Does high stress completely cripple you?
It’s okay to feel like you’re not in control. High pressure makes it hard for anyone to properly and effectively manage emotions.
Most of us deal with stress more often than we’d like to in our lifetime. It’s difficult to avoid and it can completely debilitate even the strongest among us.
Escaping the chains of stress is hard, but it’s not impossible. It takes practice and patience, but most importantly it takes strong will and determination.
It’s impossible to maintain control of ours emotions, let alone anything, for an infinite amount of time. Simply being prepared for this is 80% of the battle. Effectively managing your emotions under pressure or during a stressful situation isn’t about keeping a clear head at all times. It’s about understanding the possible outcome of any situation and having previously set up an effective system used to navigate a clouded head space.
Before we dive into how to manage our emotions, I want to discuss one specific issue which is something important that might not be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
We’re often told how to feel and to ignore our emotions. From the playground to the workplace, we’re told to grit our teeth and “fight the good fight”.
Changing The Lens: Understanding Stress And Emotions
Mainstream culture influences our lives beyond the scope of headlines and heartbreaks. It’s everywhere from billboards to candy wrappers, consuming our thoughts and infiltrating our minds.
One influence which has managed to silently creep into our society is the idea of masking or hiding our emotions. Often times we are told to ignore our gut feelings and “do what’s right”.
What’s right, however, is usually something beneficial for someone or something else. It’s almost never beneficial for the individual sacrificing or compromising.
Emotional response is part of the human condition. It’s how we know when we’re hungry, happy, or scared. Speaking in terms of evolution, it’s how we know whether or not to flee or hunt the lion.
Our body and mind communicate abstractly, separate from the dialogue we may have floating around inside our head.
As a species, we prioritize habits in an effort to establish and maintain effectiveness. This is, sometimes unfortunately, also part of the human condition. We create a rhythm of habits which dictates the way our life events will flow. We’re never stuck inside a single rhythm, however stopping any rhythm completely comes with great consequence.
When we disconnect from our natural emotional rhythm, our emotions heighten to remind us not to break our pattern.
Our emotions are some of the most powerful tools we have, each one reminding us in some way to grow, learn, and rebalance ourselves.
If you’re anything like me, I often set goals much larger than myself and lose track of the reality around me. It’s easy to prioritize something you’re passionate about over the care and maintenance your internal structures require. The problem with this is that it’s easy to numb yourself into a narrow scope of existence when you set your sights in a linear motion forward.
Think about it — It’s easy to make a ripple in a single straight line.
Finding sustainability through solid foundations and valuing consistency over exertion is key to managing your emotions in any situation.
So then, we know now that it’s extremely important to prioritize our emotions over specific outcomes, but still our emotions run rampant. How do we properly manage these heightened senses and clouded judgments?
In my effort to better understand myself, I’ve found one thing that works. Not only does it work for me, though — It works well. It’s also absurdly easy to do so long as you practice often.
Emotional Shift: Converting Your Emotion Into Curiosity
When we feel stressed, our body releases a stress hormone named cortisol to let us know. Often times we also have increased levels of adrenaline which can cause us to feel a rush of multiple extremes.
I noticed that when I was feeling any emotion rather intensely, I had a heightened sense of focus around whatever emotional response I was having. If I found myself angry, I would fixate on the reasons why or the outcomes I’d like to create. When I was sad I found myself honed in on fleeting happiness or some irrational fear of a collapsed future.
Whatever emotion I was feeling, I always found myself focused beyond what I considered “normal”.
In noticing this, I decided to try something new. Whenever I was having an extreme emotional response, I attempted to shift the issue into a new light. Instead of asking myself how I could feel one way or another again, I started asking myself why I even felt the way I did.
Our emotions are biological guidelines that help us maintain a certain level of equilibrium. Whether you work a high stress job, participate in a competitive sport, or simply set huge goals for yourself, it’s easy to lose track of it all.
Unfortunately for the fast paced world we live in, managing your emotions boils down to how well you can slow down.
It’s important to slow it down because sometimes the process is the problem.
When you slow yourself down and disengage from the clutter, you can better assess the problem at face value instead of drowning in delusion.
Curiosity is only going to get you so far though. Imagine going to a medical professional for help with an issue. If they only ask a couple questions, they’ll never be able to give you an accurate diagnosis. The same is true for our own emotional curiosity.
You have to be able to form a habit of asking questions, and if you’ve ever tried to form a habit before you know it can be a daunting task. However, the reward is well worth the benefits.
As you condition yourself to dissect your emotions, slowly processing every bit of information that’s passed through, you train your brain to respond with curiosity instead of outright action.
The anger you feel transforms from fist fights into introspective debates. Suddenly, your mind is no longer explicitly reactionary to the emotional stimuli in your life.
Helpful Tips For Managing Your Emotions
Being curious is important — Check. Let’s start you down the path to better managing your emotions with a question to spark your curious mind.
When was the last time you promised to change or adopt a habit?
Did you follow through with it?
Our ability to create, destroy, or modify our habits is the single most important factor in managing our emotions. What may be your response one day can be rewritten into ten different responses the next. How you establish the habits in your life will determine your effective ability to not only manage your stress and emotions, but the rest of your entire life.
Aside from being able to adapt to new habits, some other effective ways to manage heightened emotional responses include:
- Putting easily lost items in one place within your home — Losing things can be one of the most frustrating feelings. If you’re already stressed, this can easily set you over the edge and cause a complete meltdown. If you’re the type of person who loses things easily, consider setting up a small area of your home for easily lost items. You can try a small bowl, stand, shelf, or any other creative containment unit you come up with! Put items like keys, remotes, ID cards, and other small trinkets inside of or on top of your newly designated area. Successfully getting into a habit of placing your items within your area will reduce any confusion next time you go looking for a set of keys or a lost remote.
- Understand that stress causes clouded judgment — Millions of people seem to think that the happiest people have somehow escaped the grasp of stress and other negative influences. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We all feel the pressure at some point in our lives. Understanding that stress will cloud your judgment allows you to identify useful strategies before the stress strikes. Whether your strategy is to shut up and listen or to boastfully take charge, it’s important to know how you’re going to react before you actually do. No one expects you to operate at 100% under stress because that’s simply not how the human mind works.
- Don’t manufacture a chain of reasoning on the spot — A strong complement to the second tip, creating a chain of reasoning on the spot is sure to extend the negativity of the situation. Imagine, for example, you get news that a loved one is going to die. Your brain flashes with “what if”, “how will I”, “I’m not ready”, and so much more. You’re creating an entire ecosystem of thoughts wrapped around an event that hasn’t fully unfolded. You’re not supposed to know the answers right away, especially to something that extreme. Instead, acknowledge your grief and let go. You don’t always have to be a treasure chest of knowledge, bursting at the seams. Knowing that your thoughts are clouded, you should instead let your emotions pass in the moment and process them after the fact.
Embrace What We Can’t Avoid
No longer are the days of emotional baggage tucked under corporate name tags. Professionals all over the world are taking to yoga, meditation, and self-improvement. It’s no secret that life can be stressful, so why did we ever try to pretend it was?
We can’t avoid circumstances that trigger unwanted emotions, but we can decide and plan how to organize and process those emotions. Through identifying our current response and employing a set of systems beforehand, we can handle high pressure much more effectively. It’s not about being down, it’s about how long we’re down.
What may work for you may not work for someone else, and vice versa. There are millions of variables we can’t always account for. Only you can start logging and understanding the variables that affect your life and your thought process.
Remember, your emotions are chemical guides put in place to remind you when you’re off balance. Heed their warnings and take the time to listen to your body. Through our habits and personal growth, we can find a warmer state of mind and a clearer state of purpose. The road to happiness isn’t one paved with sunshine, it’s paved with the acceptance and understanding of what is.