new city:
Sean Anthony Eddy/ Getty Images
Be true to yourself
Do you know who you are? If someone asked you to describe yourself in three words, what words would you use? In order to develop deep friendships, you must be a friend to yourself first. Know what refuels you and what zaps your energy. Self-study your habits and why you do the things you do. All this will be important to keep in mind when looking to create bonds with others. Every day there’s all kinds of people telling you who you should be, how you should act, or what you should wear. At the end of the day, the only opinion about yourself that truly matters is your own. Spend some alone time with yourself indoors or out at an event you like to truly discover who you are in this season of your life.
Pray about it
Before you step out into the world and cross paths with all kinds of people, it’s important to pray about building your community. God outlines what true friendship looks like in numerous Bible verses such as "Iron sharpens iron." - Proverbs 27:17 and “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” - Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. If you desire friendships that last, pray about what you seek in friendship. I remember praying for mentally stable, happy, and whole women who moved through life with abundance mindsets. Take a moment to journal about the community you want to build and then pray on it.
Go to fun events to meet people who share your interests
Most metropolitan cities like Washington, D.C., New York City, and Atlanta are known to have strong young professional communities and events where you can connect with others. I highly encourage you to attend events in or near your community to see what the city is like and meet people. It’s likely that the people at the event have the same interests as you, which is a great way to start a conversation. You can start by searching for events on Eventbrite or following Instagram pages that highlight events happening in your city.
Carlos Barquero/ Getty Images
Accept that you won’t be compatible with everyone you meet
While living in your new city, it’s likely you’ll meet a variety of people. Please know that everyone you meet will not bud into lasting friendships, and that’s okay! You are uniquely created and not made for everyone. Then you’ll meet people who are good for only surface-level connections, and then you’ll have your girls who you can get deep with. I think sometimes people can look down on surface-level friendships, but not everyone needs to fully know you. That’s a privilege to have and to accept within yourself. Continue to check in with yourself and be real about who you crave to spend more time with and who is nice to see for a monthly or quarterly catch-up.
Join Facebook groups & GroupMe chats
If you haven’t used Facebook in a couple of years, it’s time to dust your profile off. Facebook Groups is a great place to join online communities for people who just moved to a new city like you. Typically, you have to agree to the group’s guidelines, and then you can join. For example, you can search for groups in the Facebook app by using keywords like women, Black girl, or [the name of your city] foodies. With the GroupMe app, you’ll have to be invited to join an already existing group. While you’re out and about networking, don’t hesitate to ask if they’re in any online groups/communities they recommend you join too.
Be friendly to folks in your neighborhood
When I first moved to my new apartment, I spent the first week walking around the complex and working in the community spaces to get a better feel of it. I was able to meet people in my neighborhood, enjoy small talk, and learn more about what the community has to offer. Step outside of your comfort zone and work in your apartment’s community space or a local coffee shop to connect with others.
Overall, you may feel alone in your new city, but I guarantee you’re not. There are other people experiencing living in a new city too, and all you need to do is find each other. I hope these tips help ease the nervous feelings you have about building a new community and inspire you to make a new friend today!
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