Understanding Your Emotions

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Welcome to Tuesday’s Tips, the one-day a week when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense useful, actionable and empowering tips!

We humans are strange when it comes to emotions.  In a calm moment, we’re able to rationally understand that every emotion we feel is just a momentary sensation ~ that it will pass, usually in less than 2 minutes.  But in the moment, when we’re flooded with the chemicals that escalate our feelings, we tend to feel as though the emotions that we’re experiencing will never leave us. And that’s why we tend to ACT on those emotions.

Here’s what you may not know: Those chemicals are only part of why you’re so escalated in the moment. The other part has to do with the stories you tell yourself about what’s happening to you. Whether you realize it or not, whether you’re conscious of those thoughts or not, I can assure you that they contribute to how you’re feeling. If you’re someone who deescalates quickly, your stories are supportive or at least benign. If you’re like I used to be and you tend to hit the roof and hang out there a while, it’s because your story flames your fire ~ it reinforces your escalated (and often irrational) feelings.

The next time you’re in one of those moments, keep the following thoughts in mind and see if you aren’t better able to breathe through the experience and minimize the fallout.

  • Neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor explains that from beginning to end (and when not complicated by our disempowering stories), anger leaves us in 90 seconds.  So even if you can’t muster the ability to think supportive thoughts, by not focusing on negativity and remaining as neutral as possible, those chemicals will flush out of your system in less than 2 minutes.
  • Your brain has the capacity to change the way it’s wired. The thoughts that you loop in your head essentially create the circuitry / the way your brain is wired. If you think of supportive thoughts like exercises in the gym and negative thoughts like bags of potato chips, you’ll begin to understand how important it is to select your thoughts and not go on autopilot, because every time you go into autopilot, you reinforce that old, lazy circuitry.
  • You may find it easier to work on developing this emotional muscle when you’re not escalated. Lucky for you there are virtually endless opportunities. In fact, our minds are chattering all throughout the day, every day, almost endlessly, and it’s this mind chatter that keeps us from enjoying and being in the present moment.  So try this: Write down 3-4 very short thoughts that you think would be beneficial for you to think of throughout the day. When I first did this, my thoughts were:

You are safe.

You can do it.

Everything’s fine.

Nothing needs to get done right now.

Set a daily alarm to go off 5 times a day and each time it goes off, take out your list and say these thoughts to yourself. Within a week you’ll have it memorized and you’ll continue to say them when the alarm goes off. Eventually, when you’re having one of those moments, you’ll have the memorized material at your fingertips to counter your negative thoughts. This, my loyal follower, is the key to building one of the most important emotional muscles.