As adults we all know that sometimes our emotions get the better of us, and hopefully we’ve figured out along the way how to better control ourselves so that our lives are far less chaotic. Young people don’t always know that there are ways that they can better manage the insane amount of emotions that they feel in any given situation.  Dr. Susan Krauss Whitmore aims to help us to better train our brains to prepare us by guiding us through emotionally charged moments.  She breaks it down into five simple strategies and sharing these with your students would definitely teach them something invaluable for life. It seems that preparing ourselves for what’s ahead – that long drive, a test, the intense game, etc. can help nip our emotions in their proverbial bud.

  • Select the situation. Avoid circumstances that trigger unwanted emotions.  So, plan to leave the house 10 minutes earlier if you know that you always get annoyed and eventually angry when driving in a hurry.

  • Modify the situation. Perhaps the emotion you’re trying to reduce is disappointment. So, when a child knows that his mother is very busy with work, he may be prepared when she doesn’t show up at home to help him with his assignment before bedtime. Instead, he would realize the truth and ask his father or sibling for help.

  • Shift your attentional focus. A teenage girl knows that when she’s in gym class she always compares herself to other girls and feels inferior to them but she just can’t help herself from staring and feeling crappy about herself. But, in realizing that we are all good at something and not at everything then she can shift her thinking to the things she is good at and consciously stop herself from staring and thinking self-deprecating thoughts. Instead she focuses on her own strengths and how full her life is when she really thinks about it.

  • Change your thoughts. At the core of our deepest emotions are the beliefs that drive them. You feel sad when you believe to have lost something, anger when you decide that an important goal is thwarted, and happy anticipation when you believe something good is coming your way. By changing your thoughts you may not be able to change the situation but you can at least change the way you believe the situation is affecting you. In cognitive reappraisal, you replace the thoughts that lead to unhappiness with thoughts that lead instead to joy or at least contentment. People with social anxiety disorder may believe that they’ll make fools of themselves in front of others for their social gaffes.  They can be helped to relax by interventions that help them recognize that people don’t judge them as harshly as they believe.

  • Change your response. If all else fails, and you can’t avoid, modify, shift your focus, or change your thoughts, and that emotion comes pouring out, the final step in emotion regulation is to get control of your response. Your heart may be beating out a steady drumroll of unpleasant sensations when you’re made to be anxious or angry. Take deep breaths and perhaps close your eyes in order to calm yourself down.

This 5-step approach is one that you can readily adapt to the most characteristic situations that cause you trouble. Knowing your emotional triggers can help you avoid the problems in the first place. Being able to alter your thoughts and reactions will build your confidence in your own ability to cope. With practice, you’ll be able to turn negatives into positives, and, each time, gain emotional fulfillment.

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Hello, I'm Jodi!

I offer individual and group coaching to help youth & adults manage their anxiety and mental health with ease.

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