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Last Updated on February 6, 2020

How To Control Your Emotions Effectively

How To Control Your Emotions Effectively

Jill and Sarah are best friends. They do everything together, but they are also very different.

Jill is constantly strung out; the smallest mishap will send her into a state of frustration, stress and shouting. She is affected by everything around her: the traffic, long queues, the mean colleague. Her mood and happiness are directly influenced on a daily basis by what is happening around her. Sarah on the other hand, doesn’t let small things get to her. She decides how she wants to feel and she is much happier on a continuous basis than Jill.

What is the difference?

Choice.

Managing your emotions is very much a question of choice. Do you want to, or not? So much has been written about emotions and how to deal with them effectively, yet many people can’t control this area of life. Why? Managing emotions effectively is actually like developing a skill or a habit. It is a way of doing something better, and as humans, we struggle with change the most.

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Changing the way you usually do something is not easy and it is even more difficult when it comes to emotions. When we are feeling ‘emotional,’ the last thing we want to do is calm down and try to deal with the situation pro-actively; we most often want to rant about what is upsetting us.

If we understand a little more about how our emotions work, we are in a much better position to use this information to our advantage. Learning how to control your emotions can be one of the best skills you will ever develop in your life. Your emotions lead to the actions you take and therefore, create the life you are experiencing now, every part of it.

Our emotional part of the brain, the limbic system, is one of the oldest parts when compared, for example, to our prefrontal cortex, which is our ‘thinking’ part. Because our emotional part is so old, and therefore an extremely strong part of the brain, it is understandable that it feels like our emotions run us and hijack our thinking at times. The average person’s emotional part of the brain is over six billion times more active than the prefrontal cortex.

The point is, your emotions will naturally hijack your thinking—this is a given—but there are still ways to deal with this.

To keep things simple, let’s look at what you can do to flip this situation around. Ignoring emotions, suppressing them or not dealing with them will come back to bite you! Stress and anxiety come from suppressed emotions, so if you think that dealing with your emotions by ignoring them is going to work, you are sorely wrong.

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Here are 4 simple steps to start controlling your emotions effectively.

1. The First Step Is Awareness

If you are not aware of the times when you are overly emotional or overreacting, how can you try to manage it? It is impossible. Start to monitor your emotions and give names to them. Sometimes we find it difficult to identify what we are feeling. Giving it a name helps us gain clarity, which is essential in moving forward.

2. Discover the ‘Why’ of Your Emotions

Once you have identified how you are feeling, you want to discover why you are feeling it. What is causing this feeling inside you? Of course, there could be a million reasons, and to find out you have to ask yourself, like you would a friend, “What is wrong? What is causing me to feel this way?” Your mind will always look for an answer.

Most of the time, simply the way you are thinking about the situation is causing you to feel the way you do. Another huge reason why we feel negative emotions is because our values are not present in that moment or being respected.

Remember: discover the ‘why.’

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3. Then Ask Yourself, “What Is the Solution?”

Once you have discovered why, what can you do to take back control? Sometimes, you might need to change the way you are thinking about the situation.

You see, your thoughts lead directly to your feelings; so if you are feeling bad, you most likely have a negative thought that is making you feel that way. If you start thinking of other possible ways of looking at the situation, you will begin to feel better immediately. What you focus on expands!

Sometimes, by simply understanding why you feel a certain way at a certain time, your emotions will start to diminish because understanding always leads to calming.

4. Choose How You Want to React

This is the hardest part. The way that we react and manage our emotions is a habit. Haven’t you noticed those people who get stressed out about nothing, literally freaking out at nothing? You almost feel sorry for them. They have created a habit of associating a situation they don’t like with ‘freaking out.’ Their emotions have hijacked them.

Learning to listen to your emotions, to identify, understand and then choose them, isn’t something that you decide to practice twice a week at lunchtime. No, it is with continuous effort and discipline that you can start to build this essential skill.

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Final Thoughts

Do you control your emotions, or do they really control and direct you?

It isn’t easy and that’s why so many people don’t make an effort and give up. But once you are able to control your emotions, life changes for you in more ways than you ever dreamed possible. Not only will you feel way more empowered and in control in life, but you will be happier and much healthier as you won’t be stressed or weighed down so often.

More About Controlling Emotions

Featured photo credit: Christian Fregnan via unsplash.com

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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