We often resort to less effective and sustainable tactics to manage emotional experiences. These may include blocking out negative emotions with excessive drinking, gaming or TV. Managing uncomfortable feelings and thoughts by persistently pushing them away is also counter-productive and often makes them persist and erupt when we least expect it. Emotion suppression over time is also associated with a raft of health problems. In contrast, dealing with our anger by yelling at our colleagues, even in a closed office, is more likely to inflate negative emotions rather than resolve them.
When our familiar coping strategies fail or aren’t accessible, how do we manage our emotions effectively in the moment? Here are a few tips for managing emotions when no distractions are working :
- Smile to make yourself feel good. Find a mirror, make it fun. If it doesn’t feel right to start with, you will soon be laughing at yourself and feel better naturally. The muscles we use to smile will tell our brain we are happy. Do it for at least 30 seconds.
- Smile to make others feel good. Create that connection, open communication, trigger those mirror brain cells that make us experience empathy for others.
- Get up and move. Jump around. It is important to move our lymph nodes to get toxins out of our body. Our lymphatic system doesn’t have muscles to get it moving; it works when we move other parts of our body and allow gravity to massage it. Bouncing is the best way. Raising our arms generates the release of hormones under our armpits – often referred to as ‘happy hormones’. Again, this will tell our brain we are happy and make us feel better. Get up from your desk regularly.
- Check in with your body. Do a body scan. Take note of where you are holding tension and your overall physiology. Relate these tensions and changes to the emotion you are feeling to begin to understand where and how different emotions affect you.
- Breathe. Take 6 deep diaphragmatic breaths. Our body cannot sustain anger through deep breathing. Let the lower lungs have that oxygen to pass around your body and brain. This will calm you and flood you with oxygen. You may feel tingly. Do it for at least 60 seconds.
- Talk to someone. Express your feelings to begin to resolve the situation. Vent to a friend or colleague rather than suppress emotions.