Health & wellbeing

How to manage emotions

04 Jun 2024 | Written by Marina O'Shea

Ahead of the next ‘Writing for wellbeing‘ workshop, The Joy Club member and wonderful host Susanna Lewis shares her thoughts on how to manage emotions.

We all have emotions. In fact, it is only human to feel emotions as we navigate our way through life. Emotions can be negative or positive, but both need careful management so we don’t allow them to have a negative effect on our life.

So, what are emotions? We think of emotions as states of mind such as anger, happiness, joy, disappointment, love, fear etc, but what exactly are they? According to the Brittanica Encyclopedia, an emotion is ‘a complex experience of consciousness, bodily sensation and behaviour that reflects the personal significance of a thing, an event or a state of affairs.’ Wow! Emotions do sound very complex don’t they, and yet, if we stop to think about our own emotions and how often we experience them, it is no wonder that they can have a huge impact on our life. 

Sometimes we can have mixed emotions which can be really unsettling. Have you ever gone from extreme joy to feeling scared in the matter of a few seconds? Sometimes life events can trigger these mixed emotions. No wonder we can feel overwhelmed and unsure how to handle these intense feelings. It is important to remember that you are not trying to suppress your emotions, you are merely managing them. It is important not to try to suppress your emotions as by experiencing them we can better understand our life and the experiences surrounding it. 

Emotions can teach us valuable lessons about our life, even the difficult emotions. By experiencing emotions, we can understand more about our relationships, our work and our outlook on life. Quite often though, we let our emotions get the better of us and we can make the wrong decision and so, it is important to avoid any important decision making while our emotions are still heightened. 

So, here are my top tips for managing emotions, particularly negative ones.

1 Learn how to identify the emotion. Notice how you are feeling in your body and what symptoms you are experiencing. Allow yourself to feel these symptoms whether you are suffering with a headache or stomach pain. Think deeply about these symptoms. What are they telling you about what is happening? Perhaps you initially feel anger and your face has turned red from the strong feeling you are experiencing. But maybe if you allow some reflection on what is happening, the initial emotion might subside, and the reality is, the real emotion you are feeling, is in fact hurt which was masked by anger. By giving yourself time to analyse the emotion, you are allowing yourself space to get in touch with the real emotion. 

2 Don’t act straightaway. When you are faced with a strong emotion, it is important to withdraw from the situation to allow time for heightened feelings to quieten down. This is especially true for negative emotions as reacting at this point can quickly escalate a situation. Try distancing yourself from the emotion by walking away and finding something else to do, allowing your mind to reach a calmer state. Take a pause and calm breaths and maybe this will help diffuse the situation. Respond but don’t react!

3 Notice your triggers. Emotions can often be a recurring event. Something happens to fire up our emotions and we can find ourselves going back into familiar ways of dealing with a situation and this is not always the best way of handling it. Have a think about what triggers you are vulnerable to and try and plan to eliminate or at least lessen this trigger. If someone particular is causing these triggers, then maybe you could have a word with them. After all,  your health and wellbeing must be a priority. 

4 Accept that emotions are part of life and therefore completely unavoidable, especially the ones that take you by surprise. If an emotion is particularly painful then try and accept it rather than fighting against it. Resisting the emotion can actually make it more difficult to deal with. Allow yourself to feel the feelings without adding to the anxiety. Once again try and remove yourself from the situation, allow time to pass and give yourself breathing space. 

5 Find ways to de stress. Exercise, creative activities and meditation can all help to calm a nervous body and mind, providing a stable base for when emotions arise from a sudden difficult situation.

6 Write down your feelings surrounding the emotion. Writing down how we feel can really help create clarity at a time when we may feel overwhelmed. Studies have shown that writing can have a positive outcome on a difficult situation and can significantly help calm a frazzled mind. 

Why not join me to further explore emotions and how to manage them, in my next Writing for Wellbeing class here at The Joy Club on Monday 10th June at 12.30pm. I look forward to seeing you there. 

Want to continue reading?

This piece is part of our exclusive articles for members. We post new interviews, features and stories every single day, so sign up to continue reading - today and every day!

Sign up and start your free trial today

Already a member? Log in to read the full post