What is emotional control?

Emotional Control

“The ability to manage emotions to achieve goals, complete tasks, or control and direct behavior.” Dawson & Guare.

The process to improve emotional control.

1. Awareness – what are the sensations in the body that alert me to an emotion.

2. Observe the emotion.

3. Develop the “Pause” – as you observe the emotion, pause, and engage in some activity to moderate your emotion.

4. Moderate the emotion – practice deep breathing, mindfulness, positive self-talk, exercise, visualization, and/or grounding activities (cold water on face, etc.).

These activities allow your frontal lobe to come “online” to evaluate the threat and respond rationally.

ADHD Emotional Regulation (6:03) Dr. Russell Barkley

ADHD Tips: Managing Emotional Self-Regulation (5:41) – Jeff Copper

Developing positive self-talk

 “Self-talk means giving yourself instructions, self-affirmations, or positive appraisals – saying things like “deep breaths!” Or “you can handle this,” or “don’t let him get to you,” or “wow, you kept your cool!””

 “Research shows that self-talk results in decreased activity in the amygdala and increased activity in the frontal lobes. Basically, self-talk helps you achieve emotional control both at a behavioral level and at a brain level.”

Quotes from: Dawson, P., Guare, R. (2016). The smart but scattered guide to success: How to use your brain’s executive skills to keep up, stay calm, and get organized at work and home. Guilford Press. New York, NY. pp. 139 -140.

The brain plays an important role in regulating emotions especially the limbic system and particularly the amygdala. The amygdala regulates fear and aggression and more generally anxiety. The amygdala responds to threats by either preparing to fight or flee. When operating in tandem with the frontal lobe the amygdala sends messages to alert the frontal lobe of danger and the frontal lobe responds rationally. When the emotional stimuli are intense the amygdala will override the frontal lobe and respond without reason. This fight flight response can be moderated by activities that engage the parasympathetic (rest and relax) system in the brain. Activities to engage the parasympathetic system allowing the prefrontal cortex to engage executive functions are deep breathing, mindfulness activities, positive self-talk, and visualization. Some people are more verbal than visual and vice-versa. Find the approach that works best for you.