Emotions are tied to everything we do. They are the major source of motivation, and a big factor in our ability to think critically and be creative. Consider a time you felt overwhelmed and exhausted from stress. How did this impact your level of motivation and ability to think clearly?
Life can seem like a roller-coaster. At one minute we’re trudging upward, working hard and seeing success. We may feel proud and enthusiastic, and then all of a sudden we’re heading down a steep spiral full of fear and uncertainty. How do you handle life when this occurs?
We have all been here at one point or another, though how we manage our emotions, learn from them, and respond to the way we feel, is the most important aspect of our long-term success. It can be tough to keep a balanced emotional state through life’s ups and downs, but being able to keep a level temperament is the key to staying resilient, building lasting relationships, and ultimately reaching our goals.
How can we respond to our emotional states effectively?
The wise mind
Understanding how our brain and thinking relate when we encounter an emotionally provoking situation is key to responding effectively. Our mind can be viewed as a Venn diagram with the emotional mind on one side and the logical mind on the other. Both of these intersect to at a happy medium which is termed the wise mind.
The wise mind is the balance between emotion and logic, and is where we neither suppress the way we feel, or let our emotions get the best of us. It allows us to experience and embrace our emotions while still having the self-control to think about the best response.
This means not overreacting. Consider the last time you lost your temper. How did you respond? Even when feeling upset and distressed, our response is the one thing we have control over. We don’t have to react to the way we feel.
Responding properly to events, people, and situations means we don’t exaggerate or trivialize what’s taking place, but can recognize the severity while still maintaining composure. There is a middle way between heavy logic and hysteric emotions. The wise mind is the middle way.
How can we avoid losing emotional control?
The main way to prevent our emotional mind from taking over is to avoid “demanding” thinking. Demanding thinking is when we use words like “should,” “shouldn’t,” or “have to,” and “must.” This type of thinking sets us up to view situations as out of control, unfair, and harmful if things don’t go as planned. When something “should” be certain way and isn’t, we begin to catastrophize and see things as terrible, horrible, and unbearable.
Try to eliminate these words from your vocabulary for one day and see how it impacts the way you feel. One helpful tip to use when you’re feeling upset is to apply a rating system to what is happening. For instance, on a scale of 1-10 rate how bad the situation is, where 1 is the lowest and 10 is the highest. Let’s say that you’re standing in a long-ling and someone cuts in front. This may usually cause you stress, agitation, and anger, particularly if you’re in a hurry. You may say, “I can’t believe that person cut in line!” “They shouldn’t have done that and need to be taught a lesson!” “This is terrible, horrible, and I can’t stand it!”
Obviously, this will really get you emotionally upset. But, what’s the one thing it won’t do? It won’t make the situation any different or get you to the front of the line. By rating the occurrence you can see it’s not as bad as your demanding thinking makes it out to be.
What would you rate it? Maybe a 3 or 4? If so, I’m sure you have dealt with a much higher level distress, and now that it’s a 4 you can say to yourself, “This is a 4 and I can handle a 4.”
Be open for what may come – positive or negative
Simply being open-minded and flexible is major part of emotional balance. It’s also a major factor is experiencing more heartfelt positive emotions. Every element and emotional experience gives us reason to grow. Accepting the joy with the boredom and the pain with the sorrow are what it means to have emotional balance.
We need to balance forces of pleasure and responsibility, as well as forces of power and love. There is uncertainty in every instance and situation, and being able to detach from complete control as well as from the struggles and troubles that arise will give us true emotional freedom and peace of mind. When we hold onto our struggles mentally, all we are left with is worry and distress.
Recognize that impermanence means anything and everything can change at any moment, and this includes our struggles or good fortunes. We are more than what is taking place or the way we feel. This comes down to realizing that emotions are just signals that provide us a clue to either change the way we’re thinking or the way we’re behaving.
Instead of emotions being a source of our distress, we can learn to use our emotions to adapt and improve our situation. With emotional awareness and management we can communicate more effectively, enhance motivation, and positively influencing others.
Photo credit: Meredith_Farmer