How many times have you said, “He makes me so mad!” or “I can’t help it; that’s just how I am.” Often times, we are raised to believe we do not have as much control over our emotions as we actually do. We believe that someone else can “make us mad,” when in reality, no one can make you do or feel anything. When we are emotionally charged or become angry, we may yell at the other person or give them the silent treatment, and we think we “cannot help it,” because that is how we have always been. The reality is you might not know how to protect your peace and keep others from negatively affecting your inner peace. You have more control over your emotions than you might understand in this moment. Instead of reacting to a situation out of emotion, like anger or hurt, we can choose to respond out of logical thought and reasoning.

The late author, scholar, and activist, Maya Angelou, has been quoted as saying, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” How do we come to “know better” about our emotions so we can “do better”? We need to understand that our inner peace is related to things like boundaries with ourselves and others, as well as learning how to logically respond rather than impulsively react when we become emotionally charged. After we become emotionally charged, it takes approximately six seconds for that signal to go from our emotional part of the brain to the logical/reasoning part of the brain. If we can resist the urge to immediately REACT to someone who we feel has hurt us or angered us by engaging in the “Six Second Rule,” we can manage the emotions we are feeling with logical thought instead of raw emotion.

The “Six Second Rule to Emotional Regulation” is simple. When you become emotionally charged, be it hurt or anger (or any other strong emotion), take a slow, deep breath through your nose, and count to three. Hold for a moment. Then, exhale through your nose slowly, and again, count to at least three as you release your breath. You will still likely be angry or hurt. However, you will likely be more able to thoughtfully respond to the other person instead of emotionally react. You will find the more you practice the “Six Second Rule” every day (even when you are not upset), the easier it will become to tap into that healthy, coping mechanism when you need it. You CAN control your emotions more than you think. When you know how to maintain your composure better and not give your power away to anyone, you really can do better for yourself and protect your inner peace. You do not have to let your emotions control you. You can regulate your emotions by choosing to not allow someone to make you feel anything you do not want to. Might it be difficult to make that change in your brain? Yes, perhaps. However, change is never easy, but it is WORTH it!

About the Author: April Lipnitzky

April Lipnitzky began her career journey in higher education dedicating more than 17 years of her life serving the students and community members of Rock Valley College and Saint Anthony College of Nursing, in Rockford, Illinois. She realized her true passion was providing hope, being a listening ear, championing social justice, and connecting clients to critical resources. She decided to go back to school to become a licensed therapist. April brings a wealth of experience to FCS including working with young and middle-aged adults in college, providing emotional support and critical resources to older and aging adults and their families in hospice care, as well as aiding men and women experiencing and fleeing domestic violence.