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Calm Down!

Over the last few weeks, we have begun to explore Dr. Thomas Brown’s model of Executive Function. We spoke about activation, focus, and effort. Today we are going to explore Emotion and the effect of emotion on our ability to function.

Emotion, according to Dr. Brown, refers to managing frustration and modulating emotions.

In order to complete a task, a person must be emotionally regulated. When a person is frustrated, overwhelmed, angry, sad, super excited, or feels any strong emotion, it will be more difficult to complete a task. The other executive functions will be affected. It is hard to start a task or activate when you are awaiting a special guest. It is not easy to focus on something when you are feeling angry about something else. When you are sad, it is hard to put effort into much of anything. You can plug in any emotion and any executive function and you will find this to be true for yourself, unless you are one of those super disciplined people that don’t need to be reading this article.

I would like to explore some of the ways we can modulate or manage our emotions in order to function better. Each of us will have different tools that work for them in managing emotions and the topic is larger than this article, but let’s explore a few options that may help some people expend the emotional energy in order to get things done.

When you realize that you are worked up about something, first and foremost, recognize it. Tell yourself that you are getting worked up (or are already worked up) and it will keep you from being able to accomplish. Accept it for the moment.

The next step is going to be to choose to sit with the emotion for the time being or to deal with the emotion.

There are times when it is appropriate to just feel. Knowing that you won’t be productive is ok. Now is the time to feel the pain, joy, excitement, etc. An example of this would be when you get engaged to be married. You are supposed to float on cloud nine for a little while. A different example would be when a close family member receives a scary diagnosis. It is appropriate to be in a stuck place when that happens.

There are other times when you need to deal with the emotion so that you can move on. An example would be when you receive criticism from your boss that upset you greatly, and now more than ever, you must get your work done on time. So how do you “deal” with your emotions? Different people have different methods. Some people find a brisk walk, a jog, a swim, or any cardio activity helps them stabilize their mood. Others find journaling or writing a letter (that you will not ever send) to the person you are upset with helps calm them down. Deep breathing and meditation works well for some people. Music helps calm and restore equilibrium for some people.

It is up to you to test out different activities and see what works best for you. What have you found helpful to allow you to find your equilibrium? What happens when you can regulate your emotions?

Let me know what works for you!

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