Emotional Regulatory Compliance - January 2024

Emotional Regulatory Compliance - January 2024

My 6-year-old grandson had a major meltdown just because he forgot to bring home with him the bird feathers he found in our yard. I observed him dispassionately, thinking (with my ears covered), “I get it.” Sometimes I want to throw a fit too but as an adult, I can’t get away with it. We must learn how to manage emotions or they will manage us and that won’t end well.

I have a sense that emotional reactions are a little quicker to surface for many of us than 4 years ago. The toll of the pandemic has depleted some of our reserves of equilibrium that would allow us to give others the benefit of the doubt. The infiltration of social media and 24-hour news headlines into our activities of daily living keeps hot-button issues constantly in our faces. We can go from 0-60 in an emotional nano-second.

How do we rebuild a reserve and get back in the driver’s seat of regulating our emotional temperatures so that we can navigate with less cortisol flooding our systems?

PAUSE. Pause and reflect, “Why do I do things that I know will make me feel worse?” For example, if reading comments under social media posts pushes your emotional buttons but you can’t seem to help reading them, just try the PAUSE tips below before starting your scroll. It might go like this:

P PurposeWhat purpose does this action serve? Reading social media posts and comments might serve the purpose of procrastinating work I don’t feel like doing, or give me a feeling of being informed, or distract me from boredom. Becoming conscious of the purpose the action serves is a good first step to re-empowering your choices.

A Alternative. What is one (or more) alternative to what I am doing that might serve that same purpose?  Ground yourself in your 5 senses: notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in the present moment. Shut down electronics and make a list of the first three steps on that project. Read an interesting article you’ve set aside. WALK if you are able. Movement can help calm the central nervous system and as we move forward physically, we even out emotionally as well. 

U – Understanding.   Am I being unforgiving of myself or others?  If you get sucked into scrolling and are now wondering how others can be so ignorant, it’s a good clue to remember your compassion. Our right/wrong, us vs. them approach keeps us suffering. That suffering decreases when we look for where we are one with others. Think of someone on the “other side” and see if you can come up with at least one place where compassion and understanding remind you that you want the same things: to be safe, to live a good life, to feel right, etc.

S Support. Who might support me right now? So much emotional depletion stems from a lack of connection. If you hesitate to reach out to others for support, a “flip” to this support question is, “Who might be served by my support right now?” The benefits of offering our support to others are far greater than we realize. Bring someone their favorite coffee drink. Go out into the unit and share a funny story. Offer to help someone. These actions help us exit from internal drama.

E  EmotionWhat emotion am I actually experiencing right now? Too often we dismiss feelings because we can’t name them or believe we must justify them. Head and heart together likely make the soundest decisions. Feelings are as valid a source of data as intellect. Start by remembering that you do not have to prove your feelings in a court of law. They just are what they are, and they lose their power over you when you don’t try to shove them aside.


Make a list of your regular actions that provoke or address emotional responses and try the PAUSE method with them. And if all else fails, go ahead and have a meltdown. Just not in the middle of a workday or family dinner.


Jo Anne Preston In Jo Anne's current role as Organizational and Workforce Development Senior Manager at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC) her aim is to offer to leaders straightforward tools and inspire the courage to use them.
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