If you’re a highly emotional person, it can be hard to control those feelings. You can’t avoid difficult emotions—they are part of the human experience. But you can control how you react to them, and that’s what’s most important. Make so mistake; it takes work and ongoing effort. But your life will run smoother, be less stressful, and you’ll experience near-supernatural composure with these seven strategies to control your emotions. Let’s dig in.
1. Explore Your Feelings
Self-awareness of your own emotions is the first step to controlling them. So if you are baffled by your inability to keep your cool, begin to explore the reasons why. Human beings experience up to 70,000 thoughts each day—around 48 thoughts every minute. But here’s the kicker: Each thought we have is followed by a corresponding emotion. Whether that emotion is anger, sadness, happiness, worry, or indifference, it can be hard to keep them all under control.
Essentially, every feeling you have is preceded by a thought. So if you can manage your thoughts, you can control your emotions. But how? The answer lies in awareness. So when you experience a hair-trigger reaction, stop and ask yourself what you were thinking just before it happened? Could you change that thought so you could feel differently? That’s your saving grace, right there.
For example, suppose you are having a bad day at work, and a thought enters your mind: “I am so incompetent. I’m going to get fired.”
Stop and notice that thoughts like this are usually followed by feelings of anxiety, depression, or frustration. Do you want to feel that way? Obviously not. Can you go back and edit your thoughts? For example, you could tell yourself, “Although my boss seems irritated with me today, I am typically a great performer at work. I’m human. It’s okay to make mistakes”.
Of course, you need the new thought to be believable too. Maybe you’re not cut out for the job you have, and your boss really isn’t impressed with your performance. Even in a case like this, you can edit your thoughts so that “I’m going to get fired” becomes something like this: “I may get fired, but that will give me a shot at trying some of those work-at-home gigs I’ve been reading about.”
2. Get Your Emotions in Writing
Journaling or recording your emotions is one of the best ways to control them. When you write out your feelings and reactions, it’s easier to get to the root of the problem and uncover the destructive patterns you’ve developed over the years.
Getting all your feelings in writing (whether in a physical or digital journal) can help you reflect on what thoughts led you to lose control in the first place. Whether you’re having problems at work or at home, journaling can assist you in uncovering the triggers that are causing the issues. Moreover, recording your emotions makes it possible to develop the healthy balance you need to manage them better.
3. Slow Your Thoughts Down
If the average person has 48 thoughts a minute, and each thought is followed by a feeling, it’s easy to see how emotions get out of control so fast. But you can make a concerted effort to slow those thoughts down with a practice called mindfulness meditation.
While it may seem like a new-age concept, people have practiced meditation before it was even a word. And you don’t need to be a Buddhist monk to corporate it into your daily life. With meditation, you’re essentially training your mind to empty itself of those 48 thoughts and exist for a few minutes with no thoughts at all.
There are hundreds of ways to practice meditation and plenty of resources to help you learn a method that will work for you. You can meditate using various breathing techniques, repeating a calming word, visualizing a peaceful scene, and more. To get started, look for meditation apps for beginners.
4. Be Present
When you’re dealing with a barrage of mental traffic all day, you’ll find disruptive emotions cropping up constantly. Have you ever experienced a strong emotional reaction to something unrelated to what is happening at the time? Sometimes, it can be hard to trace that emotion back to a specific thought, especially when you are busy with many things at once.
Being present is another way to slow your thoughts down and regain control over your emotions. To practice being present, you’ll need to force yourself to pay attention to what you are doing. For example, how often have you been doing dishes, taking a shower, or driving while thinking about completely unrelated topics? You likely do this multiple times each day.
So, if you’re doing dishes, for example, immerse yourself in the present moment. Observe the temperature of the water, the smell of the soap, and the patterns on the dishes. Focus only on the tasks you are completing at any moment, and if your mind wanders, that’s okay. Just come back to what you’re doing and carry on.
5. Pause Before Reacting
If you’re emotionally charged, you’ll notice that your reactions are quick, and you do things almost automatically without thinking. This is a sign that you’re becoming more out of control of your emotions, and it’s time to think before speaking or reacting.
Some people use the “count to ten” method, or they take a break from the situation and come back to it later. You can do whatever makes sense to you. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I need to think about this and get back to you .”The idea is that you give yourself a time out to react more appropriately to the situation.
If you just can’t get your mind off how you feel, it can also help to deliberately preoccupy yourself with activities that make you happy. For example, whether you enjoy art, reading, walking, cooking, or some other pastime, engaging in something that you find enjoyable is a great way to take a break from uncomfortable emotions.
Likewise, doing something that requires a little concentration and brain power for a few minutes can also help to reset your emotions. Organizing the junk drawer, doing a crossword puzzle, or taking online surveys for money all fall in this category.
6. Ask For Help
If your out-of-control emotions are affecting your work, relationships, or everyday life, ask for help. Unfortunately, it seems like humans are hardwired to be independent, and asking for help is usually a last resort. However, counselors and therapists deal with feelings and emotions as their life’s work. So take advantage of their skills! Plus, with so many inexpensive online therapy services available, it’s easier than ever to get the help you need.
Getting professional help doesn’t mean you’re mentally ill or deficient somehow. It means that you’re exactly like the other 7.75 billion people on the planet who experience emotions. Some just have them more under control than others. Bouncing your feelings off someone who is paid to listen to you is not just cathartic; it can improve your well-being and help you be more successful in every aspect of your life.
7. Controlling Is Not the Same as Repressing
For many people, the emotions they experience are so painful and intense that they feel the only way to survive is to bury them so deep they never materialize again. But as you are probably already aware, sweeping things under the rug seldom works.
Preventing yourself from experiencing your feelings because it hurts too much is exceptionally unhealthy and contributes to problems like:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Insomnia and sleep issues
- Substance abuse and dependency
- Unexplained physical pain
- Inability to handle daily life
- Chaotic relationships
When you’re working on controlling your emotions, the goal should not be to suppress them. Emotions are necessary, and part of what makes you a unique human being. Instead, you’ll be much healthier and happier if you learn to manage your distress and develop ways to regulate your emotions with grace and skill.