5 STEPS TO STOP STRUGGLING WITH YOUR EMOTIONS (AND HAVE THEM WORK FOR YOU)
Sometimes intense emotions can feel overpowering and we seem to lose control of ourselves. We all know that feeling when we just can’t think straight, when we have things to do but just can’t get to doing them or when all we can think about is how worked up we are. We might be feeling overcome with anger when things are not going our way, paralized by fear when we don’t think we can cope with something, or dragged down by sadness when we lose something important to us. Yes, emotions do seem to take us over at times.
The good news is (1) you are not alone in this and (2) feelings don’t have to take us over. Emotions are powerful. The secret is that we can choose whether their power controls us or whether we use this power and channel it in our favor. Here is how to have your emotions work for you:
1. Name what you feel
Do you know what it’s like when you feel something but you are not sure what it is? We might be able to say it feels good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, but what is it really? Not knowing can be very uncomfortable. What many people don’t know is that there is something magical in putting a name to what we feel. Once we name our feelings, they lose their power. We distance ourselves from the feelings and gain perspective. That’s when we can start to tap into the power of each emotion. So step 1: Name what you are feeling.
2. Accept what you feel
When we feel excited or inspired we readily accept our feelings. We even welcome them and want to hold on to them. Some other emotions like frustration, anxiety or guilt we are less keen on. So here’s the deal: the key is to accept them all. Yes, we mean it - all of them - including the feeling of panic, of annoyance, of disappointment, of shame… all of them. Think of it this way: every emotion has something important to tell us. Every emotion is like a friend that comes knocking on our door to tell us something important. If we don’t answer the door, the friend will knock harder and eventually break down the door. It’s the same with our feelings. If we don’t accept them and listen to them, they will eventually resort to drastic measures and break down the door. So, to avoid these drastic measures do Step 2: Accept what you are feeling and hear out the feeling.
3. Figure out why you feel it
Feelings draw our attention to things that are important to us. Although at times it might seem that they come out of nowhere, trust us, there is always a good reason why we feel them. They are triggered by what we think and what is going on in our lives. Step 3: Investigate, what triggered this emotion to come knocking on your door and what does it want you to know?
4. Discover how the feeling can help you
All feelings have good intentions and each feeling is here to help us with something. Anger is here to give us energy and motivation to reach our goals or step in when we see something that we consider to be unfair. Sadness gives us time and space to reflect and prepare ourselves for a change in our life (generally a loss). Every emotion can help you in some way, once you understand it. Step 4: Understand the feeling and how it is trying to help you.
5. Surf your emotions like a pro
At first all of these steps might feel clumsy and unnatural. It’s true, if you haven’t been doing this your whole life it might seem a little strange. Think of it as if you were learning how to surf. It’s unlikely that you could stand up and surf the largest wave on your first try. You’d probably need to have a coach, some theoretical explanations on land and then many attempts in the water until you even make it up on the board. It’s the same with harnessing your emotions. Essentially, our feelings come and go in waves and we need to learn how to surf them. So, Step 5: be patient with yourself, give yourself time and practice, practice, practice. That’s the only way to mastering your emotions.
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