What do you do when faced with a frustrating problem? Yell, scream or stomp away in a rage? Or do you internalise your emotions and suffer in silence? Queue-cutters, misbehaving kids, errant drivers – all these can make our blood boil.

Singapore psychologist Daniel Koh says that the failure to cope with difficult situations can affect our mental health in the long term. He says that “if you internalise your anger, you build up negative emotions. When these become too much to handle, anxiety or depression may set in, and you may engage in self-blame, which will make you feel even worse.”

Daniel shares how you can deal with these seven common situations, without losing your head.


Don’t tear your hair out; control how you react to stressful
daily experiences and stay sane with these expert tips. Image: Corbis

1. DEALING WITH YOUR KIDS AT HOME
THE SITUATION: You come home to discover your three-year-old has decorated the walls and your pristine white sofa with her crayons.

THE EXPERT SAYS: This is normal child behaviour, so try to laugh it off and be proud of her creative abilities. Once you’re calm, gently explain to her that what she did was wrong and you can also create an “art corner” for her to express herself.

2. COPING WITH YOUR CHILD’S MISBEHAVIOUR AT SCHOOL
THE SITUATION: Your 10-year-old son’s teacher calls you at work to say that he has not completed his homework – and according to her, your boy is a repeat offender. You are angry that your son has not mentioned anything.

THE EXPERT SAYS: Ask yourself if you’re using anger to cover up your actual emotions. You could be feeling guilty and helpless. Once you identify the reason for your anger, you’ll be able to make better decisions about disciplining him.

3. DEALING WITH YOUR PARTNER’S BAD HABITS
THE SITUATION: You find yourself constantly nagging your husband. Sometimes, your rants evolve into minor arguments that leave you both upset. You hate losing your temper but he is just so lazy. Nobody likes to be constantly told they can’t do anything right.

THE EXPERT SAYS: Instead of putting him down, identify the problems and discuss a compromise. Tell him he has to play his part too, and praise him when he does – this will encourage him to do more. 

4. WORKING ON PROJECTS WITH UNCOOPERATIVE COLLEAGUES
THE SITUATION: You’re on a tight deadline, and your colleague has not done her part. The project is incomplete and you have to show it to your boss, but your colleague has called in sick. Calm down and focus on the project. 

THE EXPERT SAYS: By demonstrating what you can do, you will win your boss’s confidence. Avoid blaming your colleague, as it may reflect badly on you. Instead, show them how you can handle the presentation on your own.

5. MANAGING YOUR EMPLOYEES
THE SITUATION:
You gave your employees or domestic helper specific instructions, but when you check up on them again, you realise that your employees haven’t followed them – and worse – they don’t even care that you’re angry.

THE EXPERT SAYS: Calmly ask your employees about the reasons for such slip-ups. Getting angry may cause them to shut you out, making it seem like they don’t care. Ask yourself where the fault lies – perhaps you don’t praise them enough? Positive communication is key. 

6. FENDING AGAINST ROAD RAGE
THE SITUATION: You’re late for work and driving during rush hour when a car comes out of nowhere and cuts into your lane without indicating.

THE EXPERT SAYS: Instead of getting angry, let it go and focus on the positive by telling yourself: “It’s okay, at least I’m a better driver.”

7. CALLING CUSTOMER SERVICE TO CHECK OR CORRECT BILLING CHARGES
THE SITUATION: Your phone bill is unusually high, and after checking, you realise that you were overcharged a few hundred dollars. You call the phone company about the mistake, but they just put you on hold. When someone finally speaks to you, you’re at your breaking point.

THE EXPERT SAYS: Being kept on hold for a long period can be annoying because it’s a waste of time, and makes you feel unimportant. Instead of getting mad, remember that the representative is there to help you. By showing him respect, you may get better service.

8. DEALING WITH POOR CUSTOMER SERVICE
THE SITUATION:
At a restaurant, your steak is burnt instead of medium rare, and your salad leaves look half-rotten. The waiter refuses to take your food back and you are more upset about his attitude than your botched meal. The manager isn’t apologetic either.

THE EXPERT SAYS: Calmly explain to the manager why you aren’t satisfied with your meal. If you are polite, he might be more inclined to serve you better. As a last resort, you can always write to the restaurant management – but always do so in a constructive and mature manner.

Daniel Koh is a psychologist from Insights Mind Centre, a private practice located at 20 Maxwell Road, #07-18e Maxwell House, S069113, tel: 9363 5815; opening hours 9am to 5pm on Mondays to Fridays and 9am to 12 noon or Saturdays. Email insightsMC@gmail.com or visit www.insightsmindcentre.com.sg for further enquiries.

This article was originally published in SimplyHer January 2011.