How Not to Let Emotions Rule Your Life
Emotions are something that we’re all born with. Some of us, however, may experience a greater array of them throughout the day and base more of our decisions on how we feel. Maybe you’re one of those people and maybe this is something that you would like to change. Or maybe you realize that you base most of your decisions on how you feel but don’t really see why this could be a problem.
Let’s start off with the results of allowing your emotions to rule your life.
If you wait to feel a certain way before doing something you will very rarely get anything done. Every day, all of us have to do things that we don’t really want to do. Think about that laundry, dishes, or any other chore that feels never-ending. Let’s face it, these things aren’t fun and it’s very rare that we ever feel like doing them. In all probability, you might end up procrastinating on these chores and doing them only when you really have to. This in and of itself isn’t so bad (apart from it leading to a messy living environment) the problem arises when we apply this same method of prioritizing at work. Imagine leaving those work emails or admin to a time when you felt like doing them. This sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yet, I bet if you take the time to sit down and think about it, you’d realize how often you allow your feelings to dictate when you do something or whether you do them at all.
2. Relationship Strain
Emotions, if left unchecked, can wreak havoc on your relationships. There are so many scenarios that I can think of where we had an outing planned and one of us was just feeling “off” that day. You can probably guess how the events of the day unfolded. Someone isn’t fully into what we were doing, irritation rises, the overall mood drops and then someone snaps. The tragic thing about this situation is that if that first person just kept their emotions in check, all the other reactions that followed could have been stopped and the day more enjoyable for everyone involved. You might be thinking that it’s just one day, what’s the big deal? But chances are if you’re someone who lets their emotions decide how they’re going to act the day, this type of situation will continue happening. And sometimes those close to you may get sick of dealing with your emotional rollercoasters and avoid spending time with you.
Another thing that’s hard to deal with when someone acts based on emotions, is conflict situations. Conflict will arise in every relationship you have at some point. But it’s more difficult to resolve conflict when one of the parties won’t listen to reason but reacts based on their (hurt) feelings. Whenever these kinds of feelings get in the way, conflict will never be effectively resolved.
3. Mental Health
Allowing your emotions to take you wherever they want can also be detrimental to your mental health. The reason for this is that it’s easier to allow negative feelings to creep in and take hold. Unfortunately, we don’t always wake up feeling good and positive about the day ahead and it often takes willpower and a conscious choice on your part to turn your mood despite the mood you woke up in. The same applies to not letting other people and external situations influence you as much. If you allow these things to control how you feel you can easily become negative and emotionally downcast for extended periods, which could be detrimental to your health.
4. Fluctuating Self-esteem
Your self-esteem will also depend on how you feel about yourself on any given day. If you’re feeling low you may also experience lowered self-esteem. If by any chance you feel better the next day, your self-esteem will rise again. Since you don’t take control of your emotions, you could also be waiting for validation from others to feel better about yourself. It’s easy to see why this is not such a good thing to base your self-esteem on. You will be swept away by the opinions of others, feeling terrible when receiving criticism and great when you’re complimented.
Realizing all of this is good and well, but how do you stop your emotions from controlling your life? In EFR we learned that in an emergency situation you have to Stop, Think and then Act. These three steps seem equally suitable to take control of your emotions.
This first step can be the hardest if you’re used to quickly reacting to emotions. But it’s very important to stop yourself mentally the moment a negative emotion pops up. Let’s say that you’re feeling hurt in a situation and then this goes over to you feeling sad. This could lead to you normally lashing out or crying at inappropriate times. The aim is to put a stop before this happens. But the best way to do this is to not just go on as if that feeling never happened. Despite how this may feel, it’s counterproductive to ignore feelings, as they don’t go away and they only start simmering below the surface. These emotions usually don’t stay there, at some point they will surface and cause an explosion of emotions at the most inopportune time. The best way to prevent this cycle from continuing is to simply stop. Don’t react, don’t suppress, just stop.
The next step would be to think things through. Take the time (although this doesn’t have to take a decade) and think about what exactly it is that you’re feeling. What happened to make the feeling arise? Could you have misinterpreted the situation and become upset for no reason?
During the thinking stage, you may find it useful to take yourself out of the equation. Try to look at the situation objectively. Personally, I have found it useful to remove all emotions when analyzing the situation. It’s important not to fret over the feelings that you’re experiencing, if you focus on the feeling too much it can easily overwhelm you. Once you’ve clearly identified what you’re feeling and why, as well as objectively looked at the facts, you can move on to deciding how to deal with your emotions appropriately. After the first half of thinking, you will probably have more clarity and realize that maybe you overreacted or maybe you will notice that you didn’t have all the facts. In most cases that could be true. But in others, it may be that the feeling you experienced is something that legitimately upset you and needs to be dealt with by talking to someone. This could be the person whose action led you to feel a certain way or it could be a close confidante that could help you put everything in perspective and offer advice.
The final step is to act. You must go about actually doing something after all that thinking otherwise you could easily fall into an over-feeling/ over-thinking spiral. Act on whatever it is that you have decided would be the best course of action.
Depending on how often your mood shifts, the intensity of your feelings, and the extent to which you are influenced by your emotions, it may be necessary for you to do the above steps at the end of every day as well to ensure you don’t have any negative feelings lingering and then flowing over to the next day. You might even find keeping an emotions journal helpful. It could be easier to sort through your emotions by writing them down and you can then easily spot any patterns that need changing or positive changes that you’ve already successfully put into place.