“Emotions influence every action we take. So the more we are aware of our feelings, the more we gain conscious control over our lives.”
We all experience a range of emotions every single day. Some just pass us by, others we cling to.
Consider these questions: How aware are you of your emotions at one time? How are you feeling right now? How much control do you have over your emotions?
The reason I ask, is because it’s rare people really check in with their feelings and emotions, which is crazy when you think how powerful your emotions are. Your mood, actions and decisions are usually based on the emotion you are experiencing at that given moment.
Of course, this is not all bad, as you know, sometimes the only choice we have is to tune in to our feelings and listen to the heart. But how often are you tuning in before making a decision or responding to a situation?
How your day unfolds will depend of if you feel happy, sad, irritated, angry, jealous or bored.
These emotions influence your decision to eat junk, stay in bed an hour longer, swear at another driver, shout at the kids, and so on.
How many times have you felt so emotionally charged, only to calm down later and wonder why you let something bother you so much? Trust me, this is a common occurrence for many.
We are not taught to manage our emotions, sadly, if anything, we are taught to avoid them. This is where your comfort eating, tv binging, drug and alcohol consuming, overthinking behaviours rear their ugly heads.
Learning to manage your emotions will give you a sense of control over your life and a deeper sense of peace. You will experience less of the emotion–reaction–guilt cycle.
An unexpected outcome of getting in tune with my emotions was how it helped develop a sense of who I am – I was able to really understand what I like, dislike, and value in this world. This made it easier to make decisions, say no and stay true to who I am in times of doubt.
As you begin to notice your negative/positive emotions, you naturally begin to make decisions to invite more positivity in and refuse to dwell on bad moods.
I work with lots of people who often believe they are their emotions and that’s that. A common example is the angry person who believes that is just the way they are, they have no control.
If you are giving your emotions that kind of power, it is a lot harder to change.
Emotions can be very intense, there is no doubt. It is normal you will react to your emotions to some extent. However, if you are regularly having regrets over your impulsive reactions and/or blaming your depression, frustration, jealousy for your choices – this is an indication, you need to get in tune with your feelings and begin your journey to taking control.
You are in a habit of thinking how you think, feeling what you feel and acting the way you act. Habits can be changed.
Your emotional state can not force you to do anything you don’t want to.
Negative emotions are not going to go away. You feel thousands of emotions a day, they change at every moment.
Negative emotions can even be seen as helpful. They are your indication that something needs to change.
Whilst negative emotions are normal and it’s important we accept that, you want to be experiencing more highs than lows.
Being realistic – there are times in our lives when things go wrong and tragedy strikes. At those times, of course you will feel sad, angry, devastated. However, when you are more in control of your emotions, it makes life’s challenges slightly easier to cope with and you will know, deep down, you will laugh again one day.
If you intend to start managing your emotions, it is imperitive you understand emotions.
I know it sounds basic, but honestly this is often one of the first topics addressed with client’s and it makes a huge difference.
My point is this – if something has this much power over your day (and life!), it only makes sense to be curious about it.
Emotions are a survival method – they can motivate us to act, provide us with information (“something needs to change”) and help us get our needs met.
An emotion does not come out of nowhere – it is what you are feeling at any given time in response to your situation, what you are doing and what you are thinking.
You emotion can be triggered so quickly, you are reacting before you have time to acknowledge it. Hence getting in the habit of starting to notice how you are feeling and naming the emotion, will help you to become more aware of a change in state, meaning you can work hard not to react.
Emotions can be experienced on different levels and this will also impact your response. For example you may feel mildly annoyed when stuck in a queue if you have nowhere to be, however if you have a job interview to get to, it will be on another level, you might find yourself snapping at the closest person.
It also varies from person to person. What makes me angry, might not make you angry.
We can experience mixed emotions. How many times have you been excited about an event whilst being nervous?
Some emotional responses are the result of deep, painful issues. You may choose to address these if they are causing you current pain. Your past does not get to control you and your future, it does not make the decisions for you now. You do. You can still get help and not have to react or get taken over by your emotions.
So yes, not straight forward, but you can learn to have more control. There are various skills for managing your emotions.
Below I am going to outline strategies and tips to help you become more in tune with your emotions. I have provided preventative tips and short term techniques you can use in the moment:
I know, there isn’t anything worse you can say to someone, but if you listened, you would know it is some of the best advice. Unless you allow yourself to calm down, you will do or say something you regret.
Let’s not get too scientific here, for my sake… When emotions are high it is difficult to engage our thinking brains in a way that is useful to us. We have two systems worth talking about.. Sympathetic nervous system (Anxious state) VS Parasympathetic nervous system (Relaxed stated).
Your sympathetic system activates the fight or flight response when you perceive a danger and when there is a real threat. read my post on what anxiety is..
Your parasympathetic system activates the soothing, calm state.
When you respond to a situation and your sympathetic state has been triggered, our brain thinks you are in danger and you focus in on the threat (even though there is not real danger) and get yourself worked up.
What you need to do here is trigger your sympathetic system. You need to come back down to earth so you can think straight and make rational decisions.
How do you calm down? Well I am glad you asked. See below for several techniques you can try…
Mindfulness is the practice of becoming more present in the here and now. Mindfulness allows you to become more in tune with how you are feeling, naming emotions and accepting them. There is no judgement about the current experience – this is crucial because it immediately takes out some of the heat and you see the emotion for what it is, simply an emotion.
Being mindful allows you to name the emotion and consider the possible consequences of feeling this way.
There are many practices for Mindfulness, and it is about finding what works for you – similarly to how you do with physical exercise.
If mindfulness is not a concept you are familiar with, I would recommend you learning the basics. HERE is a blog I did introducing Grounding Techniques which is great for bringing you to the present moment when you find yourself spiraling.
Mindfulness will naturally have a positive influence on your ability to achieve the techniques and tips I have mentioned below..
The truth is, even when it feels like your intense emotion comes out of nowhere, that is not the case.
Something has triggered this change in state. Understanding what trigger(s) you have, allows you to put in preventative measures as well as understand what is happening when it occurs.
When you recognize your trigger, you can begin to question why this creates an emotional charge for you. In future, you are able to see, it is not necessarily about this current situation but actually a button inside of you is being pushed. This is a pathway to healing your emotional wounds.
This is a strategy for when your emotions are about to take control.
This is not an instruction to simply stop what you are thinking, that is a complete misunderstanding. It just means pause, and resist doing what your emotions are encouraging you to do. When I need to use this technique, I simply repeat stop to myself over and over. This also breaks the thought cycle which is creating the distress. Some people like to visualise a big red STOP sign. Do what works for you. Stopping can be useful even if it just puts a slight delay between your trigger and reaction, that can make a BIG difference.
You have to be able to notice your current state and decide it is not serving you. Telling yourself to change mood will not be enough, you need to DO something. It might be going for a walk or listening to ulifting music. Write down three things you can do right now next time you feel distressed.
There is more and more compelling research on the mind-body connection. Findings suggest even just standing up straight, and smiling can make a difference to how you feel.
Do not aim for super happy, just aim to alleviate some of the anger, anxiety, jealousy, whatever you are experiencing.
I can hear you saying how impossible it is! It is not impossible, it is hard – which means it is possible. Just try, again, and again. Don’t give up, no matter how many times you don’t get it, try again.
Distract yourself with something. Take your mind off what is going on (very similar to changing your emotion). Be mindful with distraction – I am not encouraging you to brush emotions under the carpet, it is so important to address what you feel. However, distraction can be useful to reduce negative emotions in the moment.
You need to take time to re-charge, you can’t expect yourself to go non-stop and achieve everything. If you are constantly busy and under stress, you are going to find it much harder to manage stressful situations or control your emotions. You need to take some time out, recuperate and then go again. You will find when you are well rested, your tolerance of situations is much higher and you will show up as the person you want to be.
Do not under-estimate the power of your physical symptoms. Yes they are uncomfortable but they can be one of your first warning signs.
I know for me, increased heart rate means I am angry and I need to leave the room or say nothing, tense shoulders means I’m stressed and I need a tea break.
When you feel strong emotions, try to notice your physical symptoms that relate to that emotions. They will be similar but you will notice some differences, this can put you ahead in the future.
Here is the fact – emotions can be uncomfortable – we do not like to feel uncomfortable or any kind of inner pain. Rather than acknowledge and feel sadness or anger we will do what we can to push it down and ignore it. That might mean getting defensive, starting a fight and placing blame elsewhere or on yourself. If you find yourself doing things you don’t want to; like drinking, hurting yourself, eating, binge watching tv – you can be pretty certain you are doing your best not to feel certain emotions.
Acknowledge how you feel, know emotions are a part of human life, and know that emotions pass. A little bit of hope in these moments will do wonders.
Whenever I give people a breathing technique, there is no denying a part of them wants to leave the session. We all think it’s way too simple – to simply count to 10 or take a deep breath?!
I get your thought process, but for as long as you have that attitude and refuse to give this a go, you are missing a big fat trick.
Deep breathing activates your parasympathetic system. It lets your mind now you are safe, so you can return to a calmer, less intense state.
There are dozens of techniques out there, do some research and find the one that works for you. I don’t really have a set technique, I just take slow, deep, comfortable breaths that suit me.
I find deep breathing useful particularly when I’m feeling overwhelmed with emails or my to do list.
I have only touched the surface with managing emotions. These are just a few techniques, that if practiced, will help.
Trying once and giving up, won’t work. Expecting them to work every time? Not going to happen. You are human.
I want you to practice these every day with any emotion, not just negative. Initially it will be so hard to practice them during intense states of emotion. The more you practice with your neutral or positive emotions, the more likely you will be to use them when the going gets tough.
The tricky thing about managing emotions, is that change is so gradual you hardly notice it. Until 6 months go by and all of a sudden you realise you put your phone down and took five minutes before responding to that angry message.
What you have to do, is what works for you. When I get worked up, if it’s possible, I have to leave the room. Other people may think it’s ‘immature’ to not stay and talk it out. That’s fine, I would rather someone perceive me as immature than have the regret of saying things I don’t want to say. Do what you need to do, to react in a way that makes you feel better and like a person who is trying their best.
This will require you to get to know yourself, feel discomfort and treat yourself like a best friend.
My parting message with this topic is to remind you – you have the power to control how you think, behave and Feel. If you do not accept that responsibility, it is going to be very hard to change whatever difficulty has brought you to this blog.
If you need help to incorporate the methods I have spoken about, send a message HERE and we can have an informal chat about what might help you and plan the best coaching package to meet your personal needs.
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Leave a comment below if you intend to try any of these tips, or letting me know what helps you to manage your own emotions.
Carly Ann xx