How to Manage Your Emotions: 2 Tips to Confront Your Feelings

How do you manage your emotions? Do you get angry without even noticing it?

In Rising Strong, Brené Brown argues that the first stage of the emotional recovery process is to recognize when you’re having an emotional setback and explore your reaction. With practice, you’ll be able to recognize a setback as it happens.

Find out how to manage your emotions to effectively recover from them.

Confront Your Emotions

To learn how to manage your emotions, Brown says you must first notice negative sensations in your body and your mind. When we experience painful situations, our bodies and minds usually react first. For example, you might feel physical sensations like pain in your chest; or, mental sensations like impulsive thoughts or the inability to control your thoughts. When you notice these sensations, acknowledge that you’re having an emotionally painful reaction to something.

For example, when you got the message that your spouse wouldn’t be at your award ceremony, you might have experienced a sinking feeling in your stomach or the urge to hit something. When you feel these sensations begin, acknowledge that something has hurt you and you’re having an emotional setback.

(Shortform note: Other experts reiterate the importance of paying attention to your physical and mental reactions to identify when you’re emotionally triggered. The more familiar you are with your responses, the quicker you’ll be able to recognize emotional reactions and regain control. They provide a more comprehensive list of symptoms to help you recognize when you’re having a setback. You may experience: panic or anxiety; a rapid heartbeat, breathing, and sweating; loss of emotional control; the need to escape; rumination; sudden mood changes; bodily tension like a clenched jaw or fists; flashbacks; or delayed emotional reactions of anger or sadness.)

Next, Brown advises you to explore your reaction. What are you feeling? What caused this reaction? For example, the bodily sensations you felt after receiving the message from your spouse might indicate that you’re feeling angry and disappointed. Upon reflecting, you might realize you’re angry because your spouse’s lack of attendance makes you feel unimportant.

(Shortform note: To explore your reaction and understand what caused it, you first must be able to pinpoint what you’re feeling. However, different emotions are experienced at different intensities—identifying exactly what you’re feeling can be difficult. Some experts have created an interactive “feelings wheel” to help you pinpoint the emotion you’re feeling, the bodily sensations attached to it, why you might be feeling that way, and what the emotion is trying to tell you.)

Tips for Confronting Your Emotions

Here are two of Brown’s tips for successfully confronting your emotions:

1. Give yourself written permission. On paper, write “I’m allowed to feel [your painful emotions].” Brown notes that this technique is especially useful for people who may feel ashamed of their strong emotions due to, for example, being raised in an environment where strong emotions were discouraged.

(Shortform note: To make your written permission even more effective, try making it a verbal affirmation. Some experts explain this may be more effective in changing your mindset for a few reasons. First, speaking aloud activates the pleasure center of the brain, which makes you more likely to feel calm or positive in uncomfortable situations (like confronting your feelings). Further, reciting affirmations aloud forms “auditory links” within your memory—this instills the belief into your subconscious and makes you more likely to remember it when a relevant situation arises. So, if you regularly tell yourself aloud that it’s OK to feel your feelings, you’ll naturally get more comfortable doing so over time.)

2. Practice breathing exercises to ground yourself. Breathing exercises help you become more mindful of your thoughts and emotions so you can calm your mind and focus on what’s currently happening. One practice to try is repeatedly breathing in slowly for a few seconds, holding your breath for a few seconds, breathing out slowly for a few seconds, then holding your breath for a few seconds—all while focusing on your thoughts and emotions.

(Shortform note: Controlled breathing exercises are arguably beneficial for your mind, emotions, and focus because they activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Activating your PNS signals to your brain that everything is OK and triggers muscle relaxation. This reduces stress and anxiety. Your relaxed body also decelerates the release of hormones that increase heart rate and blood pressure, like cortisol and norepinephrine. This makes you more alert and benefits your body by improving your immunity and metabolism.)

How to Manage Your Emotions: 2 Tips to Confront Your Feelings

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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