Every day we all experience countless strong feelings that accompany positive or negative emotions. Depending on what is happening in our lives, we can feel happy, sad, afraid or angry. Some feelings, such as fear, can be difficult, but also can help push us to do better in achieving our goals and moving beyond our comfort zones. Likewise, happy feelings can cause problems, such as inability to concentrate, sleep or eat. Life without feelings would be impossible and even boring. Dealing with our emotions is very important for our health. By this we mean being aware of our emotions, facing, accepting, understanding and working through them.
Our emotions help us to:
Occasionally people do not want to feel what they are feeling. They may be ashamed or guilty of these feelings, or they just do not like certain emotions but ignoring feelings and emotions will not make them go away. It is better to confront them. Being unable to express feelings can cause relationship, problems, conflict, poor self esteem and a range of health problems.
Understanding our feelings can be hugely important in helping us to deal with life. Feelings are part of everyday life and are interspersed with just about everything we do. We need to be aware of our feelings and emotions because our behaviour can be influenced by them.
Becoming aware of your feelings is one of the most important things you can do. Someone who is aware of their emotions:
- Understand ourselves
- Understand and empathize with others
- Communicate clearly and effectively
- Make decisions based on the things that are important to us
- Get motivated and take action to meet goals
- Build strong healthy relationships
- Can deal with strong feelings such as anger, sadness, fear, grief and happiness.
- Can feel their emotions physically in their bodies e.g. can feel your emotions in your head or stomach.
- Is comfortable with the full range of emotions. You may not like the feeling caused by certain emotions but you realise you will experience them and are okay with that.
- Pays attention to their emotions and uses their emotions to guide decision making.
- Is comfortable talking about their emotions
- Is honest when talking about their emotions and do not try to conceal their true feelings
- Displays their emotions openly and clearly to others and is
- Sensitive to the emotions of others.
Healthy Ways of Managing Our Emotions
Stress management is a key skill for dealing effectively and healthily with your emotions. Knowing how to deal with stress is like having a safety net in place when exploring the emotions that seems scary or painful. The ability to quickly reduce stress allows you to safely face strong emotions, secure in your ability to regulate your feelings and behave appropriately. The key to coping with emotions is the knowledge that you control your emotions and not the other way around. To find out more about quick tips and techniques go to Stress Techniques. For relaxation practices that reduce stress go to Relaxation Techniques.
Be aware that emotions quickly come and go if we let them. Some days you will see, read or hear of something in the world that instantly triggers a strong feeling of some sort e.g. anger, sadness, fear or joy. If you don't focus on that feeling, it won't last and a different emotion will soon replace it.
Listen to what your body is telling you as it helps us understand our emotions better. Note the difference here between physical and psychological causes. For example if you experience nausea, stomach pain or headaches before a certain event or situation it means that something is making you feel uncomfortable. It doesn't mean that the event or situation is dangerous or unsafe it only means that you feel that way. Take time to sit and think about why you are feeling that way.
Start a diary to help you understand why you are feeling the way you are. By writing down and taking time to think about your feelings you become aware of the real reason you are feeling the way you are and the emotion can become less painful. Some questions you could ask yourself at this time include:
- What am I feeling?
- When did it start?
- What does it make me want to do?
- What were the triggers for this emotion?
- At what other times have I felt it?
- What can I do to deal positively with this emotion?
Take time for yourself to distress and relax. Find out what techniques work for you to help you rewind and feel better. Check out the de stress techniques here and explore which techniques work best for you and allocate time in your day to doing these de stressing techniques.
You don't have to choose between thinking and feeling. Once you have confidence in your ability to safely experience any of your emotions, you can think, plan and engage in a wide range of activities without completely loosing touch with the physical sensations in your body that signals your emotional state. Emotional awareness can be a background skill that functions like instinct. When it's strongly, developed, you will know what you are feeling without having to think about it. When your emotional signals become strong enough, you will realize that something important is going on and you can act accordingly.
Noticing Other People's Emotions
It can sometimes be easy to identify what emotions someone else is experiencing by noticing their body language and facial expressions. Noticing their gestures, movements, posture or listening to their tone of voice can give us an indication. Along with body language, facial expressions can help us identify how other are feeling. It helps us empathize. Getting to know our friends better and how they express themselves and behave when they are feeling certain emotions can help us build strong relationships. Knowing how your friends react when experiencing certain emotions means you can react out and offer support to them when they are going through difficult times. It is important to note that sometimes people seems to be able to hide their emotions well. If you think something is going on with your friends, just talk to them and more importantly let them know you are here to listen.