Emotions can be powerful things, and sometimes, overwhelming. They overtake us and take us by surprise. Think about it: when’s the last time you regretted the way you reacted to something? Or, when did you snap without realizing it? It’s easy to do and it happens to the best of us.
But when you’re not in control of your emotions, you can end up hurting the people you love, damaging relationships, and also feel pretty crummy, too. So, here are seven ways to control your emotions better. You’ll be glad you did.
#1: Label and validate your emotions
You can’t deal with something until you know what that something is. So, your first step is to label your emotion. What is it that you’re feeling? Anxious, sad, angry, disappointed, betrayed, frustrated, vulnerable, impatient, hopeless, etc. The list goes on and on.
Your job isn’t to judge the emotion. Your job is to name it. Remember, you can feel more than one emotion at the same time.
Once you’ve labeled the emotion, validate it. That is, accept it and allow it to be there. You don’t have to feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. It is what it is.
#2: Create a new context for your thoughts
Our thoughts shape reality more than we may realize. If we feel anxious, we may project that onto events and interactions. And instead of having a fulfilling and productive time, we actually manifest our earlier fears and anxieties.
We all have some sort of emotional filter through which we view the world. Most of the time, this emotional filter is negative and not very realistic. Oftentimes, this is how people have “bad” days.
So, it’s up to us, to see our filter and say, “You know what? I don’t like this perspective and context. I’m going to change that.”
Because guess what? You can change how you interpret the events around you. You can choose whether the glass is half-empty, or half-full.
#3: Do something to boost your mood
When you’re feeling down, you will likely engage in activities that keep you down. Slowly but surely, you’ll trap yourself in a vicious cycle of negativity. But you don’t have to be the victim of your emotions.
You can make a choice to do something that boosts your mood. This isn’t about denying your negative emotion or suppressing it. Instead, it’s about not letting this negative feeling kill your day. It’s about allowing yourself to feel something else.
What can you do to boost your mood? Call a friend to laugh, not complain. Walk to your favorite cafe. Try meditating. Or, put on your favorite playlist and dance and sing along. You can change your emotions in a minute. It’s up to you to do that.
#4: Get to know your triggers
Do you have specific emotions that tend to surface regularly? If so, why? What triggers them? For example, do you feel angry often? Start to pay attention to this emotion. What triggered it?
Get to know these instigators. This way, when you see the trigger happen, you can say, “Okay, I know I may feel angry as a response to this.” This way, the anger won’t take you by surprise, and the longer you do this, you may actually keep anger from bubbling up at all.
Instead, you could just say, “This is happening, and I choose to let it go.”
#5: Practice present-moment awareness
Now, it’s one thing to know your triggers, but it’s another thing to show up in that millisecond between when the trigger happens and when the emotion happens. In fact, it can seem impossible. Hence, why we are all so reactive and can’t seem to control our emotions.
But the more you practice present-moment awareness, the more you’re able to observe the emotions and feelings that rise and fall in your body and choose whether or not you engage in them.
This isn’t easy and it’s a practice that takes time and commitment. But it sure is worth it. Imagine being in a situation that normally makes you raging angry, and be able to say to yourself, “I choose to feel differently because I choose to see this differently.” Now, that’s powerful.
#6: Write about it
This whole article is about how to “control” your emotions, but try not to look at emotions as something “bad” that you have to “control” and keep from getting out of hand. Emotions are just emotions, and you want to get to know them and to develop a good rapport with them.
When you do, you won’t be so afraid of them, and they won’t have as much power over you as they used to. One great way to do this is to write about your feelings. Dig deep, ask questions, get curious and keep the shame and guilt off the page.
Now is not the time to beat yourself up. Now’s the time to accept that you’re a human being who can feel a wide range of emotions, and that’s okay.
#7: Be responsible for your emotions
Sure, present-moment awareness and mindfulness are amazing skills we can all work on. But don’t worry if you’re not an enlightened Buddha by the end of the week. And don’t worry if you mess up and let your emotions get the better of you.
You’re human. And along with being human comes taking responsibility for what you’ve said and done. So, if the emotions controlled you and you did something you’re not proud of, be accountable and apologize where apologies are needed.
You will have to apologize less and less as you master this skill. But never be ashamed of having to apologize. It takes great courage and it’s something to be commended.
Remember, learning how to control your emotions is a skill. It doesn’t happen overnight. It comes with practice. So, be patient with yourself as you learn to deal with the amazing, powerful feelings that arise inside of you. They’re not there to stifle. They’re there to acknowledge and respect.