Managing your Emotions for a Healthier Life
By Judy Churchill
Over the past few months we’ve looked at various ways to improve and enhance your wellbeing and I’ve left the most neglected area for last. Your emotions control every aspect of your body and brain and if they are left to their own devices, it is probably fair to say that your overall wellbeing is being left to chance.
Thus, one very important question that I like to ask my clients is: “are you controlling your emotions or are your emotions controlling you?”. If you can manage your emotions then with a just a few tweaks, you’ll be able to manage every other aspect of your wellbeing fairly easily. The reverse is also true – if you can’t or aren’t managing your emotions, it doesn’t matter how well you eat, how much sport or exercise you do or how much you try and give your brain a work-out, you’re going to be fighting a losing battle.
When reacting to any given situation your emotional brain is the one that springs into action before your rational brain even has a chance to work out what type of emotional reaction that particular situation demands. Most people when over stressed allow their emotional brain to ‘hijack’ everything they do and end up in a never-ending spiral of producing the opposite effect to the one they really want. But it doesn’t have to be like that. I work with people every day on reprogramming emotions and in 2004 was selected to take part in a pan-European project examining the importance of emotional intelligence in school education and the work environment across the European union. The European commission project leaders selected two experts on Emotional Intelligence from each country and I was one of the two selected from France (I was Paris-based at the time). It’s a subject that is taken very seriously today as it can mean the difference between success and failure in both your personal and professional life.
The best way to work on your emotional health is of course by having a custom made coaching programme that works on your own particular issues, but in the meantime, here are a few of my favourite tips that may help:
1. Listen to the message your body is sending you:
Are you ‘out of sorts’, aching, in pain for no apparent reason. Do you have a mystery ailment that tests show up as ‘nothing wrong with you’? Are you going through a period of being accident-prone? All of these ‘flags’ show that you under stress and that your emotions are unable to cope.
2. Control what stress is within your control:
Life throws a jamboree bag of situations at us to manage each day. There are always going to be challenges and you can’t spend your life trying to avoid them. However, you can learn how to control your attitude to those difficulties. You can choose how to react and control what you can and get help for the rest. Be prepared for the next hurdle; life will never be a bowl of roses but there are always some roses in with the thorns. Become a good emotional gardener and learn how to weed out the unhelpful emotions that leave you in shock and unable to react or act rationally when you most need to be level headed.
3. Learn stress-busting behaviours:
Everyone should have a mental or physical list of things that they can do that will take them out of the stressful mind-set mode and offer them some form of temporary distraction. This will mean that when you reassess the situation, you do so with a clear head, a new frame of mind and a positive outlook. For example, take a walk, work out, go for a swim, stretch, practise yoga, meditate, do some gardening, painting, cooking, etc.
4. Redefine the Problem:
Your attitude to stress can affect your health more than the stress itself can. If the problem is out of your control, recognise that and redefine the problem to determine which parts you can avoid or handle. Don’t take everything personally. Perhaps you are on the receiving end of someone else’s stress or problem and you may need to stand back, and wait until their emotions have settled down. Occasionally you may even need to point this out to the offending party.
5. Ask for help:
Social relationships are good for your health, and reaching out to someone about your stress can improve your outlook. If you are lacking social networks, join a networking group such as New Women Networking and get advice from others in the group. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, a coach can help you put things back into perspective and draw up an action plan to get you back on track!