student with teacher

Bullying is a highly emotional event. Bullying prevention requires a high level of self-control. Any discussion on self-control requires a discussion of emotions. The emotional brain has a big impact on an individual’s level of self-control. Emotions involve intense feelings with physical and mental manifestations. In this post, we examine the basics of emotion and how emotions relate to self-control.

The Purpose of Emotions

Emotions are an important part of the human experience. They guide everyday situations by telling people how to act. These emotions are rooted in human evolution. Human ancestors learned the importance of quickly analyzing potentially dangerous situations and deciding whether it was worthwhile to stay and fight or to run away and flee to a safer place. This ancient fight vs. flight behavior served to keep them alive. The same ancient fight or flight instinct is still present in today’s society.

fight vs. flight

This flight vs. flight response can be interpreted as two different emotional responses. A aggressive response is a fighting response and a deferring response is a flight response. With aggression, people get what they want by violating the rights of others. With deference, people allow their rights to be taken from them by others. In today’s world, stressful situations demand that you learn a better, more practical way of dealing with them. This better way of acting is called assertion.


Most situations in life are not life threatening, but when bullying occurs it can evoke these primordial responses. Aggression is an act of anger, while deference is an act of fear. It is easy to see these emotions being acted upon in both the bully and the victim. The aim of any successful bullying prevention should be to instill the healthier communication style of assertion in both parties.


Fear, anxiety, worry, and anger are all common emotions related to self-control. What do all of these emotions have in common? They are all triggered by stress. When someone experiences stress, these emotions interfere with their self-control. Stress is one of the most important emotions related to self-control.

stressed student

But what is stress exactly? Stress is an unwanted psychological or physical reaction triggered by the mind’s inability to deal appropriately with a challenge. What isn’t always obvious is that stress is a choice. People can choose how to act in stressful situations. Getting your students to realize this is half the battle with bullying prevention. Students can choose how to deal with bullying, and they can do it in a way that does not violate their rights, or the rights of others.

Stress Management Tools

Given that stress is a such an important emotion related to bullying management, it’s important to give your students the tools they need to manage it. Unwanted stress reactions involve both the mind and body. Therefore, a successful strategy for defeating stress must address both physical and mental aspects of the problem. Here are a few of the things your students can do to help them manage their stress.

Affirmative Thinking

confident student

Destructive assumptions and negative self-talk contribute to a significant amount of stress. These stress-inducing ways of thinking are irrational thought habits that need to be challenged. Because they are habits, they can be changed, and the stress that they cause in can be reduced or eliminated. Replacing a destructive assumption with an affirmative one takes dedication, persistence, and patience. Your students need to work on this everyday by changing the way they think about situations. They need to focus on the positive, not the negative.

Taking Charge

Many of the unwanted stress reactions people experience are the result of their inability to take control. Either they feel they must be in control of events, situations, and people in order to succeed, or they believe they have absolutely no control over their life. The truth is somewhere in between. Help your students become aware of the things they have control over and the things they have to accept.


teen relaxing

Relaxation is a crucial part of stress management. Relaxing helps stop the cycle of stress. Relaxation improves how people look at things and makes it easier to practice affirmative thinking. Relaxation energizes people’s ability to control their emotions. Help your students to learn and see the value in relaxing.

Taking care of your body. Everyone can benefit from taking care of themselves physically. Being physically unfit has been linked to various mental issues. It can even lead to higher stress and a lack of self-control. By adopting this habit, your students will see improvement in their ability to handle stressful situations.

Hopefully you have come to realize the important role emotions and stress play in the lives of your students, as well as how these things play into the bullying prevention process. If you’d like to see how our Bullying Prevention program can help you assess and teach your students, click the free trial link below.