101 ADD Strategies: #85, #86 – Regulating Emotions

Emotions are all good. What we feel tells us a lot about who we are and what we need. Negative emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, shame, jealousy, frustration, and anxiety, can point to situations in our life that need to be changed and basic human needs that are not being filled. It’s what we do about those emotions that can be good or bad.

If we recognize the emotion, acknowledge its source and deal with it in a positive way, it will have served its purpose and will naturally dissipate on its own. The problems come when we let an emotion run away with us. We don’t deal with the emotion, it deals with us. It builds instead of subsides, and it slides into the driver’s seat and controls our decisions and our behavior.

People with ADD have a tendency to do the latter. They often fail to recognize an emotion and identify its source. As a result the emotion remains and even intensifies, and drives them to act in ways that are not in their best interest. People with ADD are even more likely to hold onto an emotion for hours, sometimes days. The effects of those run away emotions can last for years, decades or even a life time.

The following strategies may help you to take control of your emotions instead of letting them take control of you.

#85 Distract Yourself

Sometimes an intense emotion just needs time to come back down to a reasonable and manageable level. Sometimes counting to ten just isn’t enough. Ten seconds may not allow enough time for your emotions to dissipate. It may also not be enough of a distraction to do any good at all. Sometimes counting only gives you more time to come to a complete boil. What is needed instead is a better distraction.

Instead of counting to ten, try counting to one hundred by sevens, or count to one thousand in binary: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64… Even better, do something that invokes a conflicting emotion. If you are angry, try to name all of the hero dogs you have seen in movies: Balto, Benji, Bolt, Lassie, Old Yeller… If you are embarrassed, try to list all the mild mannered people who were really super heroes: Clark Kent was Superman, Peter Parker was Spiderman, Bruce Wayne was Batman…

Once you feel the emotion start to diminish, you will find yourself in a state of mind to deal with the situation with thought and reason. You will thank yourself later for providing the distraction.

#86 Find the Positive

This strategy is an old trick but it still works. Almost everyone has heard the phrase “Look on the bright side.” People who make a habit of looking on the bright side are sometimes referred to as Pollyanna’s, after a movie with that name. In the movie a young girl changed an entire town by getting people to play “The Glad Game” instead of dwelling on the negative.

The fact is we very often don’t see the positive side of a situation is somewhere down the road. It may take a day or even years. During that time we can make ourselves downright miserable. Our miserable attitude can then delay the positive side of the situation from taking place.

For example, if someone breaks up with you, the longer you sit around and mope, the longer it will take you to meet the person you are really supposed to be with. If you stay discouraged about losing your job, you may delay finding the job you were born to do. So getting dumped allows you to pursue the person of your dreams and losing your job allows you to find your dream job.

Playing “The Glad Game” doesn’t mean that you ignore your feelings. You need to feel sad when you get dumped and discouraged when you lose your job. Like all emotions those serve a purpose. It just means that you move on and focus on the possible positive outcome of any given situation.

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