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Notice Warning Signs – With Self Awareness

Rising Tension In Your Mind & Body

What are your warning signs?

In your relationship, if you find yourself getting into arguments – what do you notice?

Do you get ‘hot under the collar’?

Do you start pacing around?

And do you tend to ‘lean in’ to the argument / fight and you aren’t really sure why you do that?

Let’s explore what’s going on, and see if we can help you identify the early warning signs using self awareness to take a time out sooner, and self soothe.

warning signs heart rate
Self soothe - Hold your hands over your heart for two minutes. Lower your heart rate.

Addictive Patterns of Behaviour

Did you know arguments and tense situations can be addictive. This may contribute to you ‘leaning in’ to an argument. Rising tension floods your body with chemicals (like adrenaline & cortisol) and sends you into a heightened state.

Over time, with repeated exposure you can become excited and energised by this feeling. In fact I noticed this ‘energy and excitement’ first-hand in my response work when I worked in Child Protection Services. Emergency services personal, such as ambulance and paramedics, also experience this too, as they attend emergencies and ‘life or death’ situations.

It’s a high pressure environment, that can lead to burnout, exhaustion and even PTSD. It’s no surprise that people with these professions are often my clients in couples counselling. As the effects show up in their relationship.

The repeated pattern of behaviour in their jobs becomes ingrained too. So the brain will anticipate whats next and follow the well trodden paths on auto-pilot.

So if you have grown up with these heightened states around you, and been in ‘argumentative / or high energy’ environments, whether at work or at home, then you will likely need to do some work in this space, to break the pattern.

Breaking The Pattern

Self awareness is key. It’s all about recognising the warning signs early. Use the exercise below to get to know your warning signs so you can become more aware of them.

Also, be aware of your partners warning signs, so you can help them too. Which in turn helps you and your relationship.

Warning Sign Exercise

Take note of the following warning signs, and pick out the top ones that you experience. Think back to a recent argument where things boiled over, and see if you can picture the warning signs you experience.

You are probably pretty well versed in your partners warning signs / behaviour, so ask your partner to enlighten you on your ‘warning signs’.

Changes in Body Language

  • Slouching
  • Looking Down
  • Frowning
  • Fast Breathing
  • Fidgeting
  • Standing Up
  • Pacing
  • Sweating
  • Body pains
  • Mood shift
  • Focus change
  • Clenching
  • Irritated
women despair angry

Change in Voice & Language

  • Raising voice
  • Lowering voice
  • Change in tone
  • Negativity
  • Being short
  • Harsh words
  • Dismissive
  • Sarcastic
  • Attacking

Invalidating Your Partner

  • Twisting words
  • Twisting meaning
  • Refuting
  • Deflecting
  • ‘What about-ism’
  • Downplaying / Minimising
  • Negative override
  • Siding with others
  • Sarcastic

All or Nothing Language

  • “You always…”
  • “You never…”
all or nothing language

Bringing Up The Past

  • ‘Weaponsise’ past events
  • Character flaws
  • Evidence building
  • Manipulation

Damaging Language

  • Verbal abuse
  • Name calling
  • Put downs
  • Threats
  • Withholding
  • Provoking
women sly cunning

Changing the Cycle

Well done, you’ve circled or taken note of your warning signs. Now it’s time to change the cycle, so next time you can choose different. The easiest choice when noticing the signs is to take a time out.

Taking a time out before things get heated is the #1 strategy.

By choosing different you de-power the existing pattern in your mind. You take back control.

Celebrate and reward yourself / each other for taking a time out. This will strengthen the new neural pathways in your brain and help you ‘do it again’ in the future.

What to Say In the Moment

If you notice your warning signs, you can say for example…

“Hey, I can feel my heart rate rising, and feel like I will become flooded if I don’t take a time out right now.”

If you notice your partner’s warning signs you can say something to let them know what you notice… Go gently and be soft.

“Hey honey, I’m noticing you frowning a bit and starting to fidget, It appears this might be starting to upset you? How about we take a time out and cool down”…

If you’ve been through this exercise together, you’ll each know what you’re talking about. And the response from your partner is likely to be positive…

“Oh yeah, I am starting feeling tense…” Wow thanks for noticing that warning sign… Ok let’s take a time out.”


If this exercise was useful for you, definitely check out the new Be a Better Partner program. Be supported through change and become the best partner you can be.


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