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5 Methods to Keep Your Emotions in Check at Work

5 Methods to Keep Your Emotions in Check at Work

Humans are emotional creatures – while emotions fuel creativity and passion, your ability to make rational decisions is diminished when you allow them to take control. To become a more thoughtful leader, commit to strengthening your emotional resilience.

Written by:Tara A. Collison, Ph.D.

Humans are emotional creatures – it’s both a strength and a weakness. On one hand, emotions fuel creativity and passion, but when you allow them to take control, your ability to make rational decisions is diminished. Decisions and reactions driven exclusively from your emotions can be a detriment to your team, your reputation, and your overall career. To become a more thoughtful leader – tolerant of ambiguity and able to resist negative impulses – consider committing to strengthening your emotional resilience.

The Science of Emotion
Regulating your emotions may be an “easier said than done” kind of situation, but it becomes more realistic once you understand the three elements of emotion: physical/physiological, cognitive, and behavioral. The physical/physiological element is the body’s reaction to an emotion. For example, that release of adrenaline you may experience is your reaction to fear, stress, or nervousness. The cognitive element is how you evaluate and label your emotions – your conscious assessment of the experience. Lastly, the behavioral element is the observable actions you take. Pacing, foot tapping, swaying – these are all behavioral elements of emotion.

Physical/physiological reactions aren’t always under your control. Studies show we have biological wiring that actually causes us to mirror the emotions of those around us. That’s where the importance of behavior and labeling come into play as a way to manage your physiology. Re-labeling that rush of adrenaline you felt in front of the group from “stage fright” to “excitement” can increase your confidence and, in turn, your performance. It’s the labels we choose and behaviors we practice after the emotion is felt that matter most.

How to Regulate Your Emotions
1. Identify Your Physical Response
Is your heart racing? Are you shaking? Can you feel yourself getting warm? Emotions trigger your sympathetic nervous system and lead to these symptoms and more. Engage in a breathing exercise to help slow your breath and heart rate. This mindfulness technique can also help keep you centered and grounded. Inhale slowly for five seconds, pause, and then exhale slowly for five seconds. Do this at least five times, and try to not focus on anything else while completing the exercise.

2. Recognize, Label, and Own Your Emotions
Dedicate time to mentally walk through an emotional situation and write down your thoughts and responses. Differentiate between feelings, and understand what triggered a certain reaction. Acknowledge what you are feeling in that moment and take ownership. The situation didn’t create your emotions. You did. You have the power to change them too.

3. Change Your Thoughts
Although we can’t always change a situation, we can change the way we react to it: this is called cognitive reappraisal. Cognitive Reappraisal is the act of reframing a situation in order to change your emotional response to it. Find something positive or beneficial about the current situation to help you view it from a different perspective.

4. Find an Outlet 
Find an outlet (or two… or three) to help alleviate the stress that ultimately leads to irrational emotional responses at work. The first step is establishing a work-life balance. Consider implementing a consistent exercise routine, or incorporate meditation into your daily routine. If writing is a therapeutic release for you, writing in a journal each day can help you better process your emotions. Take short, frequent breaks throughout the day to reset your mind and emotions. Take a few laps around the office, visit a co-worker, or step out for lunch.

5. Bonus Method! Get Proper Sleep
To successfully tackle everything on this list, you need to make sleep a priority. Getting a good night’s rest creates a solid foundation on which to build the rest of your strategy for emotional regulation. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults 26 to 64-years-old should get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. We know that seems unrealistic, but it’s critical to try.

Learn to Keep Your Emotions in Check with Meddlers
By learning to manage your emotions in the workplace, you can maintain a more positive influence on your team and begin to place team alignment and engagement at the forefront of your efforts. Let Meddlers help you implement strategies and practices to keep your team on track and unlock its potential. Contact us today!

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