This guest blog is written by Lesley Jones, from How You Think Coaching and Training!
We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t get emotional at times and contrary to popular belief it’s ok to feel sad, irritated, frustrated, weepy or whatever. What’s not ok though is if our emotions cause us to respond in an inappropriate way or at an inappropriate time or at a level of intensity that doesn’t match the situation.
One third of us judge ourselves negatively for having ‘bad’ emotions like anger, sadness, grief etc. What we forget is that although they may not be particularly comfortable, they are healthy and have a place and purpose. For example:
- Anger helps us protect ourselves and stand up for our beliefs.
- Grief is the natural response to loss, and like sadness, is telling us to slow down and take some time out to start the healing process.
- Guilt suggests we’ve acted against our better judgement and personal moral code and that we need to change how we behave.
Emotions are natural and normal - suppressing or ignoring them causes them to get stronger and this is why, despite our best efforts, they do eventually surface inappropriately.
To stop being overtaken by our emotions we firstly need to give ourselves the space and time to process them.
We can start this process by avoiding labelling ourselves as the emotion and making it part of our identity. So, rather than saying ‘I am stressed’ - which makes it sound as if you are the emotion - say ‘I am feeling stressed’.
It’s important to get used to seeing you as you and the emotion as simply a source of data. Notice the feeling for what it is - eg I am noticing ‘I am feeling sad’ or ‘I am feeling angry’. Putting a little bit of distance between yourself and the emotion makes it easier to think about what the emotion might be telling you eg when we’re feeling stressed is this because we have too much on; we’re neglecting our health, nutrition, exercise etc; our job is no longer challenging us.
A simple way to explore what your emotions are telling you is to undertake the Five Whys exercise. All you have to do is to ask yourself the question why – five times!
For example, if you wake up in a funk and by that I mean feeling out of sorts, demotivated and struggling to do or achieve anything your five whys might run like this.
- Why am I in a funk? Because I’m feeling tired
- Why am I tired? Because I have a lot on my mind
- Why do I have a lot on my mind? Because I’m unfocussed
- Why am I unfocussed? Because I don’t know what my focus is
- Why don’t I know what my focus is? Because I haven’t actually taken the time to think about what I want to focus on
Give Five Whys a go to work out what’s going on for you. Remember - being aware of and tapping into what lies beneath our moods and emotions is essential to resilience and good emotional and mental health.
Lesley Jones runs How You Think Coaching and Training and is a qualified coach, mentor and trainer with over 25 years experience. Click here to read more about Lesley and to work with her.