Executive Function 101: Emotional Control 4 Women with ADHD

In this part of the series on executive functioning skills I am going to focus on the EF skill of emotional control for women with ADHD

What does “emotional control” mean?

 Emotional control is the ability to manage and control your emotions so you are able to complete a task or achieve a goal. In other words, it is the ability to stay calm when you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious or being able to bounce back from a setback without letting your emotions take over. Women with ADHD who struggle with emotional control are commonly negative, worry, fear, resentment, and sadness. Regardless of the feeling emotional control helps keep them in check. 

Why is keeping emotional control in check important? 

There are some pretty obvious reasons why maintaining control over your emotions is an important skill.. The inability to handle negative or stressful emotions may cause you to become ineffective at home or work. When you are in an emotional crisis, your brain can focus on little else, especially tasks that require you to focus on and remember important details. You are unable to be flexible or innovative in your thinking when your brain has been hijacked by negative emotions. If this is a regular occurrence, it will prevent you from completing your tasks and ultimately stop you from achieving your goals.

How can you improve your emotional control?

Identify your triggers. Try to determine your triggers that set you off and test your emotional control. This can be challenging, but knowing yourself will allow you to analyze what to do in different situations. For example, if you know your best friend complaining about trivial problems gets you upset, then you can approach the situation with an open mind and prepare yourself for the interaction next time.

Avoid your triggers. Once you have identified your triggers, avoid the ones you can. A careful note on avoidance, though: Ignoring a problem will not make it disappear. This strategy should only be used for small triggers, like rude service at a restaurant where you like to eat. This trigger is easy to avoid and will not cost you anything in terms of emotional health. You simply don’t have to eat there anymore. With more important triggers, like family, friends, or classes, avoidance will not be the answer.

Put your cell phone down. For myself I often respond to texts, calls, and emails too quickly. Take time to read (or listen to) messages and consider a response, especially when dealing with important matters that require professionalism. If you leave emotions out and rely on facts and logic, your requests are much more likely to be granted, or at least considered.

Buy yourself time. If you’re in a situation that tests your emotional control, find a way to buy yourself some time and take a break. You might have to physically walk away or just take a mental pause. A note on this, though: If you need to leave the room, do not just get up and go. This can come across as rude! If you need some time, it’s important to communicate that to the people you are with. Try asking them to table the conversation until tomorrow, or explain that you would like a break to think things over.

Reason with yourself. Sometimes you can talk yourself out of an emotional crisis. This takes practice and the awareness that you are losing emotional control in the first place. Once you recognize what is happening, tell yourself all of the reasons that a strong reaction will not help. For example, if you are in a car accident, it is easy to quickly lose emotional control. However, that would also make it difficult to communicate with the other driver, the police officer, and your insurance company. Just remind yourself that, even though it is a bad event, these things happen and there are plenty of people who are there to help (including the police and insurance representatives).

Look for the positives. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Look on the bright side.” It came to be for a reason—it actually works! When in an emotional crisis, force (and train) yourself to search for positive points or alternative points of view. So when you don’t get that extension you wanted, realize that since you now have to stay in tonight, it will save you some money! Plus, you learned that you need to improve your time management instead of waiting until the last minute to work on assignments. Looking for the positives can really alter your perspective and help you quickly move through an emotional crisis.

Meditate. Meditation and mindfulness are effective ways to calm yourself down in an emotional crisis. Meditation requires you to be still, take deep breaths, and focus on something simple, like each breath or your pulse. By doing this, you will physically lower your heart rate and be better able to address the issue at hand.

Find social support. If you struggle to reason with yourself or can’t find the positives, an outside perspective can be extremely helpful. Like I said earlier, everyone has feelings and everyone deals with losing emotional control at some point. It’s normal. That said, if it becomes a pattern and you find yourself struggling to regain control, you may want to seek out social support. This can involve talking to your friends, family, or a counselor. Since we all go through this at some point, outsiders may have some great points or advice to share with you.

There is no one “right” way to deal with stress and handle your emotions. The general rule here is to find a strategy that lessens the strength of your emotions in the moment and helps you move forward while maintaining positive relationships. Your life goal should be to have the positives outweigh the negatives in your daily experiences.