One of the biggest challenges we face in life is how to keep our emotions from controlling us.
Ordinary people who lead ordinary daily lives can swing from elation to desperation quite quickly. But when we are under stress, emotions become much more complex and we often feel like we have no control over them at all. We go on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, with often more downs than ups!
It’s really important to feel our emotions, no matter what they are, because living a full life is all about experiencing the emotions of life.
To lead a life full of emotion, we need to feel — the good and the bad.
The key is to be in control of our emotions and not to allow them to be in control of us. When you are able to recognize that an emotion is not serving you well and you can deliberately work through that emotion to reach a better place, then nothing will get between you and a contented life.
The first step is to recognize that you are feeling emotional and to make a decision: “Am I happy feeling this way or do I want to do something about it?” That’s important because when we are grieving, sometimes we want to feel sad. And that’s OK.
When you have made the decision that you are not happy with your emotional state, the next step is to identify exactly what you are feeling and why you are feeling it. You may feel a bit “out of sorts” but why is that? Can you actually identify WHAT emotion is the strongest for you? Are you worried, afraid, sad, frustrated, angry or feeling guilty? We often say people are “grieving” but grieving is not one thing – it’s a complex range of emotions all going on at once (and can vary from person to person).
Here are a few different strategies to help you overcome some of the most common emotions: worry; fear; sadness; loneliness.
“Worry is like a rocking chair…it gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere!”
We worry because we are in fear of something and we think we have no control, or we can’t handle it. So we need to find a way to handle the problems we THINK we have, give ourselves some options and then we won’t worry anymore! There’s nothing like an action plan to solve even the worst case of worries!
Here’s a really simple way to tackle a worry:
Step 1: Write down…what’s the WORST that can happen, if your worry did actually come true?
Step 2: Imagine for a moment what you would do if this worst scenario did happen. Prepare to mentally accept this situation, if you had to.
Step 3: Calmly try to think about ways you could improve on this worst-case-scenario.
We often build up our worries to a bigger problem than they may be in reality. Going through this exercise often helps to bring a situation into its much smaller factual state. And even if it does turn out to be a major and realistic worry, simply accepting its outcome can often be all that we need to help us relax into it and let go of the tension we feel around it.
If you need to do more than that, then do this:
- Get the facts – what EXACTLY are you worried about? Get out a pen and paper and answer this question, “What am I worrying about?”
- Analyse the facts and brainstorm some solutions for any problems, i.e. “What can I do about it?” For every problem there is always a solution; you just need to figure out what it is! If you can’t see the solution for yourself, go and ask friends and family to brainstorm with you. Don’t discount any ideas while you are brainstorming, write down everything that comes to mind (you can eliminate crazy ones later when you make a final decision about the solutions that are the most practical for you).
- Choose three potential solutions from your brainstorming list.
- Research these three options.
- Make a decision on which solution option is the best one for you.
- Then ACT on it!
“Don’t brood over your worries or you’ll hatch them!”
A worried person MUST be busy. Lose yourself in activity. Whether that activity is doing the exercises above and figuring out a solution to your problem, or doing a hobby, sport or other activity that takes your mind off your worry for a while, just do something to keep busy. Being active helps you to forget about your worries for a while and takes the pressure off. You’ll be amazed how different things can look when your mind has had a chance to relax.
If you knew you could handle everything in your life, then what would you have to fear? The key is to develop a real trust in yourself and your ability to handle whatever comes your way.
Whatever happens to me, I can handle it. There’s always a way, I just need to find the best way for me.
Fear is all about the “what-ifs” that go on in our mind; usually they’re not based on anything factual and often our imagination can blow them all out of proportion. Sometimes it’s best to just brave-up and go and do the very thing that you fear the most because you will then see it wasn’t so bad after all! By feeling this fear but making yourself do it regardless, you empower yourself and prove that action is stronger than imagination! Have you ever talked to someone who’s been parachuting, or perhaps you have parachuted yourself? Jumping out of a plane is terrifying the first time but after you’ve conquered your fear, they say there’s nothing quite like that feeling of achievement and realization that nothing can hold you back!
Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real.
“What-ifs” come in to play a lot when our fear is around making a decision. Instead of preparing for and then being happy with the outcome of our decisions, we feel we need to be in control of the outcomes at all cost and that decisions must always be the right ones. What if it doesn’t go my way? What if they don’t like me? What if it doesn’t work out? What if…? Well, we are all going to make the wrong decision some of the time but so long as you don’t die from that decision…don’t worry about making it!
If you find yourself saying, “Should I do this or should I do that?” or “What if this and that happens?” then you must stop yourself. It’s a waste of time trying to predict the future because unless you have a crystal ball and can predict it, there is no way you can control the outcome. Prepare for whichever way the decision may go and stop driving yourself crazy with internal chatter and fear! Prepare…prepare…prepare!
So, to help take away your fear of making decisions, start thinking differently about the outcomes and start changing your mind chatter about it. Instead of saying that a decision is either “right” or “wrong”, start saying a decision will have an Outcome 1 or an Outcome 2. If it goes Outcome 1 way, you will do this. If it goes Outcome 2 way, you will do that. Prepare for either outcome and then there’s nothing to fear! After all, that’s life…a map of criss-crossing pathways and us choosing which way we will go. Sometimes we get a bit lost and have to double-back. Sometimes we choose the unsealed and gravel country road, only to find that everyone else got there ahead of us because they took the Freeway! Who cares? Did you die on the country road? NO! Did you fall in a pot hole and have to brush yourself off? Perhaps but don’t worry about it. You got there in the end.
What’s the worst feeling: knowing you made a decision after researching all the options but for whatever reason it didn’t work out the way you’d planned, so you have to change tack slightly and try another way; or knowing that you are too scared to even think about changing something you hate and five years later feeling miserable and wondering what MIGHT have happened…if only you’d given it a go? The difference between the two is the first way you are allowing life more freedom to express itself and are prepared to bend and sway with the energy of life. The 2nd way you are desperate and hanging on to this perceived “control” you think you have over life, and by falsely holding on to this control you are actually taking away your power, and becoming more and more powerless over your life.
So, if you know there is no right nor wrong in your life, and if you look at decisions as just a path going one of two ways, and if you have thought about what you will do no matter which path Life takes you down, you will handle whatever the outcome is. And if you know you can handle anything that life throws at you…there is nothing to fear!
If you still have fears in life, or if you fear making a decision, then here’s some helpful steps:
- Focus straight away on the bigger picture of life and say to yourself, “Regardless of the outcome of this, I will be OK. If it turns out not to be the outcome I’d hoped for, I’ll just find a way to figure out an alternative way.” Push away any thoughts of a decision being a bad one and what you may lose by it, and focus on what can be gained, just by making the decision.
- Do your homework and prepare in advance. Look at alternatives for whichever way an outcome may go and then know what you will do either way. It’s called having a Plan B!
- Lighten up on yourself and don’t take life so seriously. Every time an outcome doesn’t go your way, or you come across an “oops” in your life, don’t dwell on it, just change tack and keep going. Lost a job? Find another. Lost a relationship? Learn to be alone for a while and take the opportunity to rediscover yourself.
- Focus on all the good things you have in your life and make them your priority. Some things might seem scary right now but looking back one day you will realize it was just a moment in time, and it will pass.
Life is full of “oops” moments for all of us but if we self-correct and change tack, are determined to remain positive no matter the outcome, eventually we will get there in the end! It’s OK to feel the fear — but don’t let it stop you!
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
We feel sad because we miss something: having a loved one around, good times, being in a relationship, ourselves, opportunities that will never be realized, a future that will never be.
Sometimes when we feel sad it’s good to cry because if you don’t allow the emotion out, it bottles up and before you know it, a tiny trickle of tears can end in a flood! There’s nothing like a good dose of tears to flush out emotion and sometimes that can be enough. So if you feel sad – cry.
What are some things you can do to help you when you feel sad?
A good idea is to take some time to get reflective — use an hour to reminisce and get out some old photos; write a letter; sit on the bed and cuddle a favorite memento — whatever it takes to nurture your heart and recognize the love that you had for whatever is missing from your life.
We feel sad because we loved someone or something so much it’s left a hole in our life. It’s important to recognize the love you had…acknowledge it…feel grateful that you had it (even for a short time)…remember the good times while they lasted. If you feel sad and cry every day, that’s OK. But sometimes when our sadness is threatening to engulf us, we need to be a little tough and make ourselves focus on more positive things. To get yourself back under control, give yourself a time limit for tears and then force the tears to stop, get out the tissues, wipe up and get back on with your day.
If you give yourself permission to be sad and to cry, then the inner you gets the attention it craves and it doesn’t feel like it has to keep coming back all the time because you have ignored it and tried to push it away. You have acknowledged and validated your loss, your emotions and your heart’s feelings. There is a place for tears in your life so don’t push them away, use them to wash out the sadness and cleanse your heart.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
Loneliness after a loss is not the same as being alone; you can feel lonely in a crowded room or you can be not lonely when you are by yourself. It’s really about how content you are with your situation and whether you are choosing to be alone in that time.
Reducing the amount of time that you have the opportunity to feel lonely can often help. The hardest times are usually at night and the weekends because they’re the times we aren’t so busy and we have time on our hands — time to think, time to brood, time to feel sorry for ourselves, time to be lonely. So keep busy! Fill up your hours and reduce the down time. Of course, it’s not possible to be busy 24 hours a day but if you find that you have more idle time than busy time, find yourself something to do — socialize, get a hobby, be with friends, volunteer your services, take a class, do some exercise.
Humans are social animals and not designed to live a solitary existence. We like to share the load and to involve others in our daily life, and decisions and burdens are easier when it’s not just us doing it all. Often our loneliness is because we are used to having an equal partnership and shared responsibility with another person. Other people can give their opinion or help to guide you but ultimately you are the only one who can make the decisions, and when you are the only one it’s lonely. So if you find yourself in that situation, the best thing to do is have a trusting relationship with someone, group of someones, advisor, mentor or someone that you can confide in and ask advice of. It’s not the same as having a co-partner but it’s all you’ve got and sometimes you just have to accept what you have is what you have.
“When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.”
George R.R. Martin, A Game Of Thrones
Wonderful article and reminder that worry solves nothing and often causes unnecessary anxiety. I often remind myself that worry doesn’t change a thing and that some things are out of my control anyway. Being active is important and also, when worries are confronted head on we often discover that they were unfounded.
Great advice and thought-provoking exercises! Thank you from the ❤!
Exactly Beverley. Sounds like you have that well under control!
You’re welcome Cathy. ((xx))