It’s Time to Start Regulating Your Emotions!


It’s Time to Start Regulating Your Emotions!

by Melody Johnson, Ninja Pediatric Specialist

The key to emotional regulation is to protect yourself by strengthening your ability to handle stress and to train your brain by teaching its weaker but more sophisticated conscious regions (prefrontal cortex) how to outsmart the stronger but more primitive unconscious parts (limbic region).

Here are your exercises:

1. Start with protecting yourself. If you have not modified your diet, exercise, and sleeping patterns, then now is the time to do so! Even if you’ve had a health plan, to grow, so must your strategies.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Get more rest. Although it doesn’t take a genius to recognize that sufficient sleep has a restorative effect on your brain, it also plays a key role in your emotional regulation. You should sleep for no less than 7 hours per day. You should also make time for a ‘power nap’ on days where you feel like your stress is starting to rise.

  • Get moving. Exercise triggers dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. (If you work out with a partner or take a group class, then you can add oxytocin to that list.) These neurotransmitters are important for your emotional regulation. You need to work out at least 4 days per week, even if that workout is taking a 30-minute brisk walk. If you already have an exercise plan, then add an hour to your current weekly plan.

  • Eat better. Remarkable mental fitness comes from better nutrition. If you don’t have a healthy eating plan, then set one up this week. If you already have a plan, then try to get rid of at least additional 1 bad food or beverage from your weekly consumption habits, or add 1 additional nutritional item to your weekly consumption habits.

2. Execute a gratitude game plan. Starting today, and for the next 7 days, write down three to five things you are grateful for each night.

This should include sources outside yourself. Place an emphasis on people or things in your world that have made your life better, more fortunate, or more meaningful. This exercise will trigger dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins before you rest for the day, which will help you sleep better.


3. Use Cognitive Jujitsu. Taken from the book ‘The Leading Brain,’ when confronted with a stronger opponent, find a way to neutralize that opponent’s strengths or use it against him.

For example, if you try to counteract stress by fighting it directly, you will fail. This includes both yelling back at others when they make you mad, as well as suppressing stress so you don’t publicly ‘lose it.’ With that said, the two best techniques for emotional regulation are labeling and reappraisal.

  • Instead of suppressing stress, label it. If you are nervous or anxious about something, write it down. The simple act of writing it down no longer gives it power by hijacking your mind. If someone made you angry, label what made you angry and why it made you angry. The label will help you process it better and come to a more emotionally regulated solution.

  • Reappraise things in a more positive or productive light. If you see a situation as a threat, then the primitive part of your brain will take over, leaving you powerless to emotional regulation. Instead, take control by looking at things as challenges to help you improve. For example, instead of skipping your workout because you are stressed for time, look at your workout as a crucial component to get everything done in a timely fashion. The chemicals alone will give you more clarity, focus, and energy.

The goal is for you to execute all the exercises this week. It’s a lot to accomplish, but once you build momentum you will feel a strong sense of accomplishment and have the emotional strength to power through.


Adam Spicar
Chief Instructor

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