A few days ago, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced that the state’s stay-at-home order will end on April 30, providing the opportunity for many non-essential businesses to re-open on May 1. Some businesses are being allowed to open as early as next Monday. As expected, this has created a variety of emotional reactions for the public.
Some folk are excited, some terrified. Some folk agree with the decision, some disagree. There are risks to either decision. Regardless, we are going to have to live with our own emotional reaction, as well as the reaction of others. So here is a little bit of information to help you do your best.
Emotions are the expressions and manifestations of perceived threats (whether real or fantasy) and unmet needs (largely genetic and learned) that our brains process to keep us alive. The brain says, “Hey…if that happens, you’re going to die! Fix it!” Or it says, “Hey…if you don’t get that need met, you’re going to die! Fix it!”
So our brains use our emotions to tell our bodies to do something to fix it. So until our brain is told everything is ok, it stays in an emotional state. Until that emotion is regulated, processed, validated, and/or balanced, it stays put. For more detailed information, read here.
More importantly, your brain CAN NOT process both logic and emotion at the same time. That’s trouble. So if you don’t address the brain’s perceived threat or unmet need, you CAN NOT think rationally. Ahhh…that makes sense.
And you wonder why there is so much irrational thinking?
So how do you regulate emotions? In therapy, we teach coping skills, grounding techniques, restructuring triggers, among many other tools and techniques.
WHAT DO WE DO?
In the midst of the anxiety, prepare yourself for any emotion that may surface. Ask yourself, “What is the threat my brain perceives?” Then ask yourself, “What do I need?”
Then work to regulate, restructure, or resolve the emotion. If you are feeling the emotion of someone else, ask those questions of the other person. Also ask, “What am I doing or saying that is creating a threat or unmet need for that person’s brain? What can I do to change my words or behavior?”
- Remember, these tasks are driven by the prefrontal cortex where love, understanding, compassion, hope, and creativity live. Also, feelings of safety and security.
- Emotions come from the limbic system where fear, anger, hatred, and chaos live.
Practicing the coping skills when you are not in an emotional state can enzymatically change your brain so you can regulate emotions more effectively when faced with threat or unmet need, leading you to rational thinking more quickly. It’s called neuroplasticity. You can change and rewire your brain and live more peacefully no matter what is happening in the world around you. Then…maybe then…you can help the world be more peaceful for others.
Best of luck to you all!