How to Control Your Emotions

Wouldn’t you like to know how to control your emotions?  The bad news is… you can’t.  Emotions are going to occur.  They’re part of being human.  But there is good news:  we get to decide how we respond to them.

I recently listened to a podcast interview with B.A.S.E. jumper Jeb Corliss.  During the interview, he talked about how emotions are our body’s way of trying to get us to do something.  Knowing this, we then have to ask ourselves, in the midst of a strong emotion, “Do I want to respond the way my body is telling me to respond?”  That question is powerful, because it correctly implies that we have a choice whether we’ll act the way our emotions are prompting us, or to choose a different response.

I think this is a game-changing realization for anyone with a pulse!  Just because we’re experiencing an emotion doesn’t mean we have react the way the emotion would guide us.  We get to choose our response, not our emotions.  I love that!

Armed with this common-sense awareness has allowed me to recognize situations this week where an emotion was demanding a specific response.  In those moments, that awareness has helped me to turn off the emotion autopilot and choose a different (and usually more appropriate) response.

For example, my wife and I got a new cat last weekend.  As a result of being stressed out and in an unfamiliar environment, our new family member decided our living room sofa would be a better place to relieve himself than the multiple litter boxes we placed around the house.  Upon realizing he was doing this, I felt several emotions, primarily anger and frustration, which both wanted me to do something, namely wring the cat’s neck and put him on Craig’s List respectively.

What I really wanted to do was yell and complain.  In truth, I actually started down the complaining path.  Then I thought of Jeb’s comment about emotions prompting your body to do something.  I realized pretty quickly that the way I was reacting was NOT the way I wanted to respond.

I then focused my thought on what was causing the cat to do this (being stressed out) and what could I do to begin to relieve some of that stress.  The response after these thoughts were more in line with how I wanted to respond and made me feel much better than I did when I was on autopilot spewing complaints.  I feel like I learned a new life-hack this week that will help me make better decisions in my future years.

Things will go wrong and we’ll have emotional reactions, but that doesn’t mean we’re obligated to move in the directions our emotions prompt us.  Fortunately, we can choose different.

Pay attention to your emotions this week.  If they’re prompting you to react in a negative way, first pause, then decide what your best response would be, and then act accordingly.

Seven Tips to Keep from Losing Your Mind to Emotion

When emotion goes up, intelligence goes down.”  ~Mari Smith; Social Media Thought Leader

When I heard this quote from Mari Smith on the Entreleadership Podcast, I was instantly able to recall several accounts from my own life when I’ve been in this very situation.  I cringed, because, unfortunately, those have not been some of my finest moments!

What about you?  Have you ever been in a position where you feel the emotion rising, while at the same time your intelligence waning?  It’s not a good feeling.  Historically, I haven’t realized this was occurring until after the conversation or interaction where it occurred.  By then, it’s too late to change course because common sense and better judgement have already left the station.

So what can we do to keep from losing our minds when we notice our emotions starting to heat up?  Here are 7 suggestions to keep emotions from depleting our intelligence.

  1. Know the types of interactions that cause you to become emotionally charged so that you can either avoid them or be aware of the possibility of reacting emotionally.
  2. Know how you react physically when you’re emotionally charged. Do your hands get sweaty, your face get warm, or you ears get hot?  Knowing how you react can help you identify when you’re becoming emotionally charged.
  3. Determine in advance how you will respond when you feel yourself becoming emotionally charged. If we don’t know how we’ll respond in that moment, we’ll likely put ourselves on auto pilot and let emotions take over.  Usually not a good option.
  4. In the moment, take a few deep breaths. I know this sounds cliché, but it works.
  5. Put things in perspective. Ask yourself what’s at stake and determine if it’s really worth getting worked up for.
  6. Look for something positive like humor, a silver lining, or opportunities to connect with the other side on a human level.
  7. Decide not to get worked up.  This may sound hard, but we have far more control over our emotions than we realize.

There seems to be no shortage of things to spin us up and charge our emotions.  The good news is that this gives us a lot of opportunity to practice the tips above.

Being emotionally charged up and momentarily losing our intelligence does not help us to be at our best.  Decide today to be in charge of your emotions and not a follower of them.  That sounds good to me, because I can’t afford to lose any of the precious little intelligence I have!