By Brian A. Stenzler, M.Sc, D.C.
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If you’ve been keeping up with Wellness Wikis lately, you probably noticed that many of my blogs have been related to mental wellness. The reason for that, aside from it being one of the five keys (or facets) to a wellness lifestyle, is because we are living in times that are mentally and emotionally difficult for so many people. Between a global pandemic, rising gas prices with unprecedented inflation and a senseless attack on Ukraine, even an “A list” celebrity couldn’t handle his emotions and his outburst sent shockwaves around the world.
By now, most people are aware that the once “Fresh Prince” went from being that slaphappy teenager in Bel Air to slapping Chris Rock who was presenting an award at the 94th Academy Awards that aired on March 27, 2022. Comedian Chris Rock who is known for poking fun at people, as most comedians do, made a joke that went too far for Will Smith to handle.
For the purpose of this article, the content and context of the joke is not important. What I want to tackle is, what Smith could have done differently if he were better able to manage his emotions.
It does not matter if you’re an Oscar winning actor, a parent raising children or a teenager trying to pass a math test, the ability to manage your emotions is one of the most important life skills a person should have to make it in this world. I know for me, it is something that I have had to work on my entire life, and I continue to do so every single day. In fact, I wrote an entire chapter on this topic in my book, DREAM Wellness: The 5 Keys to Raising Kids for a Lifetime of Physical and Mental Health. In this chapter, I recount how the events of 9-11 impacted my life as a New Yorker and how I needed to learn the skill of becoming inner directed. If you don’t have a copy of the book but you are interested in reading this chapter, I am giving the chapter to you for free! Just click here and enjoy.
As explained in Chapter 9-4 of the book, emotions are tricky. They can dictate how we think and act. On the one hand, they’re vital to us as human beings. On the other, they can wreak havoc in our lives. The difference lies in how you manage them.
If we’re not careful, we may act on our emotions too quickly, which may lead us to making decisions that we come to regret.
Learn how to work with your emotions instead of letting them get the best of you!
1 Avoid reacting immediately. If a situation has triggered strong negative emotions, try to remove yourself from the situation, either mentally or physically.
- Walk away, if possible, perhaps to find a quiet place to perform some deep breathing exercises while you collect your thoughts. You can then return to the situation, safe in the knowledge that these emotions are just temporary.
- If you can’t walk away, take a moment to breathe deeply while you consider an appropriate response. If you’re a parent, think about the example you would want to set for your children. If you’re in a position of authority or one that many people look up to, think about the example you want to set for the world. Additionally, the extra oxygen will help relax your muscles, calm your mind, and clarify your thoughts.
- Once you’ve calmed yourself, respond to the situation with a well-thought-out reply, rather than a knee-jerk reaction.
2 Look for divine guidance. Often those with faith are better able to control their emotions. If you heard Will Smith’s acceptance speech which followed his violent outburst, he mentioned that fellow Oscar winning actor and man of faith Denzel Washington said to him, “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.” Regardless of what you believe or where you stand when it comes to religion and spirituality, when you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed by emotion, close your eyes and seek a positive solution by asking the universe, your higher power, the Divine, or even your inner wisdom for the best way forward.
3 Find a healthy outlet for your emotions. Once you’ve managed to control your emotions, it’s important to find a healthy way to release them. It’s never a good idea to bottle up your emotions, as eventually they’ll bubble over. Consider these ideas:
- Call or visit a friend or family member that you trust to talk about the situation and how you reacted. When you hear someone else’s opinion, you broaden your awareness and may be able to view the situation from a different perspective.
- You could also consider keeping a journal or diary in which to write down your feelings or emotions. Once you see the situation on paper, sometimes you’re able to see it more clearly. It may help you to release your emotions or spark ideas which help you to resolve the situation.
- For some people, aggressive forms of exercise such as running or kickboxing help them deal with emotions, while others find that calmer methods such as yoga or meditation work best.
4 See the bigger picture. Whatever is happening to you is happening for a reason. Try to see past the current situation and understand what it means in the grand scheme of things. Even in your worst times, there is usually a reason why this is happening, which you often learn in time.
5 Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. When you experience negative emotions, you think negative thoughts, and vice versa. This can create a cycle of negativity that can be hard to break out of. Whenever you experience an emotion that causes you to think negatively, replace these thoughts with positive thoughts. You could try to play out the ideal resolution to your current issue, or simply think about someone or something that makes you happy.
6 Forgive what triggered you. What sets off an emotional reaction in you? Perhaps you feel anger when your friend does that thing you dislike. Or perhaps you feel depressed thinking back at a decision you could have made differently. Forgive whatever is causing the negative emotions. This will help you to become detached from these triggers and may stop these emotional reactions from boiling over in the future.
When you take control of your emotions, you take control of your future! Practice these strategies and take back control of your life.