Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

7 Quick Ways to Avoid a Meltdown


When you feel like strangling the guy in front of you at Target, read these “7 Quick Ways to Calm Down,” or as the Huffington Post renamed them,  “7 Quick Ways to Avoid a Meltdown,” I laughed at the art that went with it because, well, I sort of looked like that yesterday. I needed a reminder of them, and I thought maybe you could use one too.


1. Walk Away

Know your triggers. If a conversation about global warming, consumerism, or the trash crisis in the U.S. is overwhelming you, simply excuse yourself. If you’re noise-sensitive and the scene at Toys-R-Us makes you want to throw whistling Elmo and his buddies across the store, tell your kids you need a time-out. (Bring along your husband or a friend so you can leave them safely, if need be.) My great-aunt Gigi knew her trigger points, and if a conversation or setting was getting close to them, she simply put one foot in front of another, and departed.

2. Close Your Eyes

Gently let the world disappear, and go within to regain your equilibrium. Ever since my mom came down with blepharospasm (a neurological tick of the eyelid), I’ve become aware of how important shutting our eyes is to the health of the nervous system. The only treatment available for this disorder is to have surgery that permanently keeps your eyelids open (you need to moisten them with drops, etc.). Such a condition would be living hell for my mom, because in closing her eyes she regains her balance and proper focus.


The only time I recommend not using this technique is on the road (if you’re driving).

3. Find Some Solitude

This can be challenging if you are at work, or at home with kids as creative and energetic as mine. But we all need some private time to let the nervous system regenerate.

I must have known this back in college, because I opted for a tiny single room (a nun’s closet, quite literally), rather than going in on a larger room with a closet big enough to store my sweaters. When three of my good friends begged me to go in with them on a killer quad, I told them, “Nope. Can’t do it. Need my alone time, or else none of you would want to be around me. Trust me.”

My senior year I went to the extent of pasting black construction paper on the window above my door so no one would know if I was there, in order to get the hours of solitude that I needed.


Be creative. Find your space. Any way you can. Even it involves black construction paper.

4. Go Outside

This is a true lifesaver for me. I need to be outside for at least an hour every day to get my sanity fix. Granted, I’m extremely lucky to be able to do so as a stay-at-home mom. But I think I would somehow work it into my schedule even if I had to commute into the city every day.

Even if I’m not walking or running or biking or swimming, being outside calms me in a way that hardly anything else can. With an hour of nature, I go from being a bossy, opinionated, angry, cynical, uptight person into a bossy, opinionated, cynical, relaxed person. And that makes the difference between having friends and a husband to have dinner with and a world that tells me to go eat a frozen dinner by myself because they don’t want to catch whatever grumpy bug I have.


5. Find Some Water

While watching Disney’s “Pocahontas” the other day with my daughter Katherine (yes, I do get some of my best insights from cartoons), I observed the sheer joy the main character shows upon paddling down the river, singing about how she is one with the water. It reminded me of how universal the mood effects of water are, and how healing.

On the rainy or snowy days that I can’t walk the double stroller over to our local creeks, I do something the global-warming guys say not to; take a long shower, imagining that I am in the middle of a beautiful Hawaiian rain forest.

“Water helps in many ways,” writes Elaine Aron. “When overaroused, keep drinking it–a big glass of it once an hour. Walk beside some water, look at it, listen to it. Get into some if you can, for a bath or a swim. Hot tubs and hot springs are popular for good reasons.”


6. Breathe Deeply

Breathing is the foundation of sanity, because it is the way we provide our brain and every other vital organ in our body with the oxygen needed for us to survive. Breathing also eliminates toxins from our systems.

Years ago, I learned the “Four Square” method of breathing to reduce anxiety:

1. Breathe in slowly to a count of four.
2. Hold the breath for a count of four.
3. Exhale slowly through pursed lips to a count of four.
4. Rest for a count of four (without taking any breaths).
5. Take two normal breaths.
6. Start over again with number one.

7. Listen to Music

Across the ages, music has been used to soothe and relax. During the worst months of my depression, I blared the soundtrack of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Pretending to be the phantom with a cape and a mask, I twirled around our living room, swinging my kids in my arms. I belted out every word of “The Music of the Night.”


“Softly, deftly, music shall caress you, Feel it, hear it, secretly possess you….”

The gorgeous song–like all good music–could stroke that tender place within me that words couldn’t get to.

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  • linda

    i was belting out maskeque-so many shades there is a mask behind you….on the walker…



  • Your Name

    Pray: use a short meditation for focus: “Lord, help me,” or “I can do this.” Sometimes, I ask myself if this is all there is and it makes me focus on the good things of life and brings me peace. I usually close my eyes (one of the suggestions already) and this brings me to a focus and blocks out the world for a few seconds where I can concentrate on God and His goodness and all the good things in my life. “For as you think, so you are.”

  • Your Name

    Ha ha, the first one makes me think of how my mom dealt with her father-in-law: “When Grandpa starts talking, it’s time to do the dishes.” Also, prayer is a good one. To file under solitude: When in prayer, I pull a shawl over my head and shoulders. It reduces distractions, like blinders on a carriage horse, and signals to my family that I am not to be bothered.

  • jamie

    I AM GOING TO TRY All of your suggestions and i hope it helps!

  • Your Name

    I turn on the music, not only soothing music, but anyone I enjoy! Years ago, a friend told me she played Sousa marches on her stereo while doing dreaded housework. Ever since, I’ve played Sousa, Toby Keith, Josh Groban, Anne Murray’ hymns (or anyone else I enjoy) while cooking, cleaning, etc, but only when I’m alone, or when others around me don’t mind the volume! In a few minutes, the joy of listening takes over, and something in the house is cleaner, neater or put in its place! I also watch something funny on TV while cooking dinner, even if it is a Mayberry re-run! The important stuff can wait until after we eat.

  • http://hotmail ADRIENNE TYNES


  • Bev

    Very good article – and would someone tell me how to mitigate the damage(s) once you’ve had a meltdown!!!
    I was not abusive or anything, but scared people at my new job last week, and then have nobody to talk to about this – and how to mitigate the damage. I’m so tired of this happening. I isolate more and more and that makes me worse. (By the way, I was let go from this job this morning so i’m feeling even worse.)
    I’m living hand-to-mouth, no health insurance, don’t know of any way to get anti-depressants. A doctor helped me get Wellbutrin so I could stop smoking – and I’m 3 years off cigarettes which is a miracle. But the doc wanted me to get a bunch of tests before she would give me another prescription – and I don’t have money for all those tests.
    My situation is complicated by a “profound” hearing loss which has kept me under-employed and unemployed for many years.

  • http://446dd8 H.L.S.

    My opinion, only, but talking to a human being helps much more then typing questions and expecting answers. We need more real people contacts and less impersonal computer contacts.

  • Your Name

    Along with the breathing, stretching helps.
    Playing the piano, watering the garden and painting watercolors are all calming antidotes to overly emotional reactions to life happenings. Even washing dishes, dusting furniture and doing laundry occupy the hands and fulfil daily chores that satisfy the soul. Finding simple ways to calm the spirit teach more than too much talk and computer contact. I play Solitaire everyday for twenty minutes or so. My father taught me Solitaire when I was very young and I enjoy finding clever ways to borrow cards from the stacks to keep my brain working, crossword puzzles are good too.

  • Your Name

    Sorry to hear about your employment problem. I too have the problem with melting down. I’ve been coping with this issue for over 15 years. Just recently, the doctors have finally found an antidepressant that I can take that does not make me have crazy thoughts. Not all antidepressants give you the relief that you seek. Have you checked to see if you have a free clinic in your area. Where I live we have a free clinic and the doctors there will try there very best to write prescriptions that are on the $4 list at the local Wal-Mart. It is just a thought. Also, check to see if you are eliglibe for some general assistance. No one wants to ask for help, but sometimes we all need it. I hope you find the help that you need. Also, good luck with the job situation.

  • N.D.

    Try 8 deaths in one year of family and friends.

  • Becky

    I agrre with this article so much, I find when I’m really stressed, I combine a few of those suggestions. I take a hot bubble bath, light a candle, turn the radio on, lay back, close my eyes, and bask in the solitude.

  • Carol

    To N.D.~My heart goes out to you~stay strong!!

  • pamylla

    What, chocolate and margaritas aren’t recommended? Just kidding…I know these two are short-term fixes.
    Water and walking are two of the best, in my opinion. And the other ones listed are great, too..I just have to remember to do them!
    Thanks. :)

  • zz

    Exercise helps me.

  • Angel

    I’m wanted to respond to the person who put 8 deaths in a year.Wow I am so sorry for your loss!!! I cant imagine what you are going through! God be with you , your family and friends!

  • Michael Guenin

    I want to compliment you on an outstanding site. Where was this stuff 20 years ago when “Juan” was in his prime?
    Congrats on the AHS honor. It sounds like a tough night. Outlets like this allow people to better deal with challenges.


    People make judgments under depression tend to look at would be very sorry afterwards. In order not to add trouble, may be appropriately slow pace of work and life, add some more love, and family members to enhance communication and emotion, can ease the pressure brought the outside world.

  • Ann Specklebottom LOL

    This is very helpful cause i have melt downs usually every after lunch and these steps will probably help me mantain calm. Thank you for the 7 things!! Thanks. 😀

  • shoestop10

    What you said is very useful for me.Thank you!

  • veronica

    Very helpful. I have been doing shopping in stores lately, and I usually shop on the internet, and I
    find that the stores have so many people who do not like their jobs. They are not happy at their jobs and
    they really do not want you there. The internet is actually more polite, and I find that I have kept my cool
    and tried not to complain. There was one incident I had to speak to a manager, did not want to, but
    I felt the next person who comes along will be happy I did, maybe……then I feel guilty I did. I work at
    a very stressful job, where I talk to people each day that are all complaints and some situation are
    life and death and I find my strength and calm, and I feel that these people who only have to
    check you out or help you find something should not be so rude and disconnected with the person standing in front of them. Thank you I will keep my comments in check and I am so glad to read this
    today and realize anyone can have a meltdown. Anyone. God Bless.

  • Amy

    Therese you are a fabulous inspiration. Keep on writing!

  • Laura

    Hi Therese,
    Thank you so much for your articles. I always look forward to reading them. The 5th advice on finding water couldn’t be more true. My friend Sharon, who was like another mom to me, used to always tell me that we need water to refuel our soul. And you know, she couldn’t have been more right. I always feel at peace when we go to the lake or the beach, even with three kids and a husband! Keep up the good work on your articles.

  • Maria Z.

    Think about everything that makes u smile !!!!!!!! You famly, friends, movie, Think aboy something that made u laugh so hard u almost pee in your pants…..And count your blessing everything you feel down…

  • Marialuisa

    Thank you so much for this.

  • Linda Lark

    I just about always choose the “walk away” suggestion except if I’m driving…lol. I also pray. I am not a confrotational person so most people that know me…knows this about me so they know that they will not get an argument out of me on most occasions. The “walk away” technique is great for parents. You know how those children will get under our finger nails.

  • Frederick Arend

    I learned an interesting technique when reading about self hypnosis: take an object on a sting, a safety pin will do, place both arms on the table in front of you. Brace the arm with the string with the other arm so the string can’t move. Stare at the object hard and it will start to swing. If its moving from left to right, command it to move from left to right, it will swing more strongly.Etc. etc. Very relaxing, really takes you out of your situation.

  • Lisa

    When you go to the beach or for a walk, notice the beautiful sunsets, stars in the sky, and boats floating peacefully on the water. Try to remember what you feel, smell and see and store it away so you can think about it for you have a stressful moment.

  • Mary

    Walk walk and walk some more. Go outside and walk. Admire all God’s beauty. Walking does the soul good.

  • Michelle Thomas

    This is a very good topic I am going to bring to my Women’s group I go to twice a month. We discuss issues such as meltdowns and things that may trigger us to go a little nuts. Thanks for posting this again. As always I look forward to the posts you bring on Beyond Blue!!! You are the best!!!

  • peggy wegner

    Therese – thank you, thank you for your column. I have ordered the CD you talked about and am hoping it will help. I have written you before – I wish you had been around many years ago. Suffering with mental illness is so hard.
    Thank you for your good work. Keep it up.Peggy

  • Jeanne

    Very peaceful. Thank you. It’s a perfect tonic for the day.

  • Dee

    I have mental illness. I just found this site. I have GAD. I have irregular heartbeats that I control wit beta blockers but they go crazy when I stress out. I have a script for anti-anxiety drugs but dont want to take them. Should I? What if they are habit forming?

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