Character Chats

How do we bring our composure back under control?

Every month here at True Balance Karate, we have a word of the month. It’s called our True Character program. That’s our social and emotional learning program we do with our students.

This month’s word of the month is composure.

Composure means: calm brain, calm body. Or for our older kids: keeping calm, steady, and in control while under pressure.

Use your smart brain

Last time, we talked a little bit about using our smart brain inside of our lizard brain. When we get scared, nervous, or angry, our lizard brain takes over — the side of our head that says fight or flight, the amygdala.

We want to, many times, use our smart brain instead.

Not getting to eat what you wanted for dinner, Mom and Dad saying no for ice cream, etc. is not the same as a lion chasing you down the road.

Sure, if a lion is chasing you, you might want to scream and throw stuff and run away. But if Mom and Dad say no to ice cream, screaming and throwing stuff and running away is probably not going to work very well for you.

So let’s talk about things we can do when we do have these feelings bubble up.

Now remember, everybody gets feelings and emotions. It’s an important part of being a person. They’re actually there to help keep us safe and keep us aware of things. But sometimes they get so big on the inside that they take control.

We’re going to talk about a couple of things we can do if that starts to happen.

Take three deep breaths

Number one: take three deep breaths. Three deep breaths.

When you take a deep breath, put your hand on your belly and you make your belly big. Breathe in through your nose and make your belly big. I call it big, happy Buddha belly. Take a deep breath, make your belly big, and then let it out.

Taking three deep breaths can calm that lizard side of your brain and say, “Wait, wait. Now, if it was a lion trying to eat me, I wouldn’t have time to take three deep breaths. Maybe not passing this level on the video game is really not something to get upset about.”

Calming objects and pets

Another thing you can do is have something that calms you down. Do you have something that makes you feel better? Something like a special animal, a blankie, or something in your pocket.

For adults, we have things that make us feel better — things that we fidget with, things that we touch, special clothes that make us feel better.

You know what makes me feel better? My dogs.

For me, if I come over to my dogs and if the dog looks up at me and licks my face and has big stinky breath, and he lies all around his belly while I’m petting him, I forget all about what I was mad about before.

Sometimes I forget about too much, and I get in trouble with Master H. Like if I’m supposed to be doing the dishes and I’m petting the dog.

But if I’m feeling sad or mad or anxious or angry, my dogs really help me feel better. That’s my thing that gets me out of it.

Talking and hugs

You can also give yourself a hug — give yourself a big hug. That’s a way to do it, to calm yourself down when you’re angry.

You can talk to somebody you love. It’s good to talk through those emotions. Remember, it’s okay, everybody gets emotions. Everybody gets them. And everybody gets them where they feel like they’re so big you can’t control them. Talking to somebody about it can really make you feel a lot better.

You can ask for a hug. Just like when my dog licks my face, if somebody gives you a hug you can really feel a lot better about yourself. You can bring yourself back in, take yourself out of your lizard brain, put yourself back in your smart brain and start to think about those things that are making you upset instead of just letting them take over. It’s hard for your lizard brain to be active if somebody you love is giving you hug.

Slow down or get active

You can slow yourself down. Read your favorite book. Sometimes just sitting and calmly reading really can bring everything down. Definitely puts you out of that lizard brain and way in the smart brain.

Here’s one of my favorite things you can do when you get angry or upset: you can exercise.

There’s nothing better than hitting a bag when I get kind of angry and getting those nervous bugs out. Then you get done, and all those emotions — that adrenaline dump that the amygdala put into you — has a place to go and eases its way out. You get to calm down again and say, “Oh, okay. That wasn’t so bad. I’m not really in that much danger.”

Be prepared

So there are a lot of different things that you can do. You can engage. You want to find the things that are good for you. You don’t want to wait until you’re angry to figure out what can calm you down. You want to think about it now.

Have things around. This is my safe spot. This is my happy spot. This is the thing I hug. This is the person I talk to, and this is the exercise I do. This is the book I pick up and read. Have those things ready for you, and you can really help keep yourself under composure.

Remember, composure is about keeping your mind calm, keeping your body calm. We all have feelings and emotions. You’re going to have them all the time. When we hold our composure, we just don’t let them take us totally over. We keep that smart brain going.

That’s our word of the month for this week.

Thanks, and we will see everybody out on the mat.
– Master Helsdon