Emotions are probably the most pressing, present, and painful forces in our lives – every single thing we do is driven by emotions.
We make sacrifices because we love, we cry because we are hurt, we take chances because we are excited about new results. It’s safe to say that our emotions dictate who we are.
However, when you act on the wrong emotions or act on your emotions too quickly, you may make decisions that you’ll probably regret later. As with other aspects of life, emotions should be met with a sense of logical perspective and moderation.
So, how do you avoid an emotional meltdown when things don’t work out the way you expected? Or, how do you not fall head over heels for someone on the just the first date?
You just need to learn how to control your emotions. Here are eight simple ways to manage your emotions and find your “inner zen”.
7 Ways to Control Your Emotions
1. Understand That Emotions are Perfectly Normal
As a child, you were probably led to believe that expressing your emotions wasn’t appropriate. You were told things like “big girls don’t cry” or “man up”. Instead of being taught how to cry, you were taught how to stop crying and show no emotions.
You may have grown up thinking that keeping your emotions bottled up is the appropriate way to manage them, but this is totally wrong.
It may seem like your parents were preparing you for the cruelty of the outside world, but in essence, they were subconsciously making you emotionally stunted.
When the going gets tough, feel free to break a tear because that’s perfectly normal. It is okay to feel scared, sad, or angry. Learn to embrace and express how you feel, because this is the first step in dealing with your emotions.
2. Take Control of Your Situation
You understand yourself best – you know what you love and what you don’t, what makes you nervous and what makes you happy. If you know that something isn’t good for you (and is avoidable), simply don’t do it.
For instance, if shopping in an overcrowded mall gets on your nerves, adjust your shopping program to when it’s less crowded.
Similarly, if music gives you peace, then – by all means – carry your iPod everywhere!
It is all about being in control of your situation, hence your emotions.
3. Cognitive Change
This involves changing how you perceive a particular situation so as to change how it affects you emotionally.
You sometimes can’t control what happens to you. Instead of letting an unpleasant occurrence crumble you, you can change how you think of it, and this will subsequently change how it affects your feelings.
For instance, let’s say a special someone forgot to recognize an important occasion in your life, like a birthday or an anniversary. Instead of focusing your attention on the fact that they forgot the occasion, think of the possible reasons as to why they did not remember. Maybe they had to attend to more pressing matters, lost track of the date and time, or were distracted by other activities.
Although you won’t necessarily change the situation, by changing your mentality, you will certainly change how it affects you.
4. Response Modulation
Response modulation involves changing your psychological and behavioral response to a situation.
Meditation, exercise, brain stimulations, and taking deep breaths are some of the popular ways of keeping emotions (such as anger and sadness) at bay.
To increase the effectiveness of response modulation, ensure that you use it with other cognitive enhancement strategies like therapy.
5. Manage Your Expectations
If you set your expectations too high, you may end up frustrated when things don’t play out in your favor. In fact, it is better to expect less and get a pleasant surprise than setting high expectations only to be disappointed.
Learning how to set your expectations will see you avoid unnecessary disappointments and frustrations in life.
6. Check Out
When you feel too overwhelmed with the pressures of life, it’s okay to shut everything down and take a break. Read a magazine, watch TV, play games, take a bath, go swimming – anything that takes your mind off a stressful situation. Do it and have some fun while at it.
7. Laugh it Off
Nothing gets rid of stress better than a good laugh. Laughing helps your body release endorphins (also known as the “feel good” hormones) which act as natural pain relievers.
Instead of stressing over how dysfunctional your family is, see the fun in the situation. Drop the seriousness for once and laugh it out. Alternatively, watch a funny show on TV.
If These Strategies Don’t Work, Seek Professional Help
If all the above strategies do not help, you could probably be suffering from depression. Speak to your family and close friends and, if possible, seek professional help. Therapy and support groups always come in handy in such situations.