Remember the last time you reacted to feeling annoyed, outraged, angry, under attack or sad? During stressful times and for most of us that could be often or daily. Maybe yesterday on the phone when sorting out an issue with finances or banking, or dealing with difficult family circumstances. Managing your feelings and reactions can be difficult in the moment.
Life situations can evoke the best and the worst reactions in us. Identifying what has set us off or what the situation has tapped into can be confusing for both adults and children.
The ideal way of managing and changing our feelings is holding onto them, and using them to guide us into a more meaningful life. The reality is less classy and often results in outbursts or reactions that leave us feeling embarrassed or offended. Or possibly no reaction which may leave us feeling bullied or weak.
As we know and have likely learned from our own life experiences, we can’t control others or their reactions. But we can learn the art of managing our own responses and reactions.
Learning emotional regulation skills can also help us to manage and cope with the situations (sometimes difficult, sometimes sad, sometimes confusing) we may find ourselves in. Recognising and being more attuned to our own emotional rollercoaster responses also helps us read the non-verbal cues of individuals and situations. Here are some possible steps to fine tuning this process and attending to our feelings appropriately.
Claim the Feeling
Claiming a feeling is all about acknowledging that something is going on with us and is needing some attention. We feel tense, agitated, twitchy, anxious, lethargic, confused, or perhaps scared. This may present as a headache, stomach ache, nausea, overthinking, no focus or no sleep.
Name the Feeling
Imagine a closed jar filled with every feeling we can experience. Give that a shake and now open the lid! Anything can spring out and usually does at the wrong time. Is it anger, are you mad at something, are you feeling left out, are you offended? Being able to identify and name that feeling accurately is helpful and goes a long way to reducing the possibility of lashing out or an inappropriate response.
Tame the Feeling
When you have stopped for long enough to work out what is the exact feeling and where it is coming from. You then have a better chance of taming the feeling and the response and therefore ensuring no further damage. Taking time to examine these feelings and finding strategies to lessen the strength of an angry, hurt feeling can be helpful.
Aim the Feeling
Finally, finding ways to cope with our feelings is an important skill. Having quiet spaces to STOP (Stop, Take a breath, Observe what’s going on and then Proceed), is helpful when we are hurting or confused or overwhelmed by situations. Acting wisely is not to do with being passive or accepting poor behaviour from others but rather an opportunity to take control, manage and care for our own feelings and appropriately act.
We all have different ways of soothing ourselves in times of difficult emotions. Consider things you can do, people you can connect with and places you can be which help you stop, reflect, sooth and get back into life.
Some simple strategies to think about that may help you manage your feelings include:
- Exercise: releases pleasure chemicals(dopamine) in the brain and being fit and healthy helps us manage emotions.
- Mindfulness activities: help us calm the monkey mind overthinking that comes with high emotion. Find some meditation time to improve relaxation and focus.
- Spending time with others, enjoying feel good activities and moments with special people. This can often help with managing emotions.
Sometimes however, we get stuck and need professional help with further strategies to reduce negative self-talk and put downs. Consider making an appointment to speak to one of the psychologists at Revive Health and Happiness.