Whether you are aware of it or not, unmanaged emotions often hijack your energy and behavior, causing a distorted view of life's experiences. And our knee-jerk reactions rarely give us good results. Understanding what's happening in our brains can pave the way for calmer responses. The limbic brain (sometimes considered the emotional brain) and the brain stem, (called the survival brain), can quickly override rational thinking. Logic goes out the window instantly when we are feeling threatened emotionally.
Emotional regulation is crucial for today's unrest and ongoing challenges. Learning to self-calm and soothe anxiety, frustration, or anger are vital parts of emotional intelligence well worth the effort. When we self-soothe, we return to the logical brain for wiser responses. And our daily behavior and decisions determine the quality of our life and future.
Self-Awareness and Mindfulness Is a Daily Practice
We all have very full lives, so who has time to spend hours a week learning a new skill? Not me. That's why introducing micro-habits and small behavioral changes are essential. And the good news is that you can learn a simple, step-by-step practice to calm yourself, requiring only a couple of minutes at a time. Don't underestimate the power of simple yet targeted actions capable of turning anxiety into inner peace. Even grabbing a warm cup of tea to chill out for 15 minutes can make a big difference.
The first step of any change is heightened self-awareness. And mindfulness begins with a practice of self-awareness. So before you try the step-by-step process to regulate emotions below, observe yourself for one week. What are you thinking that may increase anxiousness? What small ways do you deny yourself what you need? Don't change anything; just raise your awareness. Notice with curiosity.
Next, introduce self-acceptance. If your inner critic is loud and harsh, it may feel too vulnerable to allow your feelings to surface. Listening to your emotions needs to be supported by a safe inner space. So next, practice self-compassion. Each and every time your mind criticizes or judges you, say stop. Then replace negative self-talk with a positive, more encouraging inner response.
For a comprehensive understanding of emotional intelligence, read our article, "What Is Emotional Intelligence."
Now, if you're ready to begin to understand your emotions and eliminate that short fuse of anxiety or anger, take action to practice these four vital steps to support you. The process below will enhance your life and give you greater emotional well-being when utilized.
Practical Steps to Calm Yourself
STEP 1: Identify your feeling.
What are you feeling? Name the emotion. Are you sad, excited, anxious, resentful, angry, or jealous? Just by naming what you're feeling, emotions will slow down and subside. Or is your inner world a whole cluster of emotions clashing together? Breathe in and out slowly. Pull them apart and see if you can name each one. Arrange them as you would organize children in a single file for a field trip. When we haven't listened to our emotions for a long time, they can be all compressed together, or we can have difficulty recognizing them. Be patient.
Related reading: "How to Resolve Conflicting Emotions with Emotional Intelligence."
STEP 2: Ask how you would like to feel.
Once you've spent some gentle discovery time with your emotions and fully identified and felt them, next figure out how you want to feel. It's not enough to feel negative emotions; they tell you what action you need to take to feel better. If you're anxious, perhaps something is bothering you that needs resolution. If you're sad, maybe a friend hurt your feelings. So how would you like to feel?
STEP 3: Shift your perception to support how you would like to feel.
Our emotions often cloud our perceptions. What perception would you need to have to feel better? For instance, if your friend hurt your feelings, instead of thinking they don't care about you, shift your perception to: "They probably didn't even realize they hurt me. I know they care about me, so I need to let them know."
STEP 4: Take one action to change the way you feel.
Now, it's time to take action. Talk to that friend. Give yourself self-care if you've been working too much. Or solve that inner conflict by taking steps to fulfill an important goal or champion a value that you've been compromising. Each small step we take to be our own advocate increases positive feelings and builds healthier self-esteem.
Self-Awareness and Emotional Regulation in Action!
Let's translate the steps above through an example.
|Your spouse is working too much and not making your relationship a priority. Even when home, he/she works on their iPad.|
STEP 1: Identify your feeling. You might feel lonely and resentful.
STEP 2: Ask how you would like to feel. You want to feel loving toward your spouse. You would also like to have a fun, close relationship.
STEP 3: Shift your perception to support how you would like to feel. Think of what you are grateful for; appreciate the financial security he/she provides by working long hours. Call to mind the sweet gestures that your partner has shown you over the past weeks, even in the midst of a hectic work schedule. For instance, they text you on their way back from work to see if you need anything from the grocery store.
STEP 4: Take one action to change the way you feel. Thank your spouse or partner for how hard he/she works. Then tell them how much you miss them. Then request a regular date night to nurture your relationship.
Make a practice of these steps, and you'll be well on your way to emotional fitness and creating a life you love with meaningful relationships. Stay encouraged. It only takes mindful micro-actions throughout your day or week to increase happiness and inner peace.
Related reading: "The Power of Habit: One Habit Can Transform Your Life"