In my previous post, I discussed how learning to identify emotions is something that happens over time. This process can be particularly difficult due to messages about suppressing emotions. I also talked about the benefit of using handouts and different journaling methods in identifying underlying feelings. Now that you may be able to recognize some of those underlying feelings, I want to share a bit what you can do with them. In this post, I will share a few strategies that may be helpful after recognizing emotions.
As men, we can be socialized to be “problem-solvers,” meaning that we may be inclined to want to “fix” whatever we define as a problem. There are times when we identify our unwanted emotions as problems and want to “fix” them. Attempting to rush through or suppress feelings can actually cause them to last a lot longer than we want. Sometimes recognizing the emotions, and allowing ourselves to feel them can go a long way. Resisting the temptation of trying to “fix” the emotions and working to limit the judgments that we assign to emotions can be very helpful in actually managing the emotions. Emotions are not negative or positive, they just are.
Another way to approach emotion management is to create what I like to call “moments of pause.” During these moments, the goal is shift attention away from whatever may be causing the particular emotions in order to provide yourself with the opportunity to develop a different perspective. Examples of helpful strategies include grounding exercises and deep breathing. When we experience particular emotions, there is often a rush of thoughts that enter our minds that accompany the emotions. These thoughts can be difficult to slow down. Grounding exercises can be used to shift our thoughts and help us to become aware of things occurring outside of our body and mind. A grounding exercise is described below:
Focusing on the Present
- Name 5 things you can see around you.
- Name 4 things you can feel (i.e. chair on your back, feet on the floor)
- Name 3 things you can hear right now.
- Name 2 things you can smell right now (or 2 things that you like the smell of)
- Name 1 good thing about yourself.
Another approach to this exercise is select one item around you and describe it using each of your senses. What it does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it smell like? What does it taste like? What does it sound like? You don’t necessary need to actually pick up the item. Challenge yourself to really describe the item in detail. There is often more than one response for each question.
Give these exercises, as well taking slow deep breaths, a try. Be mindful that it may take some practice to feel comfortable to doing them and that is totally okay. In the next post, I will explain the connections between our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and they are related to emotion management.