“Research tells us that as go our emotional self-awareness, emotional self-control and empathy skills so goes the quality of our leadership, our relationships and the quality of our life.” Dr Gary Oliver
In times of crisis, we may feel fear, anxiety, confusion, and intense dread. We take in information, process information, and act on it differently than we would in times of non-crisis. We tend to exaggerate our responses or even revert to fight-and-flight reasoning.
We might feel overwhelmed or drained as these feelings manifest as intense emotions. Learning how to manage these emotions helps us take care of our mental well-being, which is as important as our physical well-being. In turn, we can support others and overcome or cope better with challenges.
What are emotions, and why do we experience them?
Experiencing emotions is a normal part of life. They help us know how to respond appropriately to situations we are in. It is usual for us to feel various emotions; they all have distinct functions. Experiencing a full range of negative and positive emotions adds meaning to our lives and helps us cope with challenges, especially in times of crisis. Emotions help us to communicate with others and make decisions. Negative emotions make irrational decisions that negatively impact us and those around us. Emotions affect our health, and research has linked positive emotions to longevity.
While emotions are a natural experience, they can be intense, overwhelming, and sometimes draining. They influence our decision-making, so it is essential for us to manage them if we are to make healthy decisions, big or small, for us and others, now and in the future.
Understanding our emotions helps us be aware of our triggers and have insight into how to respond positively. Accepting our feelings allows us to view our thoughts objectively instead of negatively judging ourselves, others or the situation.
Understanding Children’s Emotions
Children can learn to identify and recognise their emotions and choose how they wish to respond to a positive or negative situation. If children learn to talk and express their feelings, it brings them under control. They learn to seek help and to know that it is a strength, not a weakness. Showing good manners, learning new things, and sharing can help children manage their emotions without being overwhelmed. By assisting children in recognising what mask they put on when they do not want to talk about what they feel or just by talking about emotions, we can help them identify and name their feelings and understand that they control how they react to situations.
How to manage our emotions
In times of crisis, it is normal to experience fluctuating emotions and even physical discomfort. Learning to manage them allows us to move forward more confidently.
First, identify the emotion. Avoiding or brushing them away might make us overwhelmed and less effective in managing them. Also, checking our body sensations is helpful if, for instance, we might experience palpitations or similar reactions.
Second, know why you feel the way you do. Think and accept all emotions as natural and not to be avoided. Try to figure out what happened for you to feel this way. Is it a thought, an event, a situation, or a memory? This helps you to understand and manage your feelings.
Third, manage unhelpful thoughts. Unhelpful thinking patterns such as ”I never do anything right” tend to heighten the situation negatively. When we have negative reviews, we can choose to focus on the good things around us, embrace optimism and use positive words and affirmations like” I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)
Talk about your feelings
Discussing feelings and emotions is hugely beneficial; it restores a sense of control, provides perspective, and reduces the impact of stressors (Lepore, Ragan, & Jones, 2000). Talking through our problems out loud with a friend, family member, or therapist helps us see things differently, leading to reduced feelings of anxiety, rationalising events, and normalising our emotions. Talk to someone who will listen without judging. Remember, we do not have to wait for our problems to be huge before discussing them. We can talk about our feelings anytime, especially when we notice them. It is also okay not to know why we are experiencing certain senses – for example, feeling angry but not knowing why. Talking about our feelings helps us understand ourselves and our situations. It increases our connections to the essential people in our lives.
Lastly, act, and implement self-care and self-compassion. Do an activity you enjoy; exercise boosts your mood and relieves stress. Create boundaries and know your limits. Lean on your support network, use positive self-statements and mantras, and consider seeing a therapist /counsellor if you continue to struggle.
Remember, in times of crisis, you are not alone. We all experience different emotions at various times. Negative emotions are normal but overthinking them is stressful and can have detrimental effects on our bodies. This is why recognising and managing them on time is necessary.
“We are fearfully and wonderfully made,” including our emotions. (Psalm 139:14)
Thembie Mapingire is the Director for Cornerstone Counselling Services within SEC