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Four Steps You Can Take to Manage Your Emotions

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

Several years ago, we adopted a year-old pup that had been abandoned or lost. Mish weighed only eight pounds and had fleas and intestinal parasites. But somehow, she charmed us with her brown eyes and her pleading look.

When we first took Mish in, whether because of her size, her breed (part Shih-Tzu), or her past experiences, Mish could sometimes turn into a screaming banshee when another dog entered her space. As if someone had pressed an invisible button, her little body seemed taken over by demons as she barked in a most piercing way and struggled mightily against her collar. It was evident that she was not in control of whatever emotion she was experiencing.

Okay, I know at least some of you reading this don’t believe dogs feel emotions. I’m not going to argue that point or talk any more about dogs. The point is that all of us have had the experience of being “hijacked” by strong emotions. It is easy to see this in toddlers and very young children, but most of us have witnessed mature adults in a “hijack” as well—perhaps in ourselves, our family members, our workplace colleagues, our community leaders, and in wider spheres as well (politicians come to mind).

Can Emotions be Managed?

People are sometimes surprised to learn that they can successfully manage (not “control”) even quite dramatic emotions such as anger, jealousy, sadness, and grief. We don’t have to label them “good” or “bad” because all emotions are valuable for the information they give us.

Being aware of your emotions—in the moment you are feeling them--is a great first step in learning to manage them. If you can identify what it is you are feeling, you can learn to acknowledge the emotion, understand how it may be expressed in your physiology, gain an understanding of why you feel that way, and plan a way to manage it if it involves negative consequences.

How Can We Manage Emotions?

There is no one method for handling emotions. If the feeling you have is a pleasant one (joy, gratitude, inspiration, love, generosity), you probably don’t need to do anything but enjoy it! This list of suggested steps is for those times when something comes up and you do not have a pleasant feeling:

1. Identify the feeling to bring it to your awareness. Name the feeling.

2. Acknowledge the feeling even if you don’t like it or aren’t proud of it. Write it down or talk to someone about it if appropriate.

3. It the feeling is intense, you may want to take some immediate action: breathe deeply, go for a walk or do some exercise, play music that is soothing to you, drink water, write, look for humor, change the way you talk to yourself, count backwards from fifty, go outside.

4. When you are calmer and can take some time for reflection, ask yourself: What is the price I pay for feeling this way? What can I do to feel differently?

It’s important to remember that there may be times when it is not possible to manage your feelings—or at least not manage them well. But you can take the time to learn from those occasions so that you can plan to do something differently the next time a similar situation arises.

Managing emotions is not magic, nor is learning to manage an overnight process. It is a process that we all need to attend to throughout our lifetimes. Emotions are neither more nor less intense in our eighties than when we were eighteen months or eighteen. But surely, they make our journey interesting.

If this article was of interest to you, I hope you will consider enrolling in my online, on-demand, self-paced course, Emotional Intelligence for a Compassionate World. I invite you to join us in learning more about our emotions and how we can enhance emotional intelligence skills. Learn more and ENROLL NOW.

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