You overslept through your alarm, you’re late for work, and—on top of that—your kids are sick… With all of this going on its easy to feel overwhelmed and out of control, which only adds to the stress of daily life, instead of helping to solve the problem. So how do we get back on track when our emotions get derailed?
Theology Of The Body reminds us that God made our bodies to work for our good and the good of others–that includes our feelings which are a function of our bodies. If our emotions are making it difficult for us to function at our best or treat others well, the answer is not to blame others for the feelings our bodies are making, but rather to learn to take responsibility for our bodies and our emotions. Taking responsibility for our emotions doesn’t mean shutting them down or shutting them off, but rather making sure that we express them in ways that help us meet our needs efficiently and make our relationships with others stronger and healthier.
Here are three More2Life hacks for getting your emotions back on track.
1. Reclaim your Power–When feelings throw us off track, we can feel powerless over our emotions. The good news is that both psychology and theology agree, no one is in a better position than we are to manage our emotions effectively. The trick is to not see it as a choice between venting your feelings or stuffing your feelings. Instead, let the goal be expressing your feelings in a way that serves you well. Before acting on overwhelming emotions, try to remind yourself of times when you handled high pressure situations well. Ask yourself how you could use those same strategies in THIS situation. Remembering past successes helps you connect with the fact that–despite how it feels right now–your emotions are not the most powerful force in your life. GRACE is. Bring these feelings to God and ask him how to express them in a way that solves the problem AND respects both you and the people around you.
2. Remember the True Opposite of Anger–The opposite of anger is not calm. It is empathy. If you are being derailed by anger, frustration or irritation with someone, don’t focus on calming down so much as focusing on trying to see things through their eyes. The point of empathizing with the person you are frustrated with is NOT excusing any offense or explaining away a problem. The point is trying to get yourself to the place where you can stop seeing the other person as an obstacle to your progress and, instead, inviting them to be a partner in helping you make progress. Research shows that problem solving works better when the problem-solvers feel like a team. Acknowledging your anger doesn’t mean you can’t empathize with others as well. It just means being able to keep your needs and theirs in mind at the same time.
3. Return to the Scene of the Accident–Often, when we lose our cool, we allow our guilt and shame to cause us to refuse to return to the topic. We MIGHT apologize, but beyond that, we may feel like we have surrendered our right to address the problem that provoked our reaction in the first place. Nothing could be further to the truth. By all means, if you need to apologize for something you said or did, be sure to do so, but don’t forget to circle back and address the problem that caused the train to jump the tracks in the first place. For instance you could say, “I’m really sorry that I lost my temper. You didn’t deserve to have me speak to you that way. I would like it if we could make some time to talk about X, however, because as long as that’s an issue, there’s a chance we’re going to end up going through this again.” Returning to the scene of the accident allows you to learn from the past and avoid repeating it.
For more information on how to keep your emotions on track, check out Broken Gods! And tune in to More2Life on EWTN Global Catholic Radio, SiriusXM 139—Monday-Friday 10am E/9am C!