You might want to think of yourself as a rational being, however, in fact, your life is motivated by emotions. Emotions upset you, drive you, intimidate you, and inspire you. They inspire decisions, move you to action, or paralyze you in anxiety, stress, and fear. They are the cornerstone of your finest memories and the bond that produces deep connections with other people. In this article, we’ll explore four principles for skillfully working with your emotions and three tips to handle intense feelings such as anxiety, anger, and sadness when they threaten to overwhelm you.
It is possible to feel anxious one minute, angry the next, and then have waves of despair flood through you seemingly out of nowhere. Since they could take you on such wild rides, it is natural to be somewhat wary of strong emotions – and do what you can to prevent them or keep them at bay.
You have seen what can happen when so-called”negative” emotions like fear, anger, and sadness overwhelm you or others. You have memories of unskillful expressions of these feelings you wish you could forget. Images of emotional trauma are stored deep in your subconscious, warning you to be wary once you feel these emotions yourself or witness them in different people.
In the face of vulnerable feelings, a more logical approach may feel safer. It’s easier to concentrate on your thoughts and not venture into the scary world of feelings. Yet, reason has its limits. You may think you are more rational than you are. While you can logically weigh choices or consider unique thoughts, the closing”Yes this” and”Not that” arises from what”feels right.” Even when you’re focused on thinking instead of feeling, in the long run, your decisions and actions are based on your own”gut feelings.”
Because emotions are so powerfully connected to actions and decisions, as well as being connected to threatening memories and your most powerful inspirations and social connections, it’s important to learn how to handle them skillfully. Let’s explore four principles for relating to emotions in a mindful, intentional, and empowered way. Practicing these principles grows your Emotional Intelligence, which is a skillset for handling emotions well.
Four Principles to Handle Emotions Skillfully
While your first inclination when you feel overwhelmed by uncomfortable feelings, such as fear, anger, and sadness, may be to divert yourself, downplay the feeling, or run away, this just causes emotions to go underground, into your subconscious mind, where they’re saved as strain on your body, eat away at your reassurance, and eventually surface as sickness. Repressed emotions are the cornerstone of compulsions and bad habits, in addition to the source of overwhelm and flareups in relationships. You want to address them.
Emotions arise to offer you specific details on what is happening inside you, around you, and with others-and this information will stick with you until it’s acknowledged and heeded. So, it’s important to shift your perspective from fear of emotions to viewing them as helpful guides. Emotions arise with information you need about your life and the ability to take action on this information. Thus, the number one principle of handling emotions is to stop ignoring them and listen to what they have to show you.
You can begin by paying attention to how you feel, in your body, right now. What are the sensations happening inside your skin? Especially, notice any areas of current discomfort, as these hold important clues to what you will need to know and do now.
If you’re not accustomed to checking in like this, you may not feel much at all or you may feel strong aversion to feeling discomfort. Stay with it. Remain current with whatever feeling or lack of sense is there. Attention to feelings requires practice. It is a real skill you can learn. Bear in mind, if you do not pay attention to what your emotions are trying to tell you, they get stuck on repeat and keep cycling through you.
2. Mindfulness of everything you feel shifts your connection to it.
Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment. When extreme feelings arise, instead of immediately trying to do something about them, make time to witness, listen to, and feel them. This action of mindfulness brings new neural connections into your habitual emotional patterns which enables them to shift. You bring a layer of awareness to your emotions that affects how they impact you.
Mindfulness prevents you from being”gripped by” your emotions in a way that”takes you over.” You gain freedom and space inside and around the feelings you”have,” by recognizing that feelings do not define”who you are.” They’re simply information about what is going on inside you, around you, and others.
Knowing that emotions are transient is reassuring when emotions run strongly or cycle repetitively. When you shine the light of awareness in your emotions, you can see what they must show you, take suitable action, and enable them to release.
As soon as you’ve tuned into the sensation of an emotion in your body, ask it what message it’s for you. What’s this feeling telling you about how you’re relating to a circumstance, to yourself, and with other people?
Given this information, what action would be useful for others and yourself? Simply notice what comes to mind.
Because we are not generally taught to comprehend the significance in emotions, we often overlook, ignore, or prevent their messages. When we do this, emotional energy assembles into overblown high play to receive our attention. It is as if our feelings state,”O.K. you didn’t get the message in my civil indoor voice, so I’m going to shout it in you.” You then feel extreme anger, overwhelming sadness, or anxiety that is through the roof.
When emotion has amped up to there, it can be useful to bring it down a notch to a manageable level. A few simple actions can help you do so.
3 Tips to Handle Intense Emotions
1. Pause, close your eyes, and take a few slow, deep, gentle breaths.
Stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, and focus on slow, deep, gentle breathing, in and out through your nose. Closing your eyes and engaging in this type of breathing activates your body’s natural relaxation response, which helps dissipate the pressure, energy, and intensity of strong emotions.
2. Feel the feeling of the emotion in your body.
Notice where the emotion can be found inside your body. Feel the quality of feeling there. Noticing feelings as sensations helps you see them objectively, so you obtain space from what you are feeling.
3. Adopt the mindful perspective of a curious observer and query the emotion as if it is a friend who wants to tell you something important.
Bear in mind that Mindfulness means paying attention, on purpose, at the present moment, without judgment. With this attitude, ask your emotion questions, as though it is a friend who is attempting to provide you valuable information and you are a scientist seeking discovery.
When you follow these tips, you shift your perspective and take the”over-the-top” extreme edge from what you are feeling. Extreme anger can downshift into a firm”no,” intense sadness can mellow into”letting go,” and higher anxiety can settle into a motivating spur to action.
Once a feeling has downshifted in strength, it’s easier to listen to it, feel it, and respond appropriately. You can take action to address the current situation.
The main point is that, as opposed to fearing the emotional intensity of fear, anger, and sadness, see if you can move toward these feelings with a mindful, curious attitude. As you do that, notice how they change and guide you to what you will need to do right now.