I've been thinking a lot lately about how important, yet difficult it is to manage them, particularly when the timing isn't right ... which is generally when they tend to hit. But really, when was the last time you felt a strong emotion and took the time to stop, step back, and try to understand where it was coming from?
On a day to day basis, this is easier said than done. But studies show that emotional intelligence is just as important as work ethic and IQ when it comes to being successful in work and life. On the flip side, a steady diet of emotional distress can wreak havoc on your health, your resilience, and your focus.
Last year, I had the pleasure of attending a conference out west and hearing from The Energy Project, a firm that partners "with organizations to create workplaces that are healthier, happier, more focused and more purposeful." Part of our experience focused on discerning how adequately we each were currently meeting the four core needs they believe we all have in life: Physical, Spiritual, Mental and Emotional.
The Energy Project defines "emotional energy" as being "about learning to cultivate the specific emotions associated with high performance, because how people feel profoundly influences how they perform." In this light, if emotions affect the way we feel, and the way we feel affects the way we perform, then a good portion of our happiness lies within how well we can understand and manage emotions themselves.
People who mindfully manage their emotions tend to demonstrate self-awareness, motivation and empathy, which in turn can also help create a more balanced, and even longer, life. Compared to the alternative, that doesn't sound so bad. Below are a few key steps to take when your emotions hit the fan.
Quick Tips for Managing Emotions
Breathe. Next time you feel the urge to pour out your frustrations, instead try taking a few slow, deep breaths. Count to 3 as you inhale, and 6 as you exhale. Research shows that venting actually fuels your anger, rather than extinguishing it, as does quietly dwelling on your negative feelings.
Translate. Dr. Darlene Mininni, author of The Emotional Toolkit created the following formula to identify emotions: thoughts + body sensations = emotion. Once you've accepted the reality, bucket your emotion into one of the following categories - anxiety, sadness, anger and happiness - and identify how your thoughts and related physical reactions align.
For example, if a deadline has you stressed, you might feel angry, causing your heart to race and your muscles to tighten. Pinpointing these details can help you ask yourself the right questions about what exactly you're feeling, and how it affects you, and better cope by moving forward.
Write, write, write. People who write, and re-write, have a better handle on their emotions, which can "lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness." Keeping a journal can also help you track emotions, take notice of patterns, and identify what habits or stimulants might be stirring your emotions.