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It can be a difficult concept to grasp, knowing that almost all circumstances and events that happen, will happen outside of our control. The truth is, there are too many factors in the world for us to be able to control and predict everything. Instead, we can only become aware of our capabilities to adjust our expectations and emotional responses.
Doing so though is a powerful accomplishment. It’s something that can help you experience more peace on a daily basis as well as less stress, and fewer disappointments.
Related: Why it is Critical for Leaders to Show Emotions at Work
What is emotional control?
Educator and author Dr. Benedicte Gendron explains that emotional control is really about our emotional reactions. He suggests learning to stay calm during small problems and gaining control slowly. Eventually, we’ll develop a delayed reaction, which gives us time to reflect upon the situation and respond appropriately.
While this is true, it does play into a much-believed notion that emotional control is used for negative or unpleasant emotions. However, as Vicki Botnick, a therapist in California reminds us, it’s possible for any emotion, even joy, to intensify to a point that’s out of control. So, we can see from both experts that controlling emotions can mean all emotions, good or bad.
What happens when our emotions are out of control?
Emotions make our lives exciting. In fact, many equate that strong feelings mean you’re embracing life fully. However, it’s completely possible to face life head-on, and be all you can be, without losing control of your emotions.
When we let our emotions run amok, it takes a toll on our professional and personal lives:
We’re more likely to face conflict in our relationships.
The risk of substance abuse increases.
We lose sight of our purpose.
We may have trouble relating to others.
- The quality of our work may decrease, leading to problems at work or school.
Related: 5 Mental Exercises to Strengthen Your Emotional Fitness
Gaining control of your emotions
With a little practice, gaining control over your emotions will become easier. Try the following:
1. Regulation, not repression
To start, aim to understand the difference between regulating your emotions as opposed to repressing them. Think of your emotions as a dial, something to turn up and down. You don’t want to turn them to the extreme, either way. Instead, you’re finding a balance that works for you … FYI, actually visualizing that you’re turning down a dial while experiencing strong emotions can help you to calm down. The reason why you don’t want to repress your emotions is that it’s likely to contribute to other emotional or physical issues, including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and substance abuse.
2. Identify the feeling
In that moment before you react, take a breath, and a step back to identify what you’re feeling. If a colleague blows you off, for example, before you send an angry text or pick an argument, interrupt yourself. Ask yourself questions to probe the issue, such as:
What am I currently feeling?
What caused me to feel this?
Is it possible that there is a different explanation?
What would I like to do about these feelings?
When you take a moment to understand your emotions and consider possible alternatives, you’re reframing your thoughts. You’re also building new neural pathways which will help you maintain control over your emotions next time.
Related: Effective Ways to Handle Emotions at Workplace
3. Start journaling
A mood journal can help you recognize and understand your emotions. Writing your feelings down, along with the response it triggered, is also a great way to uncover possible disruptive patterns.
Additionally, journaling can help you recognize the type of situations you may need help in. For example, some people have stronger emotions about work, while others feel that loss of control only with their family. When you jot your emotions down, you see the connections and can better understand how to regain control.
4. Deep breaths
This is probably the oldest trick in the book, especially when it comes to emotional control. There’s a lot of power in breath. Whether you’re ridiculously excited, or so mad you can’t speak, breathing helps.
The first couple of breaths may be difficult or shallow. Visualize your diaphragm and push the air down, past your chest. It may help to place a hand on your belly to feel its rise and fall. To slow your breath, even more, count. Count as you breathe in, and count as you breathe out. Sometimes, you may find a mantra is better than counting. You can try saying something like “I am calm” or “I am in control.”
5. Edit regularly
Meditation helps us with many emotional and even a few physical issues. It’s difficult to master, but that’s because meditation is largely misunderstood. If you’ve tried meditating but feel you failed because there were thoughts constantly running through your head, you’re not alone, and you also didn’t fail.
It’s not possible to completely rid your mind of thoughts. In fact, a popular beginner’s exercise for meditating is similar to some techniques we’ve already discussed. Simply label your feelings. Beginners use this trick, because it teaches you to acknowledge the thought that popped into your head, label it and “file it away,” so to speak.
6. Allow yourself to still be expressive
There is a time and a place for everything, including your strong emotions. Sometimes we need to curl up into the fetal position and cry for a few minutes… just as there are times when we need to scream into a pillow (from good news or bad). As Dr. Gendron mentioned earlier, it’s about controlling our reactions, not the emotion.
When you allow yourself the time to react this way, when it’s appropriate, then you have found a healthy outlet. As you know, completely stopping emotions is not the goal here, you’re just dialing them back.
Related: The 1 Thing You Must Control to Be Successful
Gaining control of your emotions helps you play ALONG with the events happening in life. It leads to stronger, healthier relationships and advancements in the workplace. With some time and effort, all of us can adjust our sail, cruise accordingly and yield the best results in every situation.
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