Five steps to strengthen your emotional muscle

Thinking positively, changing your responses, forgiving others, and releasing your emotions in a healthy manner are some steps you can take to control your emotional life.

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WASHINGTON, February 3, 2017 — Fear, sadness, anger, anxiety. All these emotions are natural. But when do they become too much? When do they become abnormal? Better yet, how do you control these emotions?

Take heart. There is hope. Controlling your situations, thinking positively, changing your responses, forgiving others, and releasing your emotions in a healthy manner are some steps you can take to control your emotional life. But the first step is to be clear and honest as to what triggers negative emotional responses.

1. Pick Situations Carefully

Getting stuck in situations that trigger unwanted emotions is a pitfall to avoid at all costs. If being late to work or any other place makes you angry, set an appointment clock that is 15 minutes ahead of the actual time.

That way if you’re having trouble getting to work on time or leaving to avoid traffic, you will always have 15 minutes to work with.  

If you know that crowded noisy restaurants will make you anxious, choose a quieter spot to dine.

If you know that conversations with a family member will make you angry, choose to not answer the phone, calling back when you have the emotional strength to deal with them.

2. Think Positively

How you feel will affect how you respond to situations, so start the day with a positive thought. If you wake up on the “wrong side of the bed” step back and change how you feel – choose a favorite tie or shirt that always makes you feel good – and then decide to feel better because you know something good is about to happen. Even if the “good” is only feeling good about yourself.

If you feel angry, you are likely to feel cheated out of something. If you feel uncertain, you are liable to feel anxious. Recognize your feelings, writing them down, so that it becomes easier to recognize the triggers – from lack of sleep, bad eating or drinking habits, or toxic friends or family – so that you can avoid those triggers, or at least catalog and confront them, so they do not destroy your entire day.

Fear is another strong emotion that can overtake our emotional health. Fear can actually make you dumber, which is not to say it’s not alright to feel fear. Face it, fear of failure often helps us get things done. But fear all the time can be maladaptive, causing your threat system to remain on high alert at all times.

Changing your thoughts can’t change the situation, but it can change your outlook. Through cognitive reappraisal, you can replace your unhappy, fearful, unproductive thoughts with thoughts that allow a positive outlook.

3. Change How You Respond

If you can’t avoid, modify, or change your thought process, one of the final steps of emotion regulation would be to control how you respond, and that can be hard as it takes being honest about how you feel then stopping the negative process you have learned and changing your paradigm.

If your heart is beating crazily from anxiety or anger, recognize your feelings, say to yourself or out loud if you can, I am feeling this way “because” then take a few deep breaths to calm yourself. Counting backward from ten works.

If you are feeling fear, recognize what is causing that fear, write it down, even if just one word traced on the palm of your hand and say to yourself “I do not fear (you, this situation)” and determine your best method of dealing with your emotions – from walking away to confronting whatever is bothering you with strength and clarity.

4. Release Your Emotions in a Healthy Way

Once you’re able to manage your emotions, you need to learn how to release them in a healthy way. Call someone and tell them about a situation that made you angry or anxious. Never hold your concerns in, let them out in constructive ways. You’ll also gain the opinion of another, which broadens your viewpoint.

Keeping a journal of your emotions allows you to go back through time and assess how you’re handling your emotions. For some, aggressive exercise serves as a healthy outlet. HITT routines, kickboxing, and martial arts can go a long way. And while you’re at it, you can find some nice athleisure.

If you’re not into getting sweaty, there’s meditation and yoga, which involves focus and quieting the mind.

There’s a method for everyone.

5. Forgive Those That Trigger Your Emotions

Some of your emotional triggers may include friends, your spouse or significant other, family, or even yourself. You may find yourself becoming agitated with “that weird thing” your friend does, or you may even become angry with yourself over a decision you made that didn’t work out.

To forgive is to detach yourself from the negative emotion you’re experiencing. Jealousy, anger, anxiety, you become detached from it all when you forgive. This will allow people to be themselves around you and allows you to appreciate people for who they are, and not judge them based on their negative attributes.

Living with emotions of anger, anxiety, or fear is not healthy. You need to exercise your emotional muscles, which takes practice because bottling up your emotions is unhealthy and has never done anybody any good.

Always remember to pick situations carefully – if a friend always leaves you feeling anger, you need to either confront that friend and tell them how you feel, or its ok to not spend time with them. Change your thought process and your response to your emotions. Release your emotions in a healthy manner – take up painting, or kick-boxing or join the gym.

Forgive people that trigger your emotions and you’ll be closer to controlling your emotions and enjoying emotional health.

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