Controlling Your Emotions Instead of Letting Them Control You
Have you ever noticed that during an intense argument you can’t seem to think of anything to say, but 20 minutes later you come up with the world’s greatest comebacks? Have you ever thought of why this is? Is it just because you’ve had more time to think about a good response? Or the fact that your head is more clear? The answer is actually both.
We have talked a little about the brain in previous blogs, but let me remind you a little bit about what happens in your brain during intense emotions. The two parts of the brain we are going to talk about are the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system. Our prefrontal cortex is our control center. It’s where we reason, make decisions, and think. When things are going well, the prefrontal cortex of our brain acts as a control center that keeps emotions and impulses in check. The limbic system is where emotions happen. It is also the addiction center of the brain. New research shows that acute, uncontrollable stress sets off a series of chemical events that weaken the prefrontal cortex while strengthening the limbic system. As the limbic system takes over we may find ourselves consumed by paralyzing anxiety or subject to impulses: indulgence or restricting of food, drinking or drugs, or a spending spree.
So during that intense argument you were having your high emotions weakened your thinking brain and increased your emotional brain. When you calmed down your emotional brain, your prefrontal cortex was able to perform it’s thinking role and that is when you came up with the comebacks that would have won any argument.
Obviously, there are much worse scenarios than an intense argument where uncontrollable emotion can get you into real trouble. For example, high anxiety can stop you from leaving the house or even your bed. Intense depression can cause you to self harm or kill yourself. High euphoria can cause you to think you are invincible and you may participate in risky behaviors. If you try and make decisions during intense emotion, you will not make good decisions. It’s just how we are wired.
So what do you do to keep emotions from controlling you? The answer is “control them”. Whenever you feel an emotion rising to potential dangerous levels, you need to calm your body down. It’s easier to do this before the emotion gets out of control, so be aware of rising emotions in yourself. This will take practice, but as you come more in tune to your body it can become almost second nature.
There are many ways that you can calm yourself down. Some things may work, others may not. You will need to find something that works on you. The first way I want to discuss is meditation. Now, most of us don’t have time to do a full 30 minute meditation session when our emotions are rising. What we have is a moment. Here is a video that will show you how to meditate in a moment. One-moment meditation.
Another thing you can do is to distract your mind. You can do this in numerous ways: drawing, exercising, writing, dancing, listening to music, singing, reading, etc. Do something to try and help calm your mind.
Another way is to get up and get out of your environment. Even though your environment may not be the thing causing your distress, sometimes just moving around and putting yourself in different settings will help your mind calm down. If your environment is causing your distress then getting out of the situation will definitely help.
To make these strategies effective you need to find out a strategy that will work for and then plan on using that strategy. Remember in the moment you may not have time or mental capacity to choose one, so choosing a couple ahead of time will give you a better chance of actually calming down your mind.
Remember that you are in control. You don’t have to let emotions control your life. Have a great week!