Empowering Yourself & Others During Emotionally Charged Times
I went for a walk with my friend Jen the other day. We haven’t seen each other in close to 2 years.
Jen asked innocently: “So, what have you been up to?”
I answered wittily: “Dealing with my anger.”
We had a long belly laugh over that one. (comedy classes must be working!)
After we stopped laughing, she got more serious and asked, “So, how did you do that?”
Emotions Still Running High
We live in highly emotional times, right? It seems every day something new happens to rattle us. For goodness sake, an earthquake hit southeastern Massachusetts last weekend! (Did you feel it?)
This past Tuesday, I participated in a panel discussion hosted by the UMASS Amherst Alumni association.
Many questions we got from the audience went something like this:
I’m running on a short fuse (at work, with my kids, at home, etc)! What can I do?
How short is your fuse?
The Struggle Continues
Lots of people are still struggling and the impact is huge. A search for “Covid and mental health” brought up 785,000,000 results!
Unchecked emotions can negatively affect our mental health and well-being, our relationships (personally and professionally) and our ability to do good work.
And emotions can run high because of pandemics, politics, clients who don’t pay invoices on time, a high stakes meeting or conversation, co-workers who don’t pull their weight.
Thinking we have to keep it together, when inside we feel like we’re falling apart, is a formality that can hold us back.
Because no one wants to receive the wrath of an angry person. And feeling angry? Also the pits.
That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t feel anger (or other strong emotion). Emotions are real and they are valid. Emotions are data and part of who we are as humans.
The key is to have tools and coping strategies in place to process it, so that when you are interacting with others you can express your emotions in a more productive way.
Or make a joke about it. That all depends on your level of healing.
Acknowledge, Ask, Act
But enough about that. Here is what I told my friend and the women of UMASS who wanted to know how to cool a hot fuse and feel empowered during a pandemic or any time of great change. I’m going to break this down 2 ways: for the individual and for the person leading others.
(Note: this section is written for you, the individual. AND this can be used when interacting with clients, peers, employees…anyone by acknowledging how they feel, asking relevant questions and providing support as needed.)
To deal with a strong emotion, the first step is to acknowledge it. A simple “I’m angry!” can do the trick.
Are you willing and able to acknowledge feelings – for yourself or others?
Next, get curious and dig deep. Where is it coming from and why do I feel this way? How do I want to feel? Is my business relevant? What support do I need to get through this? Be willing to get quiet, ask the tough questions, and reflect on what comes next.
Are you wiling to dig deep?
The situation and the emotion will dictate the action. Some strategies include…
- Talking about it with trusted friends and colleagues or into an iPhone
- Screaming into a pillow
- Pursuing creative hobbies and interests like stand up comedy, art or music – to feel less lonely and exercise your brain in different ways
- Reframing the problem or challenge into an opportunity for growth (think: what can I learn?)
- Yoga, meditation, and reflective journaling
- Getting fresh air – going for a walk alone or with a friend (safely, of course)
- Reaching out and getting help (from a coach, consultant, healer, therapist, friend, colleague…we don’t have to go it alone.)
What action will you take? Or what support can you offer others?
Managing emotions takes work
Often, we have to learn about emotional intelligence on our own. (I did)
It can be a matter of unlearning behavior or beliefs that might say…
- What do you have to feel angry about?
- Keep quiet, no one wants to hear about your anger.
- Go ahead, let them have it!
…and learning better coping skills.
So, the next time you feel (or notice in others) a tsunami of anger swell up remember to acknowledge, ask and act. That way you and others can express how you feel in a healthy, productive way instead of damaging a relationship or your reputation. You might even turn that anger into something positive and make someone belly laugh.
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