Your emotional self is like your other selves – physical and spiritual – if it’s not healthy it can interfere with your life and the lives of those around you. Emotions should be balanced and expressed in healthy ways, but not suppressed, which leads to other problems.
Expressing emotions in unhealthy ways can be very unhealthy for other people in your life. Anger is a good example of this, although it isn’t the only problem emotion.
Watch Out for Unchecked Anger
Unchecked, anger comes out as vicious or violent rage. It can lead to either emotional or physical bullying. If you have a terrible temper and fear you may hurt yourself or others, it’s important to get serious, professional help.
Call a therapist or an anger hotline – you need someone who is an expert. Many hospitals and community health centres offer classes in anger management, which can be quite helpful. Meeting once or twice a week with other people who are learning to tame their tempers, hearing their stories, and seeing how they’ve succeeded can really help you.
The point of such classes or therapy is not to stop feeling anger or stop being angry. Rather, it is to learn a new way to safely express your anger, a way that doesn’t hurt you or your family.
Because anger is a powerful emotion, and it must be respected and released. But releasing it by screaming at your partner or by smashing dishes or punching walls isn’t helpful or healthy.
A somewhat crude but effective way to let your rage out is to shut yourself in your bedroom and yell and hit things like pillows or the mattress, things that don’t hurt your fists. It’s far better to let your anger out this way than to lose control and risk hurting your family.
Exercise is a great way to manage anger, too. Most of us don’t get nearly enough exercise, which is too bad, because exercise helps keep us healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually. The endorphins – chemicals released in the brain – by exercise make us feel better and are good for our psyche.
Some kinds of exercise are particularly good for expressing anger in particular. Punching a heavy bag, as boxers or martial artists do, is a fantastic way to let your rage out. Forty-five minutes on the heavy bag changes your perspective on just about any problem.
Now, don’t just go down to the gym and start punching the heavy bag if you’ve never done it before! Get someone to show you how to do it correctly – you can hurt your wrist if you aren’t careful – and either borrow or buy some gloves to protect your knuckles.
Then pound away on the bag – it’s a great workout and the nice thing about the heavy bag is it doesn’t hit you back!
Other Methods for Keeping Strong Emotions Under Control
A long run or a long walk can also be a great way to tame overwhelming emotions. Not only are you getting physical exercise and burning calories, but you also have time to think about how you feel. A run or walk becomes a kind of moving meditation that helps restore your sanity and emotional balance.
Incorporating a run or walk or bicycle ride or swim into your daily routine can become an important way to stay emotionally healthy as well as physically healthy.
Exercise and meditation can really help with many overwhelming emotions – not just anger but also sadness or despair or depression or jealousy. The time you spend exercising gives you a chance to think and put your feelings into perspective. “How important is this, really?” you can ask yourself.
Often, when someone is unhappy or depressed, they feel like this emotion is going to last forever. They forget the joy they felt just yesterday as they wallow in the misery of the moment. And so they forget, too, the joy that will come tomorrow, or next week, or next month.
If you’re feeling intense emotions that threaten to overwhelm you, remind yourself that you won’t feel this way forever. This feeling may be strong and scary now, but it won’t last forever. An hour or day or week from now, you will feel differently.
Identify Your Emotions
Knowing how to name your emotions is also important in understanding them and keeping them in balance. Too many people have a very limited emotional vocabulary – they only know a few words for feelings, like angry, happy, and sad. But our language has hundreds of emotion words, each one slightly different in meaning.
By learning the differences between happy, ecstatic, overjoyed, delirious, thrilled and giddy, for example, you not only become better at expressing your emotions to others, but you also learn to pay more careful attention to your own feelings. A better understanding of your own complex emotions is an important tool in taming those emotions when they are out of control.
So take some time to learn how you really feel. Angry, enraged, furious, apoplectic, irate, frustrated, humiliated – they’re all different.
Talk to a therapist if you need help learning to name your feelings, or look in a thesaurus and dictionary to learn the subtle differences in some of these words and the emotions they stand for.
If you’re particularly overwhelmed by negative emotions, another way to remind yourself of the opposing, positive forces in your life is to write about them. Take a minute or two every morning to scribble down a list of all the good things in your life, the things you’re grateful for. That small, easy exercise will help remind you that there are plenty of things to be happy about. That reminder will help, both consciously and subconsciously, to balance out the anger, sadness or despair you feel.
Jealousy is a particularly powerful and difficult emotion, and many people struggle with it in their love relationships. But it, too, can be addressed and tamed by many of the same techniques.
Talking calmly and clearly to your partner in a safe environment about how you feel is particularly helpful. If you can’t create a safe place at home, get the help of a trained therapist who will act as a referee between you.
Emotions are a normal and healthy part of all of us. With proper attention and care, they can be kept from overwhelming us.