Do you feel like you’re constantly spending time and energy in an emotional state you don’t want to be in? Do you take the time to fight these feelings or is there a process in which you acknowledge them?
When you’re feeling happy emotions, you probably realise that you’re able to perform better. You’re more likely to engage with others, and more likely to choose productive activities. On the other hand, a negative emotion can cause you to withdraw from your team, and lead to procrastination.
These negative emotions are probably draining your energy, and are then causing friction in your relationships at work. Stress, unexpected demands, and challenges can cause us to slip into these negative emotions daily, sometimes multiple times. Without recognising what triggers them and how to manage our emotions, we can stay in the fight, flight, or freeze reaction for much longer than we want to or is good for us.
You can’t be in control of what you do not know. This is why becoming aware of your emotions is the first step in managing them. Whether it’s overwhelm, anger, or self- pity, we can spend precious time and energy fighting these emotions, and allowing them to become bigger. Without the ability to recognise our emotional states and how it affects others, we lose the chance to recognise them coming in the future, and change our habitual reactions to them.
Another reason to be aware of your emotional reactions, and managing them effectively is because of emotional contagion – it’s the phenomenon of having one person’s emotions and related behaviours directly trigger similar emotions and behaviours in other people. This is why it’s hard to be in a good mood if you’re talking to someone who is going through a rough time. It’s also why we’re more likely to get impatient at a bus stop if other people are acting impatiently. If you’re stressed, and aren’t able to recognise, and adapt your attitude quickly, you can “pass” this feeling to your team and co-workers.
Below are some practical ways you can start to recognise, and manage your emotions.
Deep Abdominal Breathing
Simple, and effective. The fastest way to signal your brain to turn off the fight or flight response is to take a few deep breaths. The next time you recognise a negative emotion come on, take five minutes to breathe. Inhale for five seconds, exhale for five seconds. It’s free, it’s quick and it’s powerful.
Fuel Positive Emotions
Another way to push out the negative emotions is to fill our heads up with the positive ones. You can do this multiple ways: a gratitude practice, reciting affirmations, speaking to loved ones, or even exercise are all great ways to conjure up positive emotions. The trick is to choose this practice. It may be easy for us to retreat into fight or flight (biologically, it is our default when feeling threatened), but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a choice. Practice doing the opposite and see how quickly you bounce back.
Track and Reflect
Keeping a journal and reflecting often on what it was the made us feel reactive is a great way to build awareness of our emotions. Take five minutes before bed to note down the following:
- What negative emotion did you feel?
- What brought it on?
- How long did it last?
- What effect did it have on others?
The last question may be one of the most important. As managers, or even co-workers, we must realize the impact we have on each other. Most professionals spend more time during the week with their co-workers than they do with their families, and if we want to add value to the workplace, looking at how we manage our emotions is a great place to start.