WHO IS IN CHARGE OF YOUR EMOTIONS?
As human beings, we are capable of feeling a huge range of emotions, from love to hate, joy to sadness, acceptance to anger – and everything in between. We might even experience a variety of emotions in just one day! Sometimes, it’s normal for your emotions to be influenced by other people or challenging situations, but are you allowing them to take charge of your emotions?
For example, do you often find yourself saying things like:
“I can’t stand my boss. Every time I see him, he makes me feel irritated and angry and it ruins the rest of my day!”
“Everyone on social media makes me feel so down about myself.”
“My neighbours are so annoying. Just hearing them talking sets my teeth on edge!”
If it seems like other people (or other external factors) regularly affect your emotions, then it may be time to take charge of how you feel by following the five simple steps below.
5 simple steps to take charge of your own emotions
Step 1: Be mindful of your emotions
This first step is all about acknowledging, respecting and accepting your emotions. Rather than avoiding or repressing how you feel, it can help to be mindful and allow yourself to process your emotions naturally. Remember that it’s completely normal for your emotions to be triggered!
For example, if your sister borrows your favourite dress and ruins it beyond repair, you might feel a little mad. Or, if you’re about to do a presentation in front of 100 people, then you would probably feel nervous!
Make space to feel your emotions and be mindful of them by using a few of the following tips:
X Notice where you can feel a particular emotion in your body
X Tune into any physical sensations which might occur in relation to the emotions (such as a racing heart, sweaty palms, or stomach churning)
X Be aware of which thoughts escalate or de-escalate your emotions
X Remind yourself to be open and curious about your emotions, instead of judgemental
Step 2: Choose to take responsibility for the way you feel
Even though an external factor may have triggered an emotion, it can be really empowering to take charge and be responsible for it. For example, if your sister ruined your favourite dress, you could take responsibility by saying “I feel mad because this dress was important to me and I paid a lot of money for it” instead of “You’ve made me angry because you ruined my favourite dress!”.
While the difference may be subtle, it is actually quite meaningful. By recognising that you felt mad because the dress was important and expensive, you took responsibility for your emotion, instead of just blaming someone else for their role in the situation.
You can practice taking responsibility for your emotions by starting your sentences with “I feel (insert emotion) because I…” instead of “You’ve made me feel (insert emotion) because you…”
Here are a few more examples.
“I feel irritated by my boss because I don’t believe he speaks kindly to his employees.”
“I feel sad when I go on social media because I worry that I’m not good enough compared to everyone else.”
“I feel annoyed by my neighbours because I like sleeping in on the weekends and they often make a lot of noise.”
“I feel nervous about public speaking because I haven’t had much practice with it.”
Step 3: Be self-compassionate
A common effect of “negative” emotions is that we might blame or berate ourselves for feeling them. For example, if you’re about to do a public speaking presentation, you might start telling yourself you’re stupid because you feel nervous. However, blaming and berating ourselves tends to cause more stress and shame around the original emotion.
It can be helpful to let go of the idea that some emotions are “negative” and, instead, engage in self-compassion. To be more self-compassionate, you can simply notice when you’re experiencing a challenging emotion and engage in kind and encouraging self-talk. For example, you could remind yourself that it’s ok to feel all sorts of emotions, that your emotions will pass and that you’ll be alright.
Step 4: Engage in self-care
If you notice that an emotion has left you with an “emotional hangover”, such as tiredness, stress, irritability, or sadness, then it can be beneficial to engage in self-care. Go for a slow walk in nature, read a book, spend time with loved ones, get a massage, drink a cup of tea, or watch your favourite movie! Take good care of yourself and your emotional wellbeing so that you can develop resilience and recharge your energy.
Step 5: Find new ways to cope with challenging people (or situations)
If you notice that your emotions are regularly being influenced by particular external factors, it might be time to get creative with your problem-solving. For example, if your neighbours are waking you up early on the weekends, you could wear headphones or play white noise, sleep in a room further away from them, ask them (nicely) if they could try to be quieter (they may not even realise you can hear them!), or change your sleeping routine. Whatever you decide to do, try to be assertive, clear and honest so that you can work with others to find better resolutions and compromises.
Let us know how you go in the comments below!