How To Control Negative Emotions
Emotions are a part of us as human beings. Right from an early age, we experience them in one form or the other. As we grow older, we attempt to understand and exert control over these emotions. For the most part, we are successful in doing this.
However, there are times when different stressors within your immediate environment make it difficult for you to control your emotions.
In those times, you find yourself reacting in ways that make you cringe when you look back on things later. You really don’t want to behave that way anymore, but you can’t seem to find the control you need to stop.
In this article, we will discuss negative emotions, examining their causes, effects and how we can harness them to yield positive results.
What are negative emotions?
To effectively control negative emotions, we must understand what they are.
Emotions are our way of responding quickly to different environmental stimuli. They are almost similar to our adrenal response of ‘fight or flight’. Emotions first occur in the subcortical areas of the brain such as the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortices.
Negative emotions are defined as unpleasant or unhappy responses invoked in people to express a negative effect towards an event or person. One important thing to note is that while we call these emotions negative, experiencing them is normal as they are integrated into our DNA.
What we need to focus on is understand when, where, and why these negative emotions arise so that we can develop positive responses to them.
How do negative emotions affect us?
As earlier stated, the fact that we tag these emotions as negative does not mean that they are all bad. Rather, they are signals that draw our attention to the events that create them. We can with that information, decide how we want to respond. Negative emotions can affect us in the following ways:
They can cause stress
The discomfort we experience when battling with negative emotions is a result of the extra stress those emotions exert on our bodies and mind. This stress, aside from the discomfort it causes, can lead to mental health issues if it becomes chronic or overwhelming.
They provide information
You feeling angry and anxious when your well-being is being threatened or something around you needs to change for your benefit.
You feeling fear because your safety is threatened. The feeling of fear is an appeal to do something to protect yourself.
You feeling frustrated or resentful in a relationship because you need something to change in that relationship.
Stephen Covey, in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, said that “Between stimulus and response is choice”. This means that there is a space between stimulus and response and in therein lies our choice of response. So while an emotion may be information about an unpleasant stimulus, in that space, we can choose how we want to respond.
Dealing with negative emotions
Now that we know how these emotions affect us, let’s dive into things we can do to deal with or control them.
Choose to face them head-on
Some people deal with negative emotions by stuffing them down. This is not healthy as stuffing your emotions does not mean they go away. Rather, they lie in wait for an opportune moment and come back out in ways that can make you feel worse.
You need to face them head-on so that you can understand the situations or thought patterns causing the negativity. With this understanding, you can take steps to avoid or prevent them. When you recognize your triggers, you can more easily let go of the negative emotions instead of dwelling on them.
Beyond unpleasant events that cause us to respond in unpleasant ways, our thought patterns also play a role in causing negative emotions. The way you interpret an event can dictate how you will experience that event and whether or not it will cause you stress.
A situation might be unpleasant, but if you interpret it in a way that does not cause you to respond negatively, that situation will not affect you. Conversely, a situation might not be negative, but because you interpreted it in a way that you felt threatened, negative emotions and attendant stressors will arise.
Thus it is important to examine how you respond to situations, keeping in mind that the way you interpret the situation will decide how you will feel about it.
Make the necessary changes
After understanding why the negative emotions are, and isolating their causes, the next thing is to do what you can to remove those triggers. This could be:
Cutting down on your work stress if the negative emotions are work-related.
Learning the art of assertive communication and employing it when you feel threatened by your relations with someone else.
Learning and practicing cognitive restructuring – a process of changing negative thought patterns.
Find something to channel the emotions into
Making the necessary changes is good as it helps you reduce the stressors in your life. However, as long as you are living and relating with people, stress factors cannot be completely eliminated from your life.
Therefore, it behooves you to find a way to channel the energy of those negative emotions when they come calling. Finding beneficial channels is a great way to go. Consider employing the following channels:
Physical exercises have amazing benefits they give to you. When you exercise, you release the hormone, endorphins, which are also known as “feel-good” hormones. Regularly exercising can give you an emotional lift and also provide an outlet for those feelings of anger and frustration.
Mindfulness practices like meditation, journaling, and yoga can help you find ‘peace’ within you in a tumultuous situation. Writing down your thoughts and the way you feel in the present also help you view things more objectively.
Consider learning one form of art or the other
Artistic pursuits are a great way to de-stress and recharge. Look around your area for art you can learn – it could be pottery, sculpting, storytelling, painting, coloring, drawing, or even dancing.
You do not have to attain expert status in it. The point is not for you to build a career out of it, but to have a means of escape when you need it.
With art, you can channel potentially destructive emotions into constructive purposes. Even better, art grants you the opportunity to find meaning in your emotional pain.
If you find the idea of learning a form of art or the other too much to handle because of your environment, you can just pick up a coloring book and color some pictures. Coloring does not require any particular skill set and it is quite therapeutic.