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Women's Health

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Are You Too Sensitive?

Find the Nearest Exit

When a comment stings you, breathe deeply several times, and then figure out a way to excuse yourself from the conversation (even if that means you have to make something up). Aron says this works because it incorporates the two main principles of anger management: Focusing on your breath distracts you from the initial surge of temper that follows a barb, and leaving the situation gives you time to form an appropriate response. "Most of us make poor word choices when our pulse goes above 100," says Aron. She's a big believer in the 24-hour rule — waiting a full day before responding, if at all. "In some cases, especially at work, revealing that a remark makes you feel defensive can really hurt you, by making you seem insecure."

Look Who's Talking

Suppose a colleague implies that you're careless to let your 20-year-old daughter go on a road trip with her friends. Before you take the remark to heart, consider the source. How much does this person actually know about raising kids? How well does she know you or your daughter? Is she an over-parenter? "Then run the comment by someone who really knows what kind of a mother you are," says Aron. "Maybe your critic has a point, and you're reacting defensively because you agree with her. Or maybe she just doesn't have a clue."

Just This Once, Don't Call a Friend

Researchers from the University of Missouri at Columbia tracked children and adolescents who shared their hurt feelings with friends, and came to a startling conclusion: The girls who "co-ruminated" the most had more supportive friendships, but also greater levels of anxiety and depression. "Excessive focus on problems probably makes them seem even bigger and harder to resolve," says Amanda Rose, Ph.D., the lead author. "And it likely gets in the way of finding positive, healthy distractions," such as reading a good book or going for a walk.

Check Your Ego

Supersensitivity is sometimes the result of "it's all about me" syndrome. I confess, this is sometimes my issue. When my neighbor doesn't wave back, I automatically start a mental checklist: Did my dogs get loose recently? Have my kids been blasting music? My close pals rib me about this. "Get over yourself, Sarah," they'll say. "Everything can't be your fault." Maybe my neighbor is simply lost in thought.

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