The Big Four

Have you ever felt like you become upset and lash out so fast that you didn’t even see it coming? I think most of us can relate! This can commonly happen because we are not used to tuning in to our warning signs, or what I like to call: The Big Four. When something happens that causes an emotional reaction for us, we are used to our emotions taking over and managing us instead of us managing them. 

We then react mindlessly, without considering our own needs. We allow our emotions to make rash decisions for us. This is when we usually have issues with emotions, or so we think. Someone hits a wall when they are angry. Someone screams at their friend when they are upset. Someone panics when they feel anxiety. Is the real issue our emotions? Or is it our reaction to our emotions? When we learn to practice more mindfulness, observing and tuning in to our warning signs and listening to our needs, we can learn to better manage our emotions rather than our emotions managing us.

The Big Four refers to how our bodies, our thoughts, our emotions, and our behaviors might be communicating warning signs to us that we are getting emotionally escalated. There certainly can be more, but these four can sometimes be the loudest and easiest ones to tune in to. 

  1. Body 
    • How is your body speaking to you?
    • Common examples: tight chest, feeling hot in the face, burning ears, drop in the belly, breathing is quickened
  2. Thoughts
    • Notice your thoughts. How might they be warning you?
    • Common examples: thoughts about everything being a big deal, “what if??” thoughts, catastrophizing thoughts, self-deprecating thoughts
  3. Emotions
    • Do you notice an emotional reaction to having emotions?
    • Sometimes emotions such as extreme frustration, anger, stress, or anxiety can be great warning signs of possible emotional escalation
  4. Behaviors
    • What do you commonly find yourself doing when you’re about to be emotionally escalated?
    • Do you isolate? Do you pace? Lash out at others? Berate yourself?

The more we tune in to these warning signs, the better we can become at managing emotional situations more mindfully. This can also help us tune in to our own needs and try to meet them. If my breathing is quickening, it could be a warning sign that I need to relax. I can then practice a calming breathing technique to calm myself down. This is a practice of MANAGING our emotions, not ELIMINATING our emotions. Our emotions can be helpful, healthy, and useful; we just need to learn how to better manage them before they manage us. So, the next time you would like to practice some mindfulness when it comes to your emotions, see if you can tune in to your Big Four!