Emotional Reactivity and Brain Training

08 Dec

We have all been in situations where we are overcome with emotion, which makes it hard not to act impulsively.  Do you recognize any of these scenarios?

  • You get home from a long day, and your family's "quirks" which you usually laugh off or hardly notice, make you see red.
  • Perhaps after a poor night's sleep, a situation that you have encountered before at work will suddenly seem impossibly hard to handle, and determining priorities becomes difficult.  
  • Or maybe, you watch your child sit in front of their homework and melt down when something goes wrong.  

When we feel scared, hurt or angry, it isn't unusual to overreact

When we feel scared, hurt or angry, it isn't unusual to overreact.  Whether the source is physical or emotional exhaustion, long term stress or learning difference, a strong sense that you are overwhelmed leads us to react in an outsize way.  

Here are 4 things you can do to reduce your emotional reactivity:

1. Recognize your triggersthese are the people, places and situations that cause us to feel unwanted emotions like intense anger and shame.  While it's difficult to recognize a trigger when you are "in it", taking time when you are in a less reactive space to think about what triggers you, and writing it down could be very helpful.

2. Ground yourself: taking deep breaths, even just a few, can slow your reactivity down long enough to choose a different response.  For a longer article on an effective deep breathing technique, visit Very Well Mind's blog post.

3. Get Support: Overreactivity is a tough response to change because the shift in states is very fast, and often, you or a family member has acted out before they even consciously recognize what's happening.  Working with a qualified therapist can be incredibly helpful to help.  Contact us for a referral or visit Psychology Today's find a therapist page.  You or your family member shouldn't have to tackle this alone.

4. Consider Neurofeedback:  NeurOptimal neurofeedback is a globalized brain training program, and it is hard for us to make any predictions about how an individual's brain will react to training.  But one of the most commonly reported shifts our clients report is a reduction in reactivity.  

We talk a lot to our clients about why that might be; It has a lot to do with what NeurOptimal trains the brain to do.  While you listen to music, the program is "listening" to your global brain activity.  Its sophisticated algorithm "notices" when your brain is going to shift its state and it gives your central nervous system a light prompt, in the form of a skip to the music, that this is about to happen.  The "skip" isn't meant to stop your CNS from shifting, it's just information that this is what will take place.  Over time, the brain begins to recognize that it will be shifting states, and it gets a moment to decide.  The brain gets a chance to consider "is this what I want to do, or is there something else I can do" .  In many clients, this translates to a new-found ability to pause before reacting to a difficult situation, or a reduction in reactivity.

Everyone should learn their triggers, utilize breathing techniques and get support when they need it.  And at Peak Training Center, we also think that investing in training your brain is an excellent way to reduce emotional reactivity.

BONUS: Interested in taking a quiz to determine your reactivity?  The University of Central Florida has a website with many quizzes available including an emotional reactivity quiz.

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