Developing Healthier Emotional Responses
We’re born with an innate sense to connect with others and create positive relationships. But as we grow older, it can get a bit tricky to be as emotionally aware as we were when we were younger. Emotional awareness is the ability to distinguish and identify with our own emotions and how they affect us and those around us. In other words, we try to make sense of our emotions.
But in order to make any sense out of them, you need to first pinpoint where they stem from, what triggers certain emotions. This requires a bit of soul searching because you may realize that your constant bouts of anger are a result of a deep-seated belief that fate is out to get you. So, you blame everything little thing that goes wrong during the day on fate and you fly off into a full-blown rage every time something bad happens.
That is true especially in this day and age when everything goes by so fast; it may be hard to become aware of our emotions, let alone other people’s. We experience many emotions during the day. They can take you from an emotional high to an extreme low which can have serious effects on your overall well-being.
Medical experts continue to study the connection between the mind and body. The question they often ask is: are emotions the cause of how we interpret the world around us or the result?
Even though they may not have found an answer to that one, they have, however, come a long way in identifying the process of how emotions are felt and conveyed.
The basic steps are:
1. We experience a certain situation
2. We think about its meaning
3. We give out an emotional response based on our assessment of this situation
But studies show that even though our first response may indeed be automatic, they can be controlled by switching to the part of your brain does the rational thinking (prefrontal cortex). Psychologists believe that there are ways to cope with the stress of everyday mishaps, such as:
• Deep breathing
• Counting to 10
Some emotions are positive and healthy, like laughing when it’s appropriate. But other emotions, like expressing your irritation to everyone within earshot, should be regulated because it can lead to setbacks at work, make it difficult to be around you as well as cause health-related problems. There are other ways to express these emotions that can release your anger in a suitable manner and calm you down.
The inability to regulate your emotions can result in chronic diseases, such as depression and various personality disorders, known as emotional toxins. It’s healthy to feel negatively about various things in life, it’s a normal part of life.
But it’s what you do with these emotions that matter. And while regulating your emotions may not come easy, it can be done with practice and patience. Some of these tips can help you regulate your emotions in a healthier way:
• Manage your circumstances. It may sound ridiculous, but the truth is, those who know how to positively regulate their emotions, understand this step very clearly. For example, if being stuck in traffic frustrates you, make it a point to leave the house 15 minutes earlier than usual. If a certain person rubs you the wrong way, figure out a way to avoid bumping into them. Knowing what triggers certain emotional responses can help you control your reactions, putting you in control of your emotions, not the other way around. Remember you always have a choice when it comes to expressing your emotions.
• Monitor your expectations. Raising that bar too high always leads to harsh disappointments. So instead of saying ‘yes’ to more work even though you’re already swamped, draw up a work schedule with appropriate deadlines. Be honest with yourself in regard to how quickly and efficiently you can do the work. If you can’t take on more work, stand up for yourself and say ‘no.’ By consciously communicating how you feel, you can process your emotions in a healthy way.
• Shift your attention. Instead of focusing on those who are thinner, richer or more successful than you, shift your thinking to how much you’ve accomplished. Don’t compare yourself with anyone other than yourself – it’s not fair to them or you and you deserve better than that. The important thing is that you own up to your emotions and be responsible for them. Only then can you truly turn the negative into a positive.
• Change how you see the world. Our deepest emotions are driven by our beliefs. If you have to make a speech in front of a large number of people, try to alter your anxiety into confidence. And don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. Just believing in your abilities will help you get up there and make that speech without fear of being judged or ridiculed. If you don’t believe in your abilities, no one else will. Others rarely judge you as harshly as you judge yourself. So, go easy on yourself and enjoy the situation, taking in the good with the bad so you can learn from it and grow and thrive.
• Learn to cope. There are 2 main ways to deal with negative emotions:
• Problem-focused coping. This is when you try to change the situation that’s stressing you out like instead of lashing out at a dead computer, take it to get fixed. Yes, it’s a hassle and you wish it had never happened. But wasting time being angry won’t get it fixed.
• Emotion-focused coping. This is when you console yourself about situations you can’t change; your favorite shirt is ruined in the wash, you miss the bus, you spill your coffee. Once it happens, there’s nothing you can do change it. But what you can do is control your emotional response to the situation by calming yourself down to reduce stress levels and be able to make the best of it.
Everyone has their ups and down. But it’s those people who are equipped with the right tools and assets to help them cope and make the best out of the situation they find themselves in. They are ones who know how to apply healthy emotional responses and make it work to their advantage.