Emotions are universal – each one of us has them all the time. Sometimes they
are of happiness, joy, thrill while at others they are of frustration, anger,
sadness etc. It is not important to manage just the negative emotions but also
the positive ones.
If we observe our emotions carefully we will find all the information about –
“why we do things, the way we do them”. Managing our emotions means –
understanding & using them in a way that they will benefit us. Once we are
able to recognise our emotions, we can very easily modify our actions and
influence the final outcome.
Many of us believe that it is the actions of other people which trigger our
emotions. However, the matter of fact is that it is our own beliefs about a
situation or person which are the reason behind our emotions. Hence, the power
to manage them lies only and only with us.
Components of Emotions
There are three components of your system of emotions. It is extremely important
for all these three components to work in close conjunction with each other to
ensure that your emotional responses to an event, situation or behaviour are
These three components are:
1. Your thoughts
2. The physiological changes you experience with an emotion
3. Your actions driven by your thoughts
Managing your emotions means taking control of these three components and
ensuring that they behave as you want.
How to control the three components of Emotion System?
Controlling your thoughts
Whenever we are faced with a distressful situation, we get some immediate
thoughts related to the event or the person. These thoughts are out of our
control, distorted and disturb our ability to think rationally. The distorted
thinking related to these thoughts is often difficult to control and can cause
unnecessary physiological changes in the body leading to distorted actions.
Here are some tips to avoid distorted thinking:
1. Recognise that these are distorted thoughts – As soon as you get into the
mode of distorted thinking, you must immediately recognise that these are
distorted thoughts which need to be shut down.
2. Don’t get into overgeneralization mode and avoid negative labelling – While
in distorted thinking mode, we start over generalizing the things which
intensifies our emotions.
For e.g. If your boss refuses your application for the vacation, you start
thinking that he is always inconsiderate, doesn’t think about the staff etc.
While in reality you may actually appreciate your boss for a lot of things he
has done for the staff. And, he might look inconsiderate only in this
particular event. So, don’t over generalize and label him as “always
inconsiderate”. However, you may think that, boss look a bit inconsiderate in
this particular matter, which he generally is not.
3. Don’t try to read other person’s mind – In distressful situations, we start
imagining what the other might be thinking. Our imaginations have no limits and
may at times be very wild further aggravating the problem. Rather than
imagining, it is a better idea to go and ask them about their thoughts about
that particular incidence.
For e.g. When your boss questions your plan of action a lot during the meeting,
he is not necessarily doubting your abilities or the plan. May be he needs more
information to make sure that the plan takes off well. So, rather than
imagining that boss is not sue about the plan, it is better to ask him his
views about it. You may be surprised to know that he does like the idea but
needs more information.
4. Lower your expectations about other’s behaviour – We usually have a tendency
to expect “how others should behave with us in this situation”. They might not
behave according to our expectations as they have their own perception about
the situation/ event/ person. This further aggravates our emotions.
For e.g. After a hot discussion in the meeting room, you may expect your
colleague to come and apologize to you, which he might not do. He might not
consider it as a mistake as according to him he has just put his opinion across
and doesn’t find a need to apologize.
5. Don’t over emphasize upon the importance of any particular event – Many a
times we lay so much importance to a particular event that we think or talk
about it 24 X 7. In such a situation, we block all other productive emotions
which can actually benefit us. Over emphasizing upon the importance of
something turns your mild worries into anxiety and tension.
For e.g. If you have not been able to finish your project on time because of
some reasons, you may think to yourself, that “Oh God, this looks like the end
of my job. The boss is extremely unhappy and he may fire me.” However, the boss
may not fire you for just one missed deadline, if you communicate properly with
her. She may be unhappy about it but thinking about it as the end of your job
is the result of over emphasis and actually increases your anxiety level.
However, if you tell yourself, “I know I am going to miss this deadline though
I have tried to do my best. Let me go and talk to the boss and seek her help to
finish it quickly”, you will see your worries diminishing and your productivity
Now that we have learnt to control the first component of our Emotion System
i.e. our thoughts, let us move on to learn controlling the next one i.e. the
physiological changes associated with each emotion.
Controlling the physiological changes associated with an emotion
You would notice that each emotion that you experience is associated with some
or the other physiological change. For e.g. When you are happy, you are able to
breath more easily, you may have a smile on your face. When you are angry you
heart beat gets faster, you breath heavily and may notice some drops of sweat
on your forehead. Nervousness may leave you with warm cheeks or butterflies in
All of us experience these or some other changes in our body in distressful
It is difficult to control an emotion once it takes over while It is much
easier to prevent it if you are able to recognise that an emotion is about to
So, how can you use your physiological changes as a sign to identify that an
emotion is about to take over and control them? Here are some tips:
1. Learn to associate emotions with physiological changes – If you observe
yourself you would notice that you feel some of the above listed changes in
your body during a distressful situation. You may also observe some other
changes peculiar to your body. Try to identify them and associate them with
2. Notice the physiological changes as soon as they appear – Once you have
identified the type of physiological changes your body experiences in a
situation, it will be easier for you to notice them as soon as the signs appear
in your body. You will be able to tell yourself – “My hands are shaking, I am
starting to feel nervous” or “I heart beat is increasing and my cheeks are
getting warm, I am starting to feel angry”.
A problem well diagnosed is half solved. Once you have identified these
changes, you can take measures to put them to rest. Let us see what these
measures can be and how you can use them.
In a distressful situation, the oxygen supply in our body reduces which
increases the heart beat and respiratory rate or makes the stomach feel
3. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation etc. on a
regular basis. During the process learn to associate some words or sounds like
OM or PEACE or the relaxing sound of water movement in a lake with relaxation
and peace. The regular practice conditions your mind to accept these words and
sounds as soon as you call them in an event of distress.
So, if you take deep breaths as soon as you notice the respiratory rate or
heart beat rate increasing, the oxygen level in your body doesn’t diminish and
the first signs of distress fade off. Similarly, if you invoke the relaxation
words or sounds when you notice that you are getting angry, anxious or nervous,
you will see that they vanish and the actual emotion is diffused before it
The third component your emotion system is your actions which are driven by
your emotions. For e.g. you start shaking your legs when you are nervous or
avoid looking into other person’s eyes when you are not confident or trying to
avoid them. These are some actions associated with our emotions.
So, how do we control these actions influenced by our emotions?
1. Recognise and accept the actions – Now that you know that your certain
actions are invoked by certain emotions, the first thing required to control
them is to recognise and accept them.
For e.g. If you are hiding from your busy boss because you haven’t completed
the monthly report yet, tell yourself that “I am hiding from my boss because I
haven’t finished the report which he asked me to do.” OR “I know, I am shaking
my legs because I am nervous to present the new plan of action before the
2. Enter into a productive communication with yourself and control your actions
– Having recognised these actions, control them, stop them. Now, start talking
to yourself, “Hiding from boss is not going to solve the problem. He will ask
me about the report as soon as he gets free. Let me update him through the
e-mail that I was busy with something else which delayed the report but it will
be ready by tomorrow after noon.” You will see that immediately you will be at
rest and the boss will acknowledge it some how.
Some additional techniques which can help you in dealing with intense emotions
1. Getting busy – If you feel some intense emotions, like that of anger, fear,
anxiety – try to get yourself busy in some other work which diverts your
attention and consumes your energy. Slowly the emotion would fade off and you
will be able to think more rationally. At work, these activities could be like
– re-arranging your desk, filing the papers, clearing the clutter from your
2. Laugh – Laughter therapy is the best medicine for many of our problems. The
muscles get relaxed and the brain get de-stressed with the good hormones
produced by the body. Share a joke with your friends, read some silly notes or
see some silly pictures, think about some silly activity you or someone else
did in the past etc. The intense emotions would start diffusing in some time.
3. Take time out – If you get into a really hot situation and begin to loose
your temper, the best thing to do is to take a short break and come back to
discuss it with a cool mind.
Emotions are unstoppable. They will keep surfacing, the only requirement is to
manage them and use them in an intelligent way to ensure that they give you the
benefits you desire.