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Managing our emotions and staying in control

28 May 2024

We can often feel at the mercy of our emotions.  We know how dangerous it can be to act when we are pushed, but staying in control will help us keep a clear head and respond better.

Emotions and feelings are really two separate beasts, even though we tend to use the words interchangeably.  Emotions are chemical.  They are the biological reactions triggered by something that pushes our buttons.  Their ‘fire’ only lasts a few seconds, but this reaction sets off a spiral of mental associations based on our previous thoughts around whatever set things off in the first place.

These associated thoughts then weave into the feelings we experience – good, bad and everything in between.  It is the feelings that can scupper us and urge us into ‘dangerous’ responses.

When we are high on ‘red’ feelings, we are not thinking straight. We have all said and done things in the heat of the moment that we may we come to regret later.

Unfortunately, we can never take back the ripples such reactions create in others.

Smoothing things over is an option, but you are never really to know just how deep your words have gone.  By far the best option is to learn how to control your own emotions and feelings to give you the best chance of choosing a considered response. This also gives you more chance of letting your automatic monkey-brain step in do the thinking and reacting for you!  

Managing our emotions

As our emotions are triggered by things that bother us in some way,  it is best to know what these are, and as far as possible, to avoid them. Knowing our touch points may help us learn to keep those dangerous emotions in control.

  • Do certain people irritate the pants off you?  Why?
  • Is it how they speak to you – or how you interpret what they say?
  • Are there certain topics of conversation with particular colleagues that you know will get you going?
  • What is it about this ‘combo’ that triggers these reactions?
  • What situation do you foresee will give you palpitations?
  • A heavy unexpected workload?
  • A last-minute urgent project?
  • A change to your careful planning?
  • What is likely to rattle you and send you into hyperdrive – even if only for a moment or two?

Whilst you continue to ponder on your flashpoints, remember that it is not always possible to anticipate WHAT might tip us past our ‘sensible’ self.  All we can do is to know who, and what annoys us and ultimately, to avoid them (either the people or of the potential).

All these steps might stave off our own personal chain reaction, but another way to keep things in check is to create a Personal Reaction Plan. Here you mull through your responses to things before they happen.  Think of it like a personal agreement you make with yourself to:

  • Be more attentive of your responses
  • Notice the link between your thoughts and any negative reaction in your body
  • Alert you to how other people respond to YOUR behaviour
  • Take back control of your inner self talk when pushed

It is not easy to keep control when things get busy and there are unexpected issues to be dealt with.  We know pre-planning works and it is essential in our role as Exam Officers.

So why not practice a bit of pre-planning around your own emotions to help you keep things in check.  That way you can still be authentic, but more Mindful of the ripples that any unchecked reaction could lead to.  Outbursts are like Tumbleweed.  They can quickly gather and whip up a storm.

Staying in control will let your brain make wiser decisions and that has to be good for everyone.

But if things have got out of hand, remember YOU are not your emotions. You can put everything back in place and move through any situation with grace. It just needs a humble acceptance that we are all human. 

Outbursts happen. We care. Allow yourself some slack and make a decision to get a handle on your emotions. Be master of your own responses to life.

Go and seize the day.

Love and light,



I’ll be talking about ‘Creating an Exam Officer Reaction Plan’ at the NAEO Summer Conference in Leeds and bringing out my new exam stress management course for Students and Schools in September.

Can you help me reach your Pastoral or Well Being Leads by passing on the details I share at Conference?

I also run in-house Student Exam Resilience Workshops. Get details of my student workshops here .