Emotions make us human. The higher-order process of understanding, rationalising, judging, choosing, forgiving etc. function because we have emotions. Emotions function as a tool of self-expression. This is a gift to mankind. Most of our survival depends on emotions. They guide our behaviour. Our social networks are based out of it. Emotions fulfil our basic needs, support us and help us survive. However, with time, we have come to focus very much on negative emotions, or have given an outlet to such emotions in ways that harm us.
To channelise this force of emotions, ’emotional management’ comes into the picture. It is defined as the ability to recognise one’s emotion, label it, accept it, and henceforth try to control it. A better coping mechanism would help us develop emotional maturity, make us calm, enhance our social skills, and help us deal with life situations in a better way.
But how do these emotions come to us? Is it because we are biologically programmed to evoke them when needed? Or are they triggered or facilitated by others, their situations or our actions? Well, this is like a debate that asks who came first, the chicken or the egg? But these triggers, or rather emotional cues, have this huge capacity of putting people in their worst times. Have you ever wondered what these cues are like?
Let me give you some examples: ignoring, cutting off sentences, putting someone down, taunting, being passive aggressive, cornering, bullying, verbally abusing, threatening etc., all these sound very familiar, right? That is because we all have been through them at least once in our lives.
To add to the current situation, the lockdown has created a lot of havoc not only economically, but also on the emotional aspect of the individuals. As we are stuck in our homes, people are finding it hard to manage themselves and have the chance of getting addicted to their phones or TV. A big thanks to the internet that has made things even worse. Binge-watching is very common and so is bullying or sexual harassment in times like these. Everybody has their own struggles and fights to win! Therefore, it is even more important to focus on our emotional and mental well-being, as it not only affects us but also those in our environment.
When there are emotional cues that negatively affect us, they can make us angry, upset, sad, revengeful, shocked, scared, anxious, underwhelmed, overwhelmed, frozen, discriminated, lonely, shameful, guilty etc. However, we can take some small steps to help us maintain ourselves. Here are a few of those small measures:
1) Address your feelings: Addressing means ‘accepting’. Accepting that we feel a certain way can help us deal with it. Non-acceptance or shaking it off will lead to piling up of feelings, which can result in toxic relationships. Due to emotional burden, unhappiness, and an unhealthy physical and mental state may burst out or make us go into our shells.
2) Practice pro-action: There is some time gap between our feelings and reactions. Use that time to think about the best response to be given. Make a “choice” of response to be given. There are different kinds of responses that suit the situation. But, not all can give similar responses to the same situation. We need to use our discretion before giving our response.
3) Writing it down: If you feel people aren’t able to understand you, you can journal your feelings or watch Tedx Talks for help. Watching motivational talks may also help.
4)Using positive speech: We may have people who are constantly rattling, disappointed in us, verbally abusive, or passive-aggressive. We may initiate conversations if we feel safe and confident about doing it. Or we may try to engage ourselves and come in contact with them as less as possible. Or we can try the method of ‘Positive Speech’ — saying positive things like “I love myself”, “I’m enough”, “I’m important”, etc. to ourselves in our mind. Or we may just write down whatever we feel.
5) Setting emotional boundaries: Try setting emotional boundaries. It doesn’t necessarily have to lead to preaching or speaking down to others. We can just try to avoid people who create trouble for us by practising gratitude, self-love, mirror talking, communicating, not abusing back, not transferring anger onto things or others, deep breathing, relaxing, meditating, pursuing music, arts, etc.
6) Cutting off: Not all emotional cues come from people. Some may be triggered by news or social media. Cutting down time for watching the news or social media, unfollowing certain pages, changing settings of notifications or posts, etc. might help. Emotional boundaries will also include not taking comments personally or not taking the responsibility for others’ feelings on yourself. Using the ‘questioning method’ can be beneficial in such cases.
Though these techniques sound simple while reading, they are a little tricky to follow in real life. But it is even more important to start somewhere. If you struggle, then reach out to Yo Zindagi for help.
7) Cognitive Change: It involves how a person appraises a situation so as to alter its emotional meaning. It involves reappraisal, to give a new meaning, or simply interpret a situation in new light or with a different perspective. For example, instead of cursing the lockdown, we can look at its bright side. We can interpret it in new light, that now we are getting plenty of free time and can do things, activities that we weren’t able to do in our busy schedule, like reading a book, drawing, painting, taking that new online course on English Literature.
(This article is a joint effort by Manasi Baindur, Murali Krishna and Muskan Mehta, who are currently providing online counselling support in our Mental Health Internship Program.)
About the author: Yo Zindagi is a campaign to Promote Mental Health and Emotional Maturity by engaging individuals in conversations and workshops. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.