Each individual is driven by emotions, and they have the power to dictate one’s actions. So, managing your emotions is like developing a skill or a habit.
When you act on emotions that are misinformed or an unhealthy reaction to a particular situation, you often end up regretting your actions.
Potent negative emotions like anxiety, embarrassment, fear, envy or anger can quickly get out of control once they have been triggered. If you let these emotions dominate your daily life, they can become deep-seated and arise more frequently.
The first step toward managing your emotions is to understand them. They need to be handled with logic and a sense of control.
Here are a few steps to help you effectively control your emotions.
- Avoid situations that trigger negative emotions. If you can’t control your emotions, then control the situation. Avoid circumstances that trigger unwanted emotions. For example, if you feel anxious and stressed around a certain colleague, figure out a way to keep your distance from that person. However, if your find yourself increasingly avoiding people or situations and it begins to interfere with your daily life, use other techniques to deal with your emotions.
- Remove yourself from the situation. When you think you are in a situation in which you cannot control your emotions and you may lash out in an inappropriate manner, simply excuse yourself if you can. Find a private place where you can unleash your negative emotions.
- Breathe to calm down. If you cannot excuse yourself from a situation that is triggering your emotions, turn your attention to your breathing. Count your breaths in your mind, as this will help you stay focused and keep your mind off the negative emotion. Deep breathing will also help you calm down.
If you are at all provoked to speak, you can tell the person, ‘We will talk about it later.’ Intense feelings usually diminish within a short period of time.
- Be aware of your emotions. Once you have calmed down, try to identify your feelings. If you are not aware of the times when you are emotional or overreacting, it will be hard to manage your emotions. Naming your emotions will help you recognize them. If you feel envious, angry or sad, label the feeling in your mind. Be honest and admit it to yourself. As you identify your emotions, keep track of them to help you identify triggers and areas to work on improving.
- Analyze why you feel the way you do. After identifying your feelings, explore the reasons why you feel the way you do and what triggered it. Ask yourself, ‘What’s wrong? What is causing you to feel this emotion?’ Most of the time, the way you think about a situation can cause you to feel the way you do.
Understand your feelings, rather than defending or expressing them.
- Modify your expectations. Take a look at your expectations. If they are not realistic, you are bound to be disappointed or stressed. For instance, if you expect your house to be clean and organized all the time, even a little mess can destroy your peace of mind. So, adjust any expectations that are unrealistic and also accept things that you cannot change.
- Change the way you think about a situation. Once you know the root of the problem, you can change the way you think about it. Your thoughts and beliefs shape your feelings. So, consider your thoughts. Are they based on truth? Are they logical? Are your beliefs true? If you start thinking about the situation differently, you will start feeling better. The more you understand your emotions, the more they will start to diminish.
- Choose the way you react. Managing your emotions is a skill that you need to develop with discipline and continuous effort until it becomes a habit. If you cannot do anything to change your thoughts, change your response to emotional triggers. When you are anxious or angry, control your emotion and take deep breaths. This will calm you down.
- Avoid negative thinking. When you are in emotional turmoil, it’s easy to get caught in a negative thought pattern. You tend to replay the situation and experience the feelings again. Break out of negative thinking. There are several tricks and techniques you can use to help you do this.
For instance, put a rubber band on your wrist and when you find yourself thinking negatively, snap the rubber band. This will serve as a physical reminder to work to control your emotions. Another thing you can do is consciously replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Think of something positive that will make you feel happy – it could be a place you love or someone who makes you happy.
- Shift your focus. Shift your attention from things or people who trigger your emotions. If you suffer from low self-esteem, stop focusing on people who you think are superior to you. When you focus too much on others, you are putting yourself in center stage and constantly comparing yourself to them. This will always tend to make you unhappy. Instead, focus on people and situations that make you feel confident about your abilities.
- Change your mood. Do something different. Change your mood by doing something that makes you feel good instantly. For instance, if you feel bored and sad, change your mood by going for a walk in a new neighborhood or catching up with friends who you haven’t seen for a long time. Close your eyes and imagine yourself to be relaxed and comfortable.
- Think of the future to control your emotions. Remember your anger, disappointment or hatred might seem real and important right now, but those feelings will be gone in a month, a week or a few days. Intense emotions make you momentarily forget about the future. Don’t let your emotions dictate your actions. When you are angry, ask yourself, ‘What would be the consequences of my actions? How will I feel tomorrow when I look back at this?’ Look beyond the moment and see the bigger picture. This will help you relax.
- Don’t react impulsively. Reacting immediately based on your emotions can be a mistake that you end up regretting later. Oftentimes, what you say or do during such an emotional outburst makes things worse instead of better. So, the next time you notice yourself getting angry, pause, take a deep breath and consider the situation. Stop your impulse to react. Continue breathing until you calm down. Tell yourself that this is temporary.
- Find a healthy outlet for your emotions. Emotions should never be bottled up. Find a healthy way to release your pent-up feelings. Talk to someone you trust about the situation. A different perspective may help. Writing down your thoughts and feelings on a daily basis can help release and take the power out of your emotions. Mindfulness meditation or mantra meditation is calming and relaxing for some, while exercises like kickboxing or martial arts does the trick for others.
- Write it down. Set aside a few minutes every day to journal your thoughts. Journaling helps you come to know yourself by revealing your innermost fears, thoughts and feelings.
While you write, ask questions about your emotions and feelings. This will help you understand them more clearly.
- Force your brain to work. Your emotions can make you blind and cause you to react stupidly. Rather than being objective and rational, your emotions may make you become sloppy. When you feel out of control, force the thinking part of your brain to work. For instance, when you start feeling angry at something, try to remember the details of your first date. This will help subdue your emotional response.
- Learn from others. Observe how others handle their emotions. Notice how they deal with their frustrations and disappointments. Ask them, ‘How do you keep calm when you feel angry or anxious?’ You can apply their insights and strategies to deal with your emotions.
- Forgive yourself and others. Your emotional triggers could be your friends, colleagues, boss, family members or even yourself. You may feel sudden surges of anger when you think of something in the past that you could have done differently or someone does something that you absolutely despise. The key here is to forgive yourself or the other person for what has occurred, and thereby lessen the power of your triggers. When you forgive, you detach yourself from the negative emotions.