Have you ever had an issue with managing strong emotions in the workplace and/or at home?
Recently I wrote about how I was leading a two-day, hybrid retreat for a UN agency and the subject of managing strong emotions in the workplace came up. It often does in workshops that I teach. We talked about a number of scenarios, and I shared some simple tips to help dial down the emotions in the moment.
I shared the first of five simple tips for handling strong emotions in the workplace. Here are the second five tips. But first, an important reminder.
Strong emotions are a signal. They’re a strong signal that something is wrong. That may seem obvious, but we can get blindsided by the emotion and ignore the message it’s trying to tell us.
For example, a strong emotional reaction could mean any of the following:
- a boundary has been crossed
- one of your values was trampled on
- a fear has been raised (fearful of not seeming competent in front of your peers, for example)
Emotions are powerful, no doubt, but so are the messages they’re trying to convey.
While I’ll share some really easy tips and tricks for managing strong emotions, know they’re to be used in the moment to help you calm down.
The tips don’t take the place of understanding why the emotion was raised in the first place and whether more help is needed, such as coaching, counseling, etc.
Now that we’re on the page, let’s get to the tips.
I’m sharing ten super simple tips for managing those strong emotions, so you can get on with business and your life.
You can find the first five here
1. Plan a new way home
- In resilience studies, it’s been found that simply thinking about an alternate way to get to your office (if you remember how to get there!) can help build our resilience. Source: The Resilience Factor.
- In the short run, it also helps us calm down by taking the focus off the strong emotion and turning that into some uber thinking.
2. Complicated, positive thoughts
- When we’re overblown with emotions, our brains try to help by reducing everything to fight, flee or freeze. Our hearing decreases, and we end up using the oldest part of our brains, the part we have in common with reptiles.
- If you focus your attention on something positive and relatively complicated, you’ll make your brain use its prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for strategy, creativity, planning, decoding humour and other types of higher-level thinking.
- What’s a bad example of something to think about? “When is this pandemic ever going to end?!” It’s complicated but not positive.
- A good example? “What are my best qualities?” or “What do I value most in life?|
3. Vent … carefully
- Pent-up emotions are like a dryer vent – if they don’t find a release, they’re going to release on their own and that can get ugly fast.
- So give yourself permission to vent … carefully and safely.
- Write down how you’re feeling – but make sure it’s not in an email that you may be tempted to send in the heat of the moment and later regret.
- I keep two containers of aromatherapy scents.
- One holds things like lavender – which helps me relax.
- The other one holds scents like eucalyptus, peppermint and grapefruit – things to energize me.
- Pick scents that work for you and have them handy.
- Note: of course, monitor for any potential allergic reaction (for yourself and anyone around you).
5. Honesty is (sometimes) the best policy
- Up til now, all of the tips are focused on you as an individual. For the last tip, let’s include your surroundings.
- When and where appropriate, feel free, to be honest with whomever you’re having a large emotional reaction with.
- If it feels appropriate and safe, say something like “Wow, I’m really having a strong reaction to what you said. Can we circle back to this later, please? I need to ….. (go for a walk, take a break, douse myself in aromatherapy, do my wonder woman etc).”
There you have it. Another five tips to help you regain control of yourself and your sanity. Which ones resonated best? Which ones do you want to practice?
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead
- Which ones resonated best? Which ones do you want to practice? Take a moment to make a plan for your next emotional upheaval.
- Strong emotions can make us ‘dance’ to all sorts of hidden messages. Check out this highly choreographed courtship bird dance as a funny example.
- Share the post with a friend and/or colleague and see if they have any tips to add to the list.