In September, we welcomed the research team from University of Western Australia (UWA) School of Psychology to talk to our Reconnections WA Group about Emotional Regulation after an ABI.
UWA is running a research project called ABI Recover: Emotional Regulatory groups for people with an ABI (acquired within the past 2 years). We thank the UWA team for their notes, research and strategies below.
Emotional regulation is the degree to which we can influence when and how we experience and express our emotions. An ABI can cause damage to emotion brain areas and networks and disrupt emotion processes.
How can we improve emotional regulation?
This is tied to re-training our limbic system (the part of the brain that is involved in our behavioural and emotional responses ) to reduce physiological symptoms and changing the way we pay attention to, think about and react to situations and thoughts.
PAUSE is one strategy to try when you feel overwhelmed.
Picture yourself pressing the PAUSE button. Pause right there, do not continue. Once you have worked this out at a theoretical level, try to practice this, first with mild scenarios.
- P = Postpone (e.g., let’s talk about this later on”)
- A = Alternative behaviours/responses (e.g., time out, talks, breathing, etc.). These alternative behaviours need to be identified well before the problematic reactions. Particularly when you are calm. They need to be realistic and make sense to you (plan this ahead of time)
- U = Useful response (has this response been useful in the past?)
- S = Suspend (action, thoughts).
- E = Emotion (is this primary or secondary?). Remember that psychological problems tend to be associated with secondary emotions. If you can identify your primary emotion(s), validate your feelings – you are entitled to feel angry, disappointed, hurt if those are your primary.
This study is part of the ER ABI program running at the Robin Winkler Clinic at UWA, who are still looking for participants with ABI to join the research project. Email firstname.lastname@example.org (‘ER ABI Group’ in the subject line) or call 6488 2644. *Eligible participants must be between 18-70yrs and within 24 months of injury. There will be no cost for participation in this group. However, an initial assessment and interview will be required to check that the program is right for you.