Most situations need clear, calm thinking so learn to control your emotional response and its physical effects
Managing your emotions starts with the understanding that you create your own emotions. Often we think someone else made us feel a certain way we say things such as “she embarrassed me” or “he made me angry”.
This suggests that other people are responsible for your emotions. Not so. You create your emotions. If you can take responsibility for owning your emotions then, like anything else that belongs to you, they are yours to manage.
Apart from in an emergency situation where an emotion such as fear will prompt you into fight-or-flight mode, most situations need clear, calm thinking rather than blind, emotional responses.
Take a moment to think of, and write down, the sort of situations that you know will trigger your emotions. If you can force the thinking part of your brain to work when you start to feel overwhelmed, you can overcome the rampaging emotional part.
Tips on how to manage your emotions
● Identify your emotional triggers. What disappoints you? What makes you scared? What winds you up?
● Slow down. Engage the rational, reasoning part of your brain
● Remind yourself to stop and engage the thinking part of your brain rather than the emotions. Wear a bracelet or write yourself a note as a visible cue
● Focus on your breathing
● Manage the physical aspects of emotions. Do something to exert yourself
You need to slow everything down so you are able to access the rational thinking part of your brain. You can do this by running through the alphabet backwards in your head or recalling as many characters from your favourite soap opera, film or novel as you can.
Whatever you turn your attention to, make sure it’s challenging enough to engage your brain but not so difficult that your mind jumps back to your unhelpful thoughts.
Another way to manage physical feelings and the adrenaline that is produced by strong emotions is to engage in something that is physically exerting. You could go for a run, a brisk walk or cycle. Do some housework - vacuum, clean the shower or the bath. Do some gardening, sweep the paths or patio. If you’re at work, try walking up and down a few flights of stairs.
These activities will all help to change your physical state and give you time to think, to access the thinking part of your brain.
The important thing is simply to do or think something differently. If you want - or need - to change the situation, you have the ability to be your own source of distraction.
Gill Hasson is the author of Emotional Intelligence: Managing Emotions to Make a Positive Impact on your Life and Career and Mindfulness: Be Mindful. Live in the Moment. She is also a freelance journalist and associate tutor for the University of Sussex