Controlling Situations (S)

17.09.2020 |

Episode #4 of the course Control your emotions, control your life by Dr. Sofia Santiago


In Lesson 3, you learned the difference between emotional suppression and emotional regulation. You were also introduced to the STAR™ strategies.

In this lesson, we will delve into the first of the four elements of STAR™ as you learn how to manage Situations (S).

Follow the steps below along with the examples; then I’ll summarize them for future reference.



You’ve been quite stressed lately. Excessive stress is not something you enjoy. I mean, who does? So, you decide to proactively work on bringing your stress to a healthy level. Your go-to techniques are most likely practical activities like meditation, exercise, or a spa day. These are great, of course.

But what about mindful, internal solutions you can use to become more in tune with stressful situations and deal with them head-on? I’ve created a list of steps that start with “A” to make it easier for you to remember this strategy. Let’s call it “The 4A process.”



Step 1. Awareness. Start by becoming aware of the situations in your life that lead you to feel overly stressed. You notice that:

• You tend to procrastinate working on assignments, so you end up having to stay late or shuffle your to-do list the day before a deadline.

• You get stressed when traffic is heavy. (You start getting anxious as soon as you realize you’ll be late for work.)

• When you go to the gym, you hate that you’re the only one who looks totally out of shape (in your mind).

Alright, you’ve identified three stress-inducing situations to deal with.

Step 2. Avoidance. Now, ask yourself which of the stress-inducing situations you can avoid:

• Deadlines? No. Your company’s policy is firm.

• Rush hour traffic? Yes! You can start leaving home half an hour early.

• The gym? Well, you could stop going, but that wouldn’t be good for you, so the answer is no.

You’ve identified a solution for one of the three stressors: to avoid it. Two more to go.

Step 3. Alteration. Can you modify the situations you can’t avoid? How?

• Deadlines? Yes! You can reserve time in your calendar a few days before the deadline and get started sooner.

• Your level of fitness? Well, you’re already on it, but modifying your physical condition won’t happen overnight, so for now the answer is no.

You’ve solved another part of your problem by altering a stressful situation. Now we’re down to only one stressor to deal with.

Step 4. Alternative. The only stressor you can’t avoid or immediately modify is the feeling of inadequacy you experience at the gym. In that case, see which of the other STAR strategies could help you. (We’ll come back to this problem in Lesson 6: Controlling Your Attention (A).)


The 4A Process Summary

Here’s a summary of the steps you followed to solve your stress problem:

Step 1. Awareness. Identify a negative emotion you’ve felt and might experience again. Become aware of the circumstances that led you to experience that emotion on previous occasions.

Step 2. Avoidance. Ask yourself, “Is it possible to avoid those circumstances in the future?”

• If the answer is “yes,” avoid those circumstances from then on. Boom! You’re done!

• If the answer is “no,” it’s all good, go on to Step 3.

Step 3. Alteration. Ask yourself, “How can I change the circumstances to lessen their negative effect on me?”

• If you find a way to do it, then just do it! Modify the situation.

• If you determine that changing the situation is not possible, then the good news is we have Step 4 ready to assist you.

Step 4. Alternative. You get to this step when you’ve determined it’s not possible to avoid or modify the situation that causes a negative emotion. In that case, apply any of the other three strategies in the STAR™ group.



1. Think of a situation you were in recently that ended up with you being upset, frustrated, or super-stressed.

2. Answer: in the future, how can you avoid or modify similar situations?

* * * *

In the next lesson, you’ll learn the second of the STAR™ strategies to control your emotions: controlling your Thoughts (T).

See you tomorrow!



Recommended book

Rocking the Boat: How Tempered Radicals Effect Change Without Making Trouble by Debra E. Meyerson


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