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4 Steps to Manage Your Emotions at Work

This article was based on episode 263 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community get two months of Fast Forward membership for free. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.


Ah, emotions. While positive emotions can bring energy and joy into the workplace, negative emotions seem to get in the way of creating a productive and healthy team. In order to help ourselves and our teammates manage emotions of all kinds, we need to first answer the obvious question: what exactly are emotions, anyways?


As Jen Hope puts it so brilliantly, emotions are the way our bodies send us information through physical sensations. We then translate that input into thoughts and behaviors, and use language to explain what we’re experiencing.


Jen is an accomplished leadership coach with over a decade of experience in helping entrepreneurs and tech leaders thrive. With her unique process that utilizes data to create deeper levels of self-awareness, Jen is committed to promoting compassion and kindness while teaching highly-effective research-backed tools and frameworks to help clients achieve their goals. Jen teaches us here how to increase our skillfulness at emotional regulation so that we can learn how to keep level even during hard times.


4 STEPS TOWARDS EMOTIONAL REGULATION MINDFULNESS


Jen uses ideas from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy in her work. DBT talks about how we have two minds; our emotional mind and our rational mind. We ideally want to be working in the overlap of the two in what’s called the “wise mind” where our intuitive thinking allows us to balance our emotional and rational minds. If we can stop and notice when our reactions are coming from our emotional mind, we can then focus on regrounding ourselves when we get overheated. This way, we can choose thoughtful actions and make sound decisions that have the best of both sides. To find the “wise mind” Jen lays out four steps.

1. Self Reflection Having challenging emotions, like anger, frustration, disappointment or impatience, is a part of being human. Knowing that emotions aren't bad helps us to accept them when they come. And when they do, the first step is to acknowledge what’s happening. Maybe you notice that you start sweating during a conversation or your stomach feels uncomfortable. You may notice a sensation before understanding what it is or what to do about it. Mindfulness at this stage is key.

2. Name To Tame

Emotions are like a balloon in water; if we try to push them down, they just come back up stronger. Jen noted that hard emotions are often a stress response. We need to develop strategies for closing the stress cycle so that our body can work through the emotions and our brain can navigate them. Catch and name the emotion as you experience it in your body. Is it anger? What type of anger is it, for example, rage, annoyance, repulsion, peeved? What does it feel like?


3. Move Through It With Acceptance

Admit to yourself that the experience hurts or was hard. Try not to get caught in the “should have/would have” cycle of thinking. Rather, move into acceptance. Admit that the struggle is real, and that all people struggle. Normalize and humanize your experience. “This stinks. I hate feeling this way. It’s human.” Believe that you can get through it.


4. Give Your Body Space to Process

Your rational mind might calm down before your body. Consider taking what Jen calls an “emotional lap” to calm your entire body down. This might be through going for a walk or drinking some tea. Consider doing something that will change your body temperature, like drinking ice cold water through a straw. When we get riled up, our bodies heat up. Cooling them down helps us emotionally cool off as well. Breathing is always a powerful way to help our bodies process negative emotions. As you breathe, concentrate on keeping the exhalations longer than the inhalations. Even a two minute run to the fridge can help your body move through a negative sensation.


HELP A TEAMMATE THROUGH AN EMOTIONAL TIME


If a teammate seems emotionally overloaded, be authentic and supportive. If you’re not sure if they want your help, just ask them. Use open-ended questions such as “Do you want to talk/vent?” or “Is there something that would feel supportive right now?”.


Get them to name their experiences and offer acknowledgement rather than judgment. “That is so hard what you’re experiencing” will go a long way in helping hold them through their negative emotions. If you’re at a team meeting when the emotional temperature is rising beyond comfort, don’t be afraid to call for a break, especially if you notice the conversation is no longer productive.


Emotions are tools that we can use in guiding our thoughts and behaviors. They give us valuable information about what we want and what’s important to us. But we have to also know how to ride the waves of our emotions and direct them appropriately. Notice when your body starts to send you signals. Name the emotions that are coming up, being as specific as possible, and how they feel in the body. Normalize the experience with empathy and acceptance. Then give your body time to move through it and process it. The more we can teach ourselves to regulate our own emotions, the better we will be at teaching our team. Embrace these skills as a team to help everyone manage the whirlwind of projects, stress, and emotions. When things get tough, they’ll know how to stay strong and find their footing. And so will you.


KEEP UP WITH JEN


Get a major discount on two “Accelerate Your Growth” Strategy Sessions with Jen when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.


This article was based on episode 263 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

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