My chest constricted and my throat tightened. That all too familiar rush of anxiety, anger, and pain flooded through my body. My brain was overwhelmed, and there was nothing I could focus on except for the wave of negative emotions coursing through me.
There my boss stood, tearing my report apart in front of the CEO. Displays of exasperation and rolled eyes at my suggested incompetence. Earlier, she had palmed off her work to me at the last minute, with three hours to complete a report that takes three days. I did what I could, but suffice to say it was not my best work.
And now here she was, telling the CEO I was to blame, swooping in to save the day with a new report that she miraculously produced. I was furious, ashamed and humiliated. All these emotions flooded me as I spiraled into a cesspool of anxiety and anger.
Over time, these negative emotions derailed me – I went from being able to think clearly and objectively to simply reacting from a place of anxiety and negativity, which affected my work and made me question my capabilities. I was anxious all the time, felt extremely stressed and started having bouts of insomnia.
It wasn’t until one Saturday night, where I spent another sleepless night flooded with anxiety that I realized this had to change. I put my clothes on and went for a walk in the middle of the night, trying to figure things out.
That night was a turning point in my life. It was when I finally figured out how to master my emotions, instead of letting it control me.
I started putting into place these three simple steps whenever I felt the negativity swelling up. The effects of mastering my emotions had a profound effect on me. I was less stressed, more positive and became a lot calmer.
These are the 3 simple steps I took to get emotional mastery and change my life.
Get Active to Clear the Head
When we are feeling overwhelmed with emotions, it’s very difficult to think objectively about the situation. Everything that we see is tinged by negativity.
The first step to mastering our emotions is to cool down so that the emotions do not overwhelm us. To do that, try doing something that clears your head. I find that moving meditation and walking mindfully works well.
A quick breathing technique can also be effective to calm you down. Try breathing in to the count of four, holding for the count of four, and release the breath to the count of four. Do this several times to quickly calm down.
The point here is to get out of your mind, and into the present moment of your body. This focus helps to restore calm so that you can go forward with ease.
Work towards Detachment
Next, focus on being detached from the situation to the point where when you think about it, you do not feel overwhelmed. This enables you to approach this objectively, rather than having emotions cloud your judgment.
Whenever you feel that familiar rush of anxiety as your mind goes back to the situation, imagine a wave of crystal clear blue water pouring down. It goes from the top of your head, down to your feet, cleansing and washing away all negativity.
I usually do this a few times, until I no longer feel upset when I think about the situation. That is when I know I am detached enough to objectively look at what is happening, and turn this in a positive direction.
Go into the Pain and Ask Why
After feeling sufficiently detached from the situation, it’s time to dive into the pain. This helps us figure out what is really going on, and the steps we can take towards a positive outcome. I have found the following questions helpful in guiding me through this process.
- Why was I feeling this way?
- What are the triggers? Are there any patterns to it?
- Are there instances where what I am saying about this situation is not true?
- What do I want out of this situation?
- What do I need to do to get to what I want?
During the process of diving into the pain, negative feelings may crop up and threaten to overwhelm you again. Be gentle with yourself, back off from the questions, and breathe, before you dive back in again.
When I did this exercise, it helped me to identify specific triggers that result in anxiety. Understanding these triggers helped me realize my negativity was not a reflection of who I am, but a faulty self-coping mechanism reacting to the triggers. I put together a plan and set up boundaries with my boss in order to let me do my job well, while maintaining my sanity and emotional well-being.
Implementing these three simple steps gave me a sense of freedom, as I was able to turn overwhelming negative energy into a positive direction.
Imagine transforming your anxiety and negativity into positive feelings and action.
Where you are free to step forward and be who you truly are.
Shan Foo is an irreverent Sociologist who’s on a mission to help folks leverage their full potential and step into a career they love. Check out her Free Career Clarity Course to get you out of confusion and into the career that’s meant for you, on your terms.
Image courtesy of Rene Asmussen.