Emotion Management

What are emotions?

Sadness, anger, jealousy, fear, shame, guilt, joy, gratitude, serenity, compassion, hope – emotions are our way of responding to people and the events that happen around us. Scientists are in agreement that the connection between our emotional and our physical being is there. We know, for example, that people with happy dispositions are generally healthier.  Our mindset is affected by how we deal with our emotions and as a result we either react to life or act upon it. Emotions can either add to our problem or they can act as an aid in resolving the problem.

Everybody experiences emotion differently, not only in terms of how the emotions are experienced, but in how they are expressed. One person might cry during a sad movie; another might not show any visible signs of grieving at a loved one’s funeral.

In spite of the wide variance in emotions, though, we do learn emotional regulation from a very young age by picking up on environmental cues. The same toddler who has grocery store tantrums will, in all likelihood, grow up to be a well-balanced individual with a sense of how and when it is acceptable to express emotion.


When is emotion management a problem?

For some people, emotion management is not quite so simple. Humans are complex beings, and our ability to regulate the intensity and expression of our emotions can be disrupted by a number of things, including the following:

  • Mental illness, such as depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder
  • Life events, such as job loss or the death of a loved one
  • Some medical conditions and the drugs that are used to treat them
  • A predisposition to be highly emotional or empathetic
  • Some developmental disabilities, such as autism, are accompanied by an impaired ability to process emotion
  • Avoidance of emotions

If you are having difficulty with emotional regulation that interferes with your ability to go to work or school, or perform your normal daily activities, you might benefit from some tools and techniques to help you manage your emotions.


What can I do to cope?

It is important to remember that emotional expression is a good thing. The ability to experience emotion is part of what makes us human, and the different ways in which we respond to things emotionally is what makes us unique from one another. In addition, the ability to express emotion is healthy.

However, sometime people find that their emotional reactions are disproportionate to the circumstances. We see examples of people getting cut off in traffic and displaying violent road rage, or showing extreme fear when others perceive little or no threat.

If you feel that you lack the ability to manage your emotions effectively, there are steps you can take:

  • Be aware of the triggers.
  • Take responsibility. Not all circumstances are within your control – for example, nobody can change the weather. But perhaps you can schedule a meeting in a particular location. Or maybe you can let your spouse know that the use of certain words and phrases triggers painful memories for you.
  • Challenge your self-talk. You may not be able to change your situation, but you might be able to alter the way you think about it. Pay attention to the messages you are giving yourself.
  • Check if you have limiting beliefs around feelings.

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