20 Minutes of Anger or tips for not Hulking out

Recently I was at a talk where someone said emotions take 60 seconds to pass through the brain…while that might be true of some emotions, it is not true of all.  Take ANGER for example.  Oh yeah, that bad boy throws a fit.

How does anger respond in the brain?

The bad news…when we become angry, like really, really angry, think HULK angry, our cerebral cortex, or thinking part of the brain, is bypassed. The limbic system, or emotional center, is considered more primitive.  Okay, so to grasp this, Hulk center equals primitive thoughts, rational thoughts equals Dr. Banner.  Yes, I am a geek, but this works.  Back to the brain.

The data that we get from the outside world passes through our amygdala, where it decides whether to pass it on to Dr. Banner or the Hulk.  So basically, during the fight or flight event, the amygdala goes into action without thinking of the consequences as it doesn’t have to. This reactive incident has come to be known as an amygdala hijacking…or in geek terms, Hulking out.

What happens next?

During the Hulking out, or amygdala hijacking, the hormones flow freely.  A surge of energy follows preparing us for flight or flight…and of course, during a Hulk moment, what do you think you are going to choose?  Wellll, you don’t actually choose right then.  Unless you have your anger under serious control, during those moments, what the person says or does is not controlled by Dr. Banner…it is controlled by Hulk who smashes first, thinks later.  Unfortunately, the impact of these hormones that leads to anger can last several moments…or several days.  Yup DAYS.

According to research, on average, it can actually take 20 minutes for a person who has experienced an angry state of HULK to calm and move from functioning from the emotional area to the thinking area of the brain, thus turning back to Dr. Banner.

Hulk smash?  No.  Stay calm.

As a kid growing up in the 80’s, yes, you guessed it, I watched The Incredible Hulk.  Bill Bixby and the awesome Lou Ferrigno, who as a young girl, was scary to watch on T.V.  Ha.  My dad was frequently thought of in our house as the Hulk at times too.  He never ever remembered what he said when angry.  Yes, I still love my dad, but it needs to be referenced that I did grow up with someone frequently Hulking out around me.  My brother and I both can get angry fairly fast as well.  So how do you learn to stop the immediate rush of hormones?

Tips to tame the Hulk:

  1. Stop and breathe.  Just 3 short breaths and remember you are currently NOT in control of your thoughts…which means your mouth.
  2. Use a code word for your family which seriously tells them not to push your buttons right now.  I need a moment works as well.  Or “Go outside right now.  NOW”.  I need some air.  That might work for your kids.  If it is a spouse, move away from them and tell them that they need to leave you alone to process your anger for a while, and you can revisit this later.
  3. Get some exercise or yoga.  It is well-known that exercise increases serotonin and endorphins.  Why is this important?  Endorphins and serotonin are important chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are manufactured in your brain and affect your mood, energy levels and overall well-being. remember that burst of energy you are going to get up there ^^^ as the Hulk?  Use it here instead.
  4. Stick with “I feel…” statements during this time and let people know how something made you feel…not blaming, but stick strictly to feelings.
  5. Use humor to diffuse the situation if you can…quick tell me a joke.  This doesn’t always work, but it helps my teens.  They smile and then we try very hard to move past whatever it is.  If we give the anger somewhere to go, it has less control over our brain and we return to thinking faster.

A few other tips can be found in my grounding article, as that works well with people who are processing many emotions that might not even be theirs.  Check out Learning to control your highly sensitive emotions as well.  Sometimes we realize that we are reacting to emotions or even channeling other emotions around us thus bringing us to whatever level the other person is functioning at.  Take the time to remember you are not always in control, and use the tips here to get your Hulk state calmed down.


Motivational Monday…code of conduct

One of my biggest faults, or one of my biggest assets depending on how you look at it, is my inability to keep quiet when wrongs are being done.  Whether it would cost me my job or not, which by the way it never has, but I’m just saying it could, I have made it a point to share the things that go on behind the scenes.  Why do I do that?  Because quite simply it boils down to a code of conduct I think human beings should personally hold themselves accountable to whether or not anyone is looking. 

This includes e-mail messages, private messages, cyber-bullying, phone conversations, texts and the like.  Just because you can’t see someone, does not mean they don’t have feelings.  I honestly wish I didn’t have a hard time with people being nasty…maybe I could be like the see no evil monkeys and just sit there and pretend it doesn’t happen like so many people.  But you see, that’s why the world is in the mess we are in now.

As a teacher, the desire to teach tiny people social-emotional skills was very important to me.  We are losing our HUMANITY as sure as I sit here and type this.  Parents were not showing respect to teachers, principals and other school staff.  They were not showing respect to other parents, and they sure weren’t able to teach respect to their children.  This week alone I saw friends post about children doing horrible things out in public and the parents were…on their phones ignoring the children.  The children then acted out more, etc.

So adults have taken on a kind of behavior that was not seen 20 years ago.  They think they can say anything on Facebook, post anything on social media, and it is okay.  We need to bring back social skills to our children.  We need to teach interaction with other human beings and we also need to learn the word “NO”.  No, you can’t treat me that way.  No, you can’t act a fool in public.  No, you can’t come in here on the first day of school and kick your momma.  I am going to have something to say about that.  Just as you can’t “cuss” at folks.  So teachers, hold your ground.  Hold.  Your. Ground.  As you prepare for this year, do what you know is right.  It’s okay to take time to teach social skills.  It’s okay to say no, you can’t act that way in my room.  Period.  Maybe, just maybe, the tiny ones will go home and show some of these very fine social skills to their folks.

CriticizeHold. Your. Ground.


Motivational Monday…


So, tonight, I want you to listen to this first.  Really listen to it.  Clear your mind.  Then press play.

“Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. Oh! The places you’ll go!”   ~Dr. Seuss

This is actually dedicated to a tiny person I know who can, and will, do great things once she believes in herself.  Kid, you’ll move mountains.  I love you.

The fugitive…

Sadly, I am not referring to the movie or the TV series made in 1963.  I am referring to my own child, but let me back up and tell you from the beginning.  Monday is not generally a day that I love anyway unless it happens to be a snow day or a day off from work.  Today was difficult because of the time change and the fact that it was beautiful outside, and I wanted to be somewhere else.  All that aside, the last thing you want to hear when you go to pick up your children is “Can I talk to you a minute?”.  I really want to run screaming from the room saying you’ll have to catch me first; however, I restrain myself and paste my fake smile on as I answer “sureee”.

The sentence that came next was not one I want repeated ever again.  It was worse than being cussed out.  The after-care lady said my child was being mean to another student and she used the dreaded word “bully”.  I was furious and embarrassed as she told me another mom approached her and said my child was being mean to her child.  Okay.  Let’s take a deep breath.  I have been dealing with more than my fair share of third grade drama, so let’s look at the whole picture.  I asked her what happened exactly.  She really couldn’t say due to privacy issues.  Okay then.  Can you tell me how exactly my child was being mean?  No, the other mom just said she was.  WTH?  Calm thoughts.  Do I know this mom?  Aha.  The look in her eye.  I know this mom.  I finally figure out on my own, who the child is.  It is NOT someone from her class, but they are in the same before/after program.  Don’t worry readers, that other lady is still gone.

I pull my daughter over and we discuss what happened.  Someone was following her all around and would not leave her alone, so she asked them to stop.  It happened again and she told them she would not be their friend if they didn’t leave her alone.  Hmmm.  And THIS is why a mom used the word “bully”???  I mean, really??  I am caught between being mad at my child and being mad at the parent and after-care worker.  Maybe there is more to this story.  So I take the high road, and say I will speak to her about this and we will fix it.

I am so mad in the car I can’t even look at her.  I don’t even bother to ask her to explain again.  I call her father and say all sorts of things about how we didn’t raise a child to be this way and what happened to our sweet girl who put everyone first, and all manner of things I’m sure ummm, some other parents say.  The word restriction pops out of my mouth and perhaps the word spanking (which does not happen here), and things that will magically fix this.  She is in the back seat listening and yes, I knew that.  I was playing the ole’ scare tactics.

She goes quietly to her room without being told.  I gather the mail and a magazine has just arrived courtesy of my wonderful aunt.  I flip through it and something catches my eye.  How to handle name calling and the blame game.  I read them and calm down.  I ask both my girls to come to the table and tell me what happened.  It still doesn’t sound bad enough to use the word “bully”.  She just went through this and knows what it feels like.  Could she be using her feelings and projecting?  Nahhh.  That’s not her.  A bully is someone who habitually badgers or intimidates smaller or weaker people.  Leave me alone or I won’t be your friend.  Yes, that is mean.  I am not sure what third grader hasn’t said that before, but maybe there are a few who don’t use that phrase.  Does that mean every child who says that is a bully?  No.  We really do need to teach social emotional skills in children; however, we do NOT need to label everyone and everything.  Sometimes a kid is just a kid and they need to work things out on their own.  So I explained the choices she makes and the words she uses will have a lasting effect on her friendships.  I go up to her room again to check on her later and she is crying.  I feel like the worst mom in the world.  Even more so when I knock over a bag of clothes…with a flashlight and wallet inside.  Sigh.  Baby, please tell me what this is?  This isn’t packed for a trip to grandma’s is it?  Nope.

The runaway bag.  Poor thing.  I didn’t realize I was that terrible.  I feel so horrible.  I gather her up and tell her how much I love her and her little voice comes out of the covers and says “I didn’t think you did when you were talking to daddy.”  Poop.  You got me there.  Well, sweetie, mommy was very upset at what happened and I never once said I didn’t love you.  Sure I told daddy you might be on restrictions until someone tells me something good you have done at school, but that didn’t mean I don’t love you.  I will always love you no matter what.  All I have to say is please, pleaseeeeee don’t let me hear anything else about this again for the rest of the year.  I can’t take anymore drama.  And that my friends is how I avoided a tiny fugitive on the run from being accused of a crime that was far more serious than it really appeared at first.

If your kids are giving you a headache, follow the directions on the aspirin bottle, especially the part that says, “keep away from children.”
~Susan Savannah