mobile-bannertablet-bannerdesktop-banner
businessman-jumping-city
Getty Images

Science Says These Two Techniques Will Keep You Cool Under Pressure

Mar 30, 2015
Ideas
Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Suppressing emotions can backfire:

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

Gross found that people who tried to suppress a negative emotional experience failed to do so. While they thought they looked fine outwardly, inwardly their limbic system was just as aroused as without suppression, and in some cases, even more aroused. Kevin Ochsner, at Columbia, repeated these findings using an fMRI. Trying not to feel something doesn’t work, and in some cases even backfires.

Two techniques that do work: labeling and reappraisal.

1) Labeling

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

To reduce arousal, you need to use just a few words to describe an emotion, and ideally use symbolic language, which means using indirect metaphors, metrics, and simplifications of your experience. This requires you to activate your prefrontal cortex, which reduces the arousal in the limbic system.Here’s the bottom line: describe an emotion in just a word or two, and it helps reduce the emotion. Open up a dialogue about an emotion, though, and you tend to increase it.

2) Reappraisal

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

In one of Ochsner’s reappraisal experiments, participants are shown a photo of people crying outside a church, which naturally makes participants feel sad. They are then asked to imagine the scene is a wedding, that people are crying tears of joy. At the moment that participants change their appraisal of the event, their emotional response changes, and Ochsner is there to capture what is going on in their brain using an fMRI. As Ochsner explains, “Our emotional responses ultimately flow out of our appraisals of the world, and if we can shift those appraisals, we shift our emotional responses.”

It pays to look at the bright side.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

Optimists may be people who have embedded an automatic positive reappraisal to life’s knocks. Optimists dampen their over-arousal before it kicks in, always looking at the bright side before a nagging doubt takes over.

By using reappraisal you can turn anxiety into excitement.

Join over 161,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

The 8 Things The Happiest People Do Every Day

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

5 Horrible Habits You Need to Stop Right Now

171101767
Do Not Email First Thing in the Morning or Last Thing at Night “The former scrambles your priorities and all your plans for the day and the latter just gives you insomnia,” says Ferriss, who insists “email can wait until 10am” or after you check off at least one substantive to-do list item.Chris Pecoraro—Getty Images
171101767
457982853
83585061
184060520
144869265
Do Not Email First Thing in the Morning or Last Thing at Night “The former scrambles your priorities and all your plans
... VIEW MORE

Chris Pecoraro—Getty Images
1 of 5

Ideas
TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.
All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.