On Emotion

On Emotion

I am a person who has always had big emotions. For years, I didn’t know how to handle them and they would take me over in ways that were not healthy.

But now? I have a whole set of coping skills and can put these emotions to work for me. Not only is it healthier, but it makes me more productive when I don’t have to lose a day just because my feelings are overtaking me.

The way I make it work for me is pretty simple. In fact, I’m doing it right now.

The emotion issue

This morning, my daughter had her first gymnastics class at a new gym. She’d been making so much progress at her old gym that I couldn’t imagine taking the whole summer off just because her regular gym wasn’t offering classes for her age.

I had an improbable dream about how this would go down. My daughter was signed up for the two to three year old class, and because she is a month shy of two, she is the youngest in her class (I got permission to sign up for this based on how she does at her usual gym). I dreamed my daughter was going to so impress everyone that she would be at the same star level she is at her regular gym. She usually follows directions from her normal teacher well, so I thought she would do the same with a complete stranger. And finally, despite the fact that I have social anxiety, I thought I’d have fun in a new place with new people.

Let’s just say I was disappointed on all fronts. And when the owner of the gym yelled at me for getting on the trampoline to help my daughter get off of it, I was full up on anxiety and frustration and almost left right then in tears. But I got through the class and am happily working right now. Here’s how:

I named the emotion

I write about this a lot but giving a name to your emotion is super powerful. Knowing what is actually going on can help you deal with it.

So in this case, I knew I was uncomfortable to begin with and that it was a combination of being in a new place with new people, as well as my daughter hiding my phone which resulted in us being two minutes late. I like to be early in new situations so I have time to acclimate to what is going on. That didn’t happen, so anything else that happened was going to feel a lot bigger than it actually was.

I used my tools

I practice emotions. That may seem like an odd thing to do, but for me, it’s super helpful. By practicing, I can navigate through them when I actually am experiencing them.

In this case, I was uncomfortable, which I know from my practice leads me to focus on everything that was going wrong. My daughter didn’t want to wait in line. She didn’t want to do most of the obstacles. I got yelled at. I was spiraling.

So I used the tool that has worked best for me in practice: opposites. I needed to focus on what was going right instead of wrong. My daughter easily swung on whatever they put before her. She was jumping with two feet. And when we got to the third set of obstacles, she had got the hang of what was going on and was able to successfully go through them three times with no meltdowns from either of us. We actually did just fine for our very first time there, especially since we’re used to a very different gym that is much less structured.

As I focused on these good things, the anxiety and frustration both became manageable, and we were able to finish the class instead of running out, like I had contemplated.

I channeled the emotion into work

Too many times, I have gotten stuck in an emotion and have found that work just went out the window. Not. Good.

So when I got home from the gymnastics class and my daughter was happily occupied, I thought about how to best use this emotion in my work, instead of fighting against it. What could I create that would benefit from the feelings of being uncomfortable, anxious or frustrated? That work was prioritized, and I channeled those emotions into it which in turn makes the work more authentic and relatable. Simply because it was coming from a very real place.

And by prioritizing that work, I’m giving myself time to live in the emotion, instead of fighting against it. The emotion then comes to its own conclusion since I’m able to journey through it by creating something with it. I feel better and I learn more about what that emotion looks like for me.

I learn from the experience

Look, I know I overreacted in many ways and that’s fine. I can do better next time. I took notes, so I can prevent the spiral from happening or make sure it takes me down for even less time.

Our next time at this new gym will not be the first time. I’ll have a better idea of what will happen, so already it will be easier. I will also make sure there is no way we won’t show up early, so we are both more comfortable and aren’t bursting in when class is already started. This will also give me a better opportunity to talk with my daughter about what we are doing and what the expectations are.

Lastly and more importantly, I’m not going to have these grand dreams of what will happen. It doesn’t matter if my daughter isn’t the star or isn’t very good at this. It does matter if she is having fun and learning. If I get rid of everything else, I can actually figure out if those two things are happening. Then, ultimately, I can figure out if we should stay at the gym until our normal gym re-opens or if we might want to make an early exit.

Being a person who has big emotions is hard. It takes a little extra work and awareness. But it is manageable. If you set up a plan before you go through a big emotion and work through it rather than against it, you’ll figure out exactly what works for you.

Do you experience big emotions? How do you handle them when it comes to work? 

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