Developing Emotional Self-Control for Online Students

At any given moment it is possible to experience a wide range of feelings, such as anticipation, fear, excitement, dread, or happiness. The resulting emotions have an ability to uplift us or bring us down. What we feel often determines how we react and then take action. In an academic environment there is an expectation…

At any given moment it is possible to experience a wide range of feelings, such as anticipation, fear, excitement, dread, or happiness. The resulting emotions have an ability to uplift us or bring us down. What we feel often determines how we react and then take action. In an academic environment there is an expectation of emotional control. For an online class the expectation applies to what is expressed in written communication. A problem arises if a student's emotions are not properly managed and there is a lack of composition when interacting with others in the class. It is possible to avoidappropriate reactions by learning emotional self-control.

Daily Emotional Triggers

Every day we are subject to many emotional trigers that conditions our approach to what we read and hear. For example, advertisers and news media try to capture the attention of readers and viewers, and engage their emotions through the use of an emotional appeal. If you feel an emotional connection you will likely take action, whether it is listening to a sales pitch or paying attention to the news report. It is almost impossible to be unemotional at all times, although a person can learn to selectively read and listen in an almost emotionally detached state.

Students and Emotions

In an academic environment, students are involved in information processing when they are sorting through, reading, and analyzing course materials and discussion posts. Emotions are generally triggered during class discussions when there are controversial topics or a disagreement with other students' beliefs, opinions, or perspectives. A student's emotional state also determines how productive they may be. For example, if a student experiences a sense of happiness with their progress in class they are more likely to be motivated and engaged in the learning process.

Loss of Emotional Control

In a formal learning environment it is expected that students will maintain their composition and have an in an appropriate manner. Emotional control is often situational and lost when a student has an emotional reaction and takes immediate action. For example, if a student is upset, mad, or frustrated about a grade, an inappropriate emotional response would be to send an email to the instructor with an angry or aggressive tone. Emotional control is often lost when there has been an ongoing pattern of feeling overwhelmed or there has been too many stressors, and the student's frustration influencing their written communication or posts. This can also occur when they feel a sense of fear, such as the fear of failing the class, or they believe they have lost control of the circumances around them.

Self-Reflection for Self-Control

The first step to learning emotional self-control is using self-reflection to assess recent communication. Are there any instances when you were not self-composed and had an immediate reaction based upon feelings or emotional responses? You can also consider recent feedback received and your reaction to it, along with any consequent action taken. If there are any occurrences found, look for ungoing patterns and evaluate the outcomes. The challenge is learning to be objective about the situations, rather than justifying what was written. The purpose is to determine how emotions influenced your word choice and the overall tone of your messages.

Self-Management of Emotions

Once you have connected a self-assessment you can then move towards self-management of your emotions, which means taking control and accepting responsibility. You begin to look for anything that triggers a strong emotional reaction, including anything you have read or received (feedback, grades) while you are involved as a participant in your class. You are going to experience feelings but self-management means that you have a composed disposition and your attitude is in check. When you find your emotions are triggered because of something you have felt, it becomes important to mentally remove yourself from the situation and approach it with a logical and rational frame of mind. You can utilize critical thinking skills to engage higher cognitive functions, which will help you analyze and evaluate the situation so that an appropriate course of action can be taken.

Time to ACT

A new three-step process (ACT) has been developed and any student can utilize it as a means of developing emotional self-control for any situation. This process includes awareness, control, and transformation. The following is an outline and description of each of these steps.

Awareness: If you feel a reaction to something you have read or received, it is time to stop and conduct a check-in with yourself. Do not respond immediately and instead be prepared for beginning a self-assessment.

Control: Before you respond you want to develop a sense of control of your emotions, along with your response that is based upon those feelings. Once you have utilized self-reflection to objectively address the issue, you are better prepared to respond in a rational manner.

Transformation: The purpose of this step is to transform a reactive response into a composed response. Taking action should always be the last step used whenever your emotions are running high. You always want to approach interactions with other students and your instructor in a controlled manner. Even if action needs to be taken quickly it should still be done in a considered manner.

As an online student you will interact with a variety of instructors and students through your academic program. Through these interactions you will likely experience a range of feelings and some will produce emotional reactions such as anger or anxiety. Any time you experience emotions that you believe you can not control it is not time to take action, it is time to ACT . Develop an awareness through self-assessment, become emotionally controlled , and transform your reaction into a composed response. Becoming emotionally self-controlled will improve your classroom interactions and support the development of productive working relationships.