If you’ve ever wondered how to control your emotions, you’re not alone. You might tend to think that emotions are unmanageable, like caring for a cat.
But what if that idea isn’t exactly close?
What if there was a way to rewrite the story about emotions, use it to guide you but not let your emotions overwhelm you?
How to manage your emotions and how to react to them
I recently attended the ICF Converge Conference in Prague. Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett was the speaker there. She delivered an important message on how you can regain control of your emotions.
And science backs up what cognitive therapy has long said.
You can acquire the skill to master emotions!
Your brain is predicting. That’s exactly what it does. It filters all kinds of data to make predictions, and emotions are the output of how the brain makes sense.
Examples of emotion management
You have just gone on vacation and have taken a diving class to prepare for your first live open water dive.
Your stomach will be full of butterflies. Your hands may be sticky and your heart may be pounding. I’m about to dive into the ocean and see the world in a whole new way.
It’s a thrilling new experience and your body is live. Thanks to your training and planning, the sensations that wash you through your filter.
what emotions do you name? Excited, right?
Let’s look at another point of view. You are ready to stand in front of her 100 people and give a presentation.
Your stomach will be full of butterflies. I wish I could stop looking at all those faces when my hands are sticky, my heart is pounding, and I’m about to dive into a topic that interests me.
It’s a chilling new experience and your body is like a live wire. Again, name the sensation that hits you.
What emotions come to mind? Does fear sound right?
Making meaning is what the brain does. It takes the experience you find yourself in, piles it up on a shelf, piles it up, and pops it, and out comes the emotions your mind predicts will fit the situation.
Here are five skills you can learn to control your emotions and control your life.
1. Cultivate curiosity
This may be the first, middle and last skill you learn to understand yourself. Being willing and curious on your behalf is a tremendous gift.
What the hell is going on inside me who notices emotions and wonders?
By giving yourself time to step out of your reactive state of mind, you ignite your curiosity.
Am I excited or terrified? What is the difference between anticipation and anxiety? These are the underlying important ideas.
2. Take a timeout
I learned a lot about myself during my seven years in the Air Force teaching anger management. Let me be clear, I’m a red-haired Irishman and a Leo, so I know something about getting emotional.
One of the hurdles we had to deal with in class was the idea that emotions arise and we are powerless in the process.
It is often said that “I get angry easily”. Or, “It’s like a light switch. One minute I’m fine, the next minute I’m hell.”
The truth is that slowing down your reaction allows you to be curious and give yourself time to choose other emotional states.
There are many ways to take timeouts. Take a walk or distract yourself until you return to a more balanced state.
Breathe, use mindfulness techniques, do whatever it takes. That way, you can calm yourself down and be curious.
3. Practice “freeze frames”
This is a great tool for the Heartmath Institute. I myself have been using it for years.
The five steps of the freeze frame technique are:
- Think of a stressful situation. Recognize the tension in your body and freeze it. Take a timeout here.
- Make a sincere effort to shift your focus away from racing minds and turbulent emotions and into the area around your heart. Breathe through your heart to focus energy in this area. It is helpful to imagine Keep your attention there for a minute or more.
- Try to remember and relive the positive and joyful feelings and times you have experienced in your life. Work on regaining the emotions you experienced when you had this positive experience.
- Use your intuition, common sense, and integrity now and ask your mind, “How can I respond more effectively to stressful situations, and minimize stress in the future?” Please give me.
- Answer your questions and listen to what your heart says. (It’s an effective way to curb a reactive mind and emotions, and an in-house source for common-sense solutions.)
4. Recognize Habits and Patterns
Habits and patterns about how you tend to react to life situations are a great place to start. let’s have it
What physical feelings or thoughts are triggering that reaction? Past experiences tend to influence your habits. I have scars and you have scars too. In fact, I have yet to meet anyone who has gone through childhood without trauma.
Maybe it’s not the trauma of the “Big T” but the trauma of many “Little T’s.” These can tire you out too.
These past experiences color the lens through which we view situations and guide our brains to anticipate our emotional reactions. Attitudes and prejudices also color the lens of our emotional reactions. If they smell something bad, they usually have an emotional reaction of disgust.
Sometimes these prejudices can save your life. For example, spoiled food is not a healthy option. They can also go unnoticed and influence people to respond in non-life-saving ways.
Take your time exploring what you need and be curious about what doesn’t work. Values also influence how the brain determines emotions.
Related articles on YourTango:
It’s a painful experience when someone ignores something that means a lot to you.
Feeling ignored leads to feeling (fill in the blank). Adjust your lenses so that you don’t take yourself too seriously.
Having filters that allow you to see humor or readjust to funny bones can also make a big difference in the final mood.
5. Remember you are in control of your emotional response
This is probably the hardest message to hear: You are responsible for your feelings.
They are not wild horses or mercury winds in your heart.
Your emotions are generated by how your brain—your thoughts, bodily sensations, and reaction habits—predicts your “should” reactions.
Take an interest in yourself, make time for self-reflection, and always choose to breathe.
Then experiment with new ideas on how you can react, steer, and steer your emotional ship.
Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC, is a clinical social worker, lifelong executive coach, and author of StoryJacking: Change Your Inner Dialogue, Transform Your Life.
This article was first published by Lyssa DeHart. Reprinted with permission of the author.