Emotional wellness is the ability to recognize and manage your emotions – they are neither right nor wrong but are simply messages that the brain interprets in order for you to make appropriate decisions. The following steps will help you to become more aware of your emotions.
Listen to your feelings
Events and situations trigger feelings and are brought on by things that you experienced earlier in life. For example, if you were criticized as a child, criticism may emit feelings of anger or frustration. Similarly, if you had your heart broken in a past love affair, it may cause you to feel hurt or sadness or fear may cause you to avoid allowing yourself to be vulnerable to that situation again. The importance of identifying these emotions and their origins is paramount to sustaining emotional and physical health (they are, after all, entirely one). Furthermore, putting names to your feelings and taking time to think about what they mean will enable you to make better decisions in your life.
“Behind every trigger is a wound in our past.” ― Jessica MooreTweet
Denying or suppressing feelings leads to confusion, resentment and physical stress. Even intense and uncomfortable feelings such as anger, fear, and frustration are softened when they are acknowledged without criticism or blaming and move us to change the things in our lives that need to be altered. Allow yourself to experience, support and channel uncomfortable emotions as productively as possible. It will enable you to feel more freedom, joy, and peace.
Identify the Feeling and its intensity.
If you find it difficult to notice or name what you are feeling, it may require that you pay attention to your body. Most feelings are experienced in the body. For example, fear may show up as a knot in your stomach or a tightness in your throat. Our bodies are all different, so you will have to pay attention to your body and not just rely on other’s experiences. You may find it helpful to make a list of various feelings (e.g., delight, sadness, fear, insecurity, fury, shame, etc.) and spend some time reading over the list to see if you are aware of having experienced some of these.
Feelings have levels of intensity so rate them on a scale from 1 to 10. It is important to remember that each person’s emotional responses are unique. Therefore it is necessary to accept strong emotions in other people, even when you may not agree. Low intensity or moderate emotion may not call for any action. It may be enough to just be aware of the emotion and the circumstances in which it occurred. Label it for yourself and even try tuning in to a positive emotion early on to prevent escalation of both the feeling and concern. If the same emotion recurs ever more strongly in the same situation, it is a message that something needs your attention.
Gain Some Control before Acting
- Count to ten
- Relax your body
- Remove yourself from the situation
- Talk to a friend
- Write an unsent letter
- Find something humorous to focus on
- Take a deep breath
- Go for a walk
- Introspection – Think about your day. Reflect – if you were controlled or uncontrolled. Try to improve each day.
- Keep silent – This is probably hard for some, but try to fix a time of day for quiet reflection.
- Don’t accept negative situations. Ignore them. Remember if you don’t accept another person’s negativity, it still belongs to them.
- Have some EMPATHY – try to understand other’s perspectives and situations.
Interpret the Feeling
Often your feelings are related to your interpretations of events more than to the events themselves. While it is natural to think that you are responding only to the events of your life, in fact, you make interpretations or judgments of these events, and these interpretations play a key role in your emotional responses. When you stop to think about it, each event could yield a variety of emotional responses.
When our emotional health is in a bad state, so is our level of self-esteem. We have to slow down and deal with what is troubling us, so that we can enjoy the simple joy of being happy and at peace with ourselves.Tweet
Remember that your interpretations can be made so rapidly and so automatically that you may not realize they are happening. In effect, your emotions can be a valuable signal to you that you may need to re-examine your interpretation.
Express the Emotion
There are two ways of expressing your feelings:
A passive expression is often misinterpreted as hiding your feelings. However, the feelings will emerge and may manifest in the following ways:
- Inability to be honest with other people
- Go along with something but don’t follow through because you really don’t agree with it
- Act opposite to what others are expecting
- Quietly manipulate to get your own way after voicing a completely different opinion, just to keep the peace
- Seek revenge by agreeing and looking “good”, but never following through on your promises
- Tell people what they want to hear, even if you don’t believe in what you are saying
- Try to please people by agreeing to their plan of action, yet actually doing the opposite
- Act one way, which is true to your inner feelings, yet say another
- Are out of touch with your inner feelings; the only way to know how you feel about something is to observe your behavior, don’t trust my words
- Hate something or someone but am afraid of letting your true feelings show
- Feel pressured to act or believe in a certain way when you really don’t want to
- Avoid conflict at all cost by giving in to others, then procrastinate and never do what you agreed to do
- Angry but afraid to show your anger, so you quietly take your revenge by doing the opposite
Assertiveness is the ability to express yourself and your rights without violating the rights of others. It is appropriately direct, open, and honest communication which is self-enhancing and expressive. Acting assertively will allow you to feel self-confident, and will generally gain you the respect of your peers and friends. It can increase your chances for honest relationships, and help you to feel better about yourself and your self-control in everyday situations. This, in turn, will improve your decision-making ability and possibly your chances of getting what you really want from life. Remember to:
- Be specific
- Be direct
- Use “I feel” rather than “You make me feel ….”
- Ask for feedback – “Is this clear to you?” “What do you think about the situation?”
It is not just what you say to someone verbally, but also how you communicate nonverbally with voice tone, gestures, eye contact, facial expression and posture that will influence your impact on others. You must remember that it takes time and practice, as well as a willingness to accept yourself as you make mistakes, to reach the goal of acting assertively. As you practice your techniques, it is often helpful to have accepting relationships and a supportive environment. People who understand and care about you are your strongest assets.
Learning to experience your feelings fully and expressing them in ways that are adaptive and healthy is not a simple process, but there are some key components that can help. In general, it is important to become a good observer of your feelings, to accept and value them, and to attend to what they signal to you. Pay attention to how your interpretations and thoughts affect how you feel. When deciding how to express how you feel, give some thought to all of your options. And most importantly, be patient. Don’t become discouraged when you find yourself struggling with this process. Learning to experience and express your emotions is a life-long process.