Tree Talk: Regulating Big Emotions
What is happening in our brains and bodies when we experience big emotions?
Why is it important for us to regulate our big emotions?
What do we have within us and around us to help regulate our big emotions?
These were the essential questions we explored together as citizen leaders in our most recent Tree Talk.
We leveraged our Lead From Here framework and focused on how we can be resourceful in these moments when we are experiencing big emotions so we change our world in positive and productive ways.
Resourceful: Having the ability to translate strategy into action by negotiating the use of time, roles, and resources with individuals and groups, align resources to accomplish key objectives, and assign clear accountability for important objectives; the ability to integrate knowledge, perspectives and resources to create new outcomes
Resourceful with a Lower School lens: I wisely use all resources that are available. I use as many talents, skills, and ideas as I can find which will help meet a goal
We began by exploring what is happening in our brains and bodies when we experience big emotions so we could better understand the psychological and physiological components that occur.
We then discussed how we can be resourceful and regulate our big emotions by first recognizing and naming the emotions, and then using the tools and resources within us and around us to make positive choices. We used the Stop Light metaphor for self-regulation.
STOP & BREATHE
- Take a deep breath. (“Smell your soup, then cool it off”)
- What is the problem?
- What is everyone feeling?
- What does everyone need?
- What are my choices?
- What impact will my choice have on myself and others?
DECIDE & DO
- Be resourceful! Respond wisely!
- Reflect: What worked? What can I remember for next time?
To bring relevance to this discussion, we focused on why it is important to regulate our emotions and explored the impact for ourselves and others when we don’t regulate our emotions: things feel out of control and we don’t experience as much joy and success as we should. The opposite is true when we do recognize and regulate our emotions: we are able to make positive choices with how we want to respond.
Emotional self-regulation is defined as the process of influencing the way our own emotions are felt and expressed.
It’s important to think about how we are impacted by our emotions so we can be resourceful in how we regulate our emotions.
Some of our teachers role-played a scenario to illustrate this concept with a situation that our students could relate to here at school. It was called the “The Lunch Line.” You might be able to imagine what might happens when a student gets out of line because they forgot their lunch box and tries to reenter the line. Needless to say, some big emotions can occur, and our teachers modeled the difference between a nonregulated experience (raised voices, pushing, hurt feelings, and negative consequences) versus a regulated experience (deep breathing, patient voices, perspective taking, thoughtful dialogue, and positive impact).
Key takeaways from the role play included:
- How we manage our “big emotions” can have a lasting impact on ourselves and on others.
- When we DON’T self-regulate our emotions = negative impact
- When we DO self-regulate our emotions and choose an appropriate response = positive impact
Conflict and anger only have as much control and power over us as we give them. With practice, we can learn to recognize and experience big, uncomfortable emotions without reacting in negative ways. We need to take accountability for our negative reactions and work to use the resources we have to learn how to identify and express our own needs clearly.
As citizen leaders, we are called to work on regulating our emotions so our reactions don’t negatively impact ourselves or others.
Knowledge and Self-Awareness is POWER!
Knowing our emotional triggers can help us avoid the problems in the first place. Further, when we are self-aware of our thoughts and reactions, we can build our confidence in our own ability to cope. With practice, we can learn to take a step back and look at anger and conflict from a different lens and get a new perspective on it, which allows us to turn negatives into positives, and, each time, gain emotional fulfillment.
We introduced different strategies that can help to regulate our big emotions: mindfulness, physical outlets, and communication through verbal expression.
Our goal with these strategies is to learn how to respond wisely rather than to react blindly. We want to find healthy outlets to express our emotions.
Ms. Keefe introduced a verbal communication strategy called an I-Message:
The idea is students will express how they feel, what made them feel that way, and what they need to occur in order for them to move forward positively. We discussed the importance of sharing I-Messages for all our emotions — behaviors that bring us joy as well as uncomfortable emotions.
Mindfulness was introduced as the ability to know what’s happening in your head at any given moment without getting carried away by it. Mrs. Ripple shared a few quick tips to help us start incorporating mindfulness on a daily basis:
- Use the language of “I feel…” (angry, lonely, anxious, etc.) rather than “I am…” — this helps us remember to view our emotions as passing states; we are not our emotions!
- Remember: 90 seconds! — this is how long it takes for a big emotion to move through your body; remember; “This too shall pass.”
- Give yourself a hug — hugs can help us calm down and we need be kind to ourselves
- Remember to SMILE! — research shows that smiling, even if it forced, can reduce our stress and create more positive feelings
The better we are at understanding our emotions and viewing them as passing states, rather than perceiving them as our reality and getting overwhelmed by them, the easier it is to cope with our emotions in a healthy way.
Coach Meyers taught us some simple resources to use in the classroom when we notice our bodies feeling tight or restless: simple neck rolls (bending chin forward, backward, side to side) or standing to stretch our bodies can help us be resourceful in calming our bodies and self-regulating our emotions.
He also emphasized the importance of Leading with Joy through “Thinking Positive to Be Positive.” We all share the same basic needs and our actions (knowingly or unknowingly) are attempts to get those satisfied. When we learn how to think positive and assume the best in others, we naturally move toward greater understanding, compassion, and connection with the people in our lives.
Wondering how you can help as parents and family members?
Here are some resources to learn more about regulating your emotions:
- The Making of Emotion
- Why is mindfulness a super power?
- How to avoid negative impact of “uncomfortable emotions.”
- Getting a Grip on Your Emotions
Here are some APPS to help with regulating your emotions:
- Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame Street (PK-K)
- Settle Your Glitter (PK-5)
- Stop, Breathe, Think – Kids (PK-5)
And during this important work, don’t forget to Lead With Joy!