Have you ever found yourself mentally kicking yourself for saying something stupid at a family gathering? Or for losing your cool? If not, go do something else! This post is not for you.
If, however, you’ve ever felt a bit out of control of your emotions, here are three steps you can use to gain more control over your emotions.
1- Accept negative emotions.
Negative emotions can save our lives. If our home caught on fire, we would not coach ourselves by saying, “Stop feeling these terrible emotions.”
We would run!
Our negative emotions may be an indication that we need to act. It is also important to note that when we feel intense emotions, we cannot think as clearly. This is why we often make poor choices when we are flooded with emotions.
So we want to accept our negative emotions, but then we evaluate and determine HOW we should act. We can accept anger but reject the idea to hit, yell, or use sarcasm to express ourselves. But if we reject anger altogether, we do not address what is really going on. Without accepting our anger, we cannot truly identify its cause and establish a plan to make things right.
2- Become an excellent observer.
What can you learn from your emotions?
Our strongest emotions reveal our deepest values. If we see our emotions as teachers, they will reveal helpful information that will guide us physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
We can also learn to note what types of situations cause us to feel most vulnerable to losing control. A well-known acronym in the addiction community is HALT.
Don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Why? Because when we do, we are more susceptible to regrettable actions.
If we want to experience more joy throughout the holiday season, we must take care of ourselves. We can accept that we have more negative emotions this year, but let’s also learn from our emotions. They are gifts. They are teachers.
3- Learn to be “current” with emotions.
That means we do not possess a list of emotions or emotional experiences that we are resisting. Do we resist anger, grief, or guilt? Do we ignore the physical signs and busy ourselves with our devices, busy schedules, or entertainment?
Take some time to ask, “Why do I feel _____?”
When we are not current with our emotions, we experience low frustration tolerance. We find ourselves feeling more irritable. And we are less able to connect with others who are hurting. I believe we become less empathetic.
A few years ago, at my grandfather’s funeral, I remember numerous people sharing about their loss. They were not sharing about my grandfather; instead, they were consumed with emotion that faced them when they stepped foot in the funeral home. They were not current with their grief. They shared about how difficult it was to step foot in a funeral home. They talked about how hard it’s been since they lost their loved one. If they had been current with their grief, they could have been a little more supportive of our loss.
We want to be “current” with our emotions so we can be “present” with our loved ones. If we do not face our grief, our grief may hit us like an unexpected train.
BUT, we can accept our negative emotions, become better observers of our emotions, and get current with our emotions!