Staying in control and keeping cool
When we lose control - get angry, anxious or upset - we stop focusing on what matters and put our energy into emotions and situations that aren’t going to help.
This how to guide can help you to find some simple ways to keep calm when you start to feel angry or sad.
Work out what’s going on
When something makes you feel angry or upset, take some time to think about what happened. Why did you feel that way? What could you do differently next time? Using your journal or a notebook is a good way to explore difficult situations. Think about real situations and make notes about what happened.
If you’re stuck, ask other people what they try to do when they feel they are losing it. This is a good way to gather fresh ideas.
Know the warning signs
We all know what it feels like to be angry or sad. It even affects our bodies. Do any of these sound familiar?
• Heart beats faster.• Skin gets hot.• Tears.• Shaking.• Breathing faster.• Not able to speak.• Want to shout.• Not able to move.• Want to hit something.
That’s because when emotions get the better of us, our brains tell our bodies to get ready for trouble. It sends messages such as:
- Get ready to fight!
- Get ready to run!
- Get ready to hide!
The part of our brain that does this is called the amygdala. It takes over from the parts of our brain that are better at talking, being kind and seeing things from another person’s point of view. So it’s no surprise that our body becomes tense, we shout and want to lash out or that we just freeze or panic.
Make your move
Use some simple tricks to take control
When we start to feel like this, we can help our brains - and our bodies - to do the right thing and calm down. Try some of these things to stay cool:
• Take deep breaths.• Close your eyes.• Count from one to 10 before doing or saying anything.• Go for a walk.• Stretch your arms.• Listen to happy music.• Do some exercise.• Concentrate on tensing one muscle at a time then letting it go.
You could think of these as tricks to do to keep calm. As an example, in parkour there are words to describe certain tricks, such as ‘cat leap’, ‘vault’ and ‘flip’. Why not pick a word to describe the move you will use to help you calm down, such as ‘calm’, ‘relax’ or ‘wait’? Pick a word that you feel is positive and easy to remember. Say this word to yourself when you start feeling angry; this will remind you that you need to make your move and stay in control of your emotions.
Allow time and space to change
The things we can do to calm down are straightforward. Remembering to do them can be a challenge, especially when our brain is telling us: Fight! Run! Hide! Freeze!
If you forget or get caught up in the heat of the moment, don’t worry. Remember the key to bouncing back: don’t give up!
Use your journal or a notebook to keep track of the times when you lose your cool. Think about ways you could try to help yourself out next time.
Here’s an example: You want to read quietly, but your little sister is in your room making a load of noise. You get angry with her and then you get in trouble for shouting.
Next time, take a breath or two. Count to 10. Think about who can help you with this situation. You could talk to your parent or carer and ask them to explain to your sister what you’re trying to do and why it’s important. Your little sister could even join in with you – you could read to her or she could read her own book.
Keep trying, keep learning
What happens if things don’t work and we still feel angry? You need to try out different things and keep trying! The more we try these techniques, the more effective they’ll be. But also, remember, different situations require different responses.
Here’s an example: You’re in a lesson when things start to heat up. You can’t go for a walk or listen to happy music now! So try the tricks of taking deep breaths, tensing your hands and slowly releasing them again or saying your calm down word in your head. Nobody can see you doing these tricks. Have these moves ready for when you need to be calm but subtle.