The One Thing You Can Control
Gaining “control” of your emotions is all about developing self-awareness. The one thing we cannot control is what happens to us. However, we get to choose how to respond. That’s powerful.
I believe in that power because no one or nothing can harm your mindset unless you give it the opportunity. Things happen, but how you choose to address them makes the difference.
Behave in a way that aligns with your values or doesn’t; they’re your emotions to own.
Food for Thought
Think about this: Have you ever ruined a date with someone by throwing a tantrum and hurling judgment because your date glanced at the person across the room?
Expect someone to behave how you think and get mad when they choose not to?
Or, ever walked away from an argument because you were too upset to listen and come to an agreement?
Why is it that we let the way we feel overpower us? So much so that instead of understanding the emotion – we surrender, allowing it to control our behavior?
Handling our emotions is about self-awareness. When we fail to recognize and communicate what is going on inside of us, we lose control.
Regulating depends on patience, allowing your mind to problem solve and catch up to the physical symptoms we feel when stressed or angered. Only then can we truly gain control over ourselves.
It’s a habit and practice. Many of us have learned how to communicate from our families and peers, but not how to regulate emotions.
Here are a few tips to help you out.
Ways to Gain Control of Your Emotions
1. Deep Breathing
As simple as it may sound, deep breathing actually helps. If you think about when you’re your most calm, how is your breathing? If you are reading and calm now, take a second and check.
Generally, when we are calm, our breathing is slow, oxygen delivery is excellent, and we can think clearly. When stressed, fearful, worried, and angered, our breathing increases simultaneously.
Our system is priming us for an event in the form of the famous “fight-or-flight” response. Breathing deeply is a fantastic technique to communicate to your body that you are safe.
It is a quick solution and too simple; sometimes, it will not work in the same environment that has you triggered. You will need to remove yourself from the situation and deep breathe to allow yourself to think clearly.
Another question: How many of you have had an argument with someone, have said some hurtful things, only to regret it hours later? Or the next day?
When we are triggered, we lose control of our breath and are unable to think clearly. This is how emotion overtakes us.
Deep breathing can be a daily practice. Negativity inside your mind will gradually corrode your mental and physical health. In the long run, meditation is an excellent practice for mindfulness and much needed for positive thinking and keeping calm.
You do have the power to choose.
It is up to you whether to look at emotions as a weakness/mental block or a lesson. When we can look at each feeling as a lesson, we learn how to manage them much better.
2. Think, BEFORE Speaking
Thinking before speaking goes hand in hand with deep breathing. When you find yourself triggered, even acutely, the words you should communicate are replaced with history, expectations, and negative beliefs. Your brain’s most important job is to keep you alive.
It is not concerned with saying the “right words” when it detects a threat. Your body will react to each threatening situation the same to keep you safe. So let it and feel the adrenaline course through your body, but stay silent.
Remove yourself from the environment if possible, deep breathe, and allow your rational mind to catch up with the rest of your body.
Disclaimer: If you are in a relationship, you should communicate before arguing that keeping silent and/or taking a “timeout” is a skill you use to calm down.
3. Develop Outlets
Your body keeps count. Each emotion you choose to keep hidden away finds its way to the surface eventually. It is slow-poison and toxic. It’s easy to tuck emotions away and carry on with life.
However, the slightest trigger will lead to an explosion or implosion; the feelings will be more significant in intensity than if handled initially. Imagine taking a balloon in your hand.
Each moment you feel uncomfortable emotions and tuck them away, it’s as if blowing air into a balloon. If you continue this process consistently without an outlet, the balloon will assuredly pop. It can be a very helpless feeling, but you cannot run away from yourself.
Provide an outlet for all the emotions that you experience and learn how to manage them:
- Make sense of them by asking yourself why it is that you feel this way? Look for the evidence to support your thinking and emotion.
- Journal. Put your thoughts and emotions onto paper so that they are somewhere else other than your body and soul.
- Scream. Let it out. Find somewhere to release the intensity that’s been building internally.
- Tear up pieces of paper.
- Get a ball or an item that you can squeeze in your hands.
- EXERCISE! Get the energy out. Go for sprints, a job, or to the gym. Play a sport. Any physical activity that will channel negative emotions out.
The critical point is to do something constructive that will competently drain your energy to help you control your decisions.
4. Determine the Consequences
Want to be heard? Take a second, deep breathe, and turn down the volume.
No one deserves to be at the other end of someone’s “wrath,” whether they are strangers, friends, and/or family. Who are you losing your temper too? And where? If they are strangers, what point do you have to prove to answer back, defend your pride, or “put them in their place?”
There is no relationship.
In contrast, we generally want to keep in contact with people who are in our networks and social circles. Therefore, are we arguing to come to an agreement or simply to disrespect each other? Then what does that say about our relationship? What importance do we have in each other’s lives if we cannot allow ourselves to hear each other out even if we disagree?
Analyze the consequence of each relationship and make the best decision about how to respond.
Quick Tip: Yelling will always put someone else on the defensive. Even if they are in the wrong and you are right. Want to be heard? Take a second, deep breathe, and turn down the volume.
No one is perfect and is expected to be an expert on emotional control. Emotions are there to warn us, help us feel good about ourselves, and connect with others. They are not meant to make decisions for us.
They should be filtered so that they work for us, not to be slaves to them. So, don’t tuck them away, ignore them, and blame someone else for what you feel. Take a moment to understand what is going on inside, practice some skills, and gain control.
Thanks for reading. I hope the words in this article were helpful or helped spark conversation.