Six basic universal emotions that humans experience are happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, fear, and surprise. Each individual is driven by emotions, and emotions have the power to dictate how one copes with or reacts to any situation.
Our behavior is influenced by our emotions. Managing your emotions is like developing a skill or a habit. Focusing on positive emotions and learning how to work through negative emotions sets the stage for a healthy life.
The first step towards managing your emotions is to understand them. Emotions need to be handled with logic and a sense of control. It is normal to feel all six basic emotions. It is not normal to let sadness, anger, fear, or disgust run your life. Follow these steps to help you learn to cope with all your emotions productively.
Here are a few steps to help you effectively control your emotions.
- Be aware of your emotions. 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. Learn to understand your feelings, rather than defending them.
- 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? If you start thinking about the situation differently, you will start feeling better.
- 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 struggle to change your thoughts, start by changing your response to emotional triggers. When you are anxious or angry, learn to take deep breaths. This will help calm you down.
- 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.
- 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.
- Avoid situations that trigger negative emotions. Avoiding circumstances that trigger unwanted emotions is not always easy. You can learn to control your emotion, but you cannot always control the world around you. If given an opportunity, you can modify your behavior to help meet your emotional needs. For example, if you feel anxious around certain colleagues, figure out a way to keep your distance from them without compromising work performance. Spend some time reflecting on the situation and the possible triggers. This reflection will help you learn to move forward and cope with daily challenges.
- Remove yourself from the situation. When you are in a situation in which you cannot control your emotions, and you may lash out in an inappropriate manner, simply excuse yourself. Find a private place where you can safely unleash your negative emotions and regroup with a clear mind.
- Don’t react impulsively. Reacting immediately based on your emotions can be a mistake that you end up regretting later. Often, what you say or do during an emotional outburst, it 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. Tell yourself that this is temporary.
- Breathe to calm down. Learn to take a deep breath. Focus on counting your breaths and turning your mind inward. Breathing deeply releases tension, relieves emotional stress, and relaxes the mind and body to bring clarity.
- 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 daily can help take power out of your emotions. Mindfulness meditation or mantra meditation is calming and relaxing for some, while exercises like kickboxing or martial arts do the trick for others. Find a healthy outlet that works for you.
- Force your brain to work. Your emotions can make you blind and cause you to overreact. 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 something important. 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 emotion when you think of something in the past that you could have done differently or when someone does something that you absolutely despise. The key here is to forgive yourself and 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.