As we start Term 4 a notoriously stressful and busy time, it is important that we approach the coming weeks with the right mindset. The mixing of end of year events with exams and study can lead to a range of emotions. Being able to identify when our emotions are having a negative effect is key to managing our behaviours and keeping on track.
Thinking and handling of emotions is influenced by two competing parts of the brain, the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is part of our limbic system and often referred to as part of the primitive brain, the unconscious part which generates and modulates emotions. It is well developed in students and causes the fight or flight reactions, depending on the intensity of the positive or negative emotions produced. The amygdala causes our ‘instinctive’ response to external stimulus.
The prefrontal cortex is the conscious rational part which controls the intensity of our emotions to make better decisions. It is not fully developed till we reach our early twenties, meaning children and adolescent responses to what they experience may vary considerably. When the amygdala is in charge of feelings, good decision-making is difficult; often called emotional hijacking. The key is to raise self-awareness of this occurring, to enable a better self-regulation of emotional responses.
Our brains have evolved to recognise and respond to patterns. This can be used to develop strategies to help regulate our emotional response. The following are some sample techniques that can be employed:
practise colouring-in using repetition, patterns and control
initiate discussions about positive, negative, mixed and hidden emotions and their intensity
help create their own positive coping and self-calming strategies to reduce emotional intensity
learn how to use assertive and positive self-talk to combat hijacking
do Mindfulness Activities to reconnect with themselves and the moment.
Deputy Principal (Students)