1. Be Aware
The first step to feel more control of your emotions is to begin to be more aware of your own emotional experience. It is easy to simply blame other people for how angry we might feel, but that is not helpful to us in the long run. The only person I have any control over is myself. Yeah, I know your boss is a jerk, your partner just doesn’t understand sometimes and that asshole just cut you off in traffic, but change must start within yourself. Start being aware of what is happening whenever you experience strong emotions.
2. Slow Down
When you experience a strong emotion and begin to become more aware of it, the next step is to see whether you can slow down. Let’s say your partner makes a comment about how you didn’t take the trash out and you feel a wave of frustration. Physiologically, your heart is racing, your frontal lobe is shutting off, and you can no longer think rationally. This is not the time to say the first angry or defensive thing that comes to mind. The best thing you can do is slow down and give yourself time to get your heart rate down again.
3. Remind Yourself to Be Understanding
This understanding is both for the other person in the situation and also for yourself. If your husband just wants to watch TV all the time and it feels like he doesn’t make you a priority it might just be that he has a different perspective than you. The more you can be understanding that he might not be good about expressing his emotions through words and needs a certain amount of quiet time in front of the TV to recharge, the more it might be easier to see that maybe he shows that he cares for you in other ways. Also, we can’t control our feelings so try to be as understanding of yourself as you can.
4. Don’t Be so Hard on Yourself
We can only love someone else as much as we love ourselves. A lot of people might roll their eyes at this concept, but it is important. Remind yourself that you deserve to take care of yourself. If you are not eating healthy, getting enough exercise, getting enough sleep or getting enough of anything else you might need, then you are not going to be at your best to meet other people’s needs. I suggest making a daily practice of calling to mind things you are grateful for in your life and be very compassionate and forgiving of yourself.
5. Gain Insight and Open Up
Once you are able to be more aware of your emotions, are able to slow down, and bring some understanding to the situation there is an opportunity to gain insight and make yourself vulnerable in the situation. For example if you are driving and getting overwhelmed because your spouse wants to talk the whole time, it could be an opportunity to take that initial feeling of frustration and by slowing down you can express what you are feeling in a way that is not blaming or judging towards your partner. By identifying the emotions in yourself you are allowing your partner the opportunity to gain more understanding of you and for both of you to have more closeness and connection.
Shane Birkel is a counselor in Dover, NH working with couples and individuals with relationship issues. If you want to make an appointment for counseling feel free to call or email.