Part of becoming a mature, responsible adult, however, is learning to control one’s emotions. Some experts now feel that the ability to manage emotions and to deal with people is more valuable than intelligence. What makes it so hard to control one’s feelings?
A Challenge for Everyone
People of all ages and backgrounds struggle with controlling their emotions. However, the struggle can be particularly challenging during one’s transition from adolescence to adulthood. Says the book Changing Bodies, Changing Lives by Ruth Bell: “Most teenagers feel a jumble of crazy, beautiful, frightening, mixed-up emotions. A lot of people have several different feelings at the same time about the same things. . . . One minute you may feel a particular way, and then a minute later you may find yourself feeling the opposite way.”
As a young person, you are also inexperienced. So, as you encounter new situations and challenges for the first time, it is only natural to feel a bit insecure and perhaps overwhelmed.
A Key to Controlling Emotions
One key to controlling your emotions is learning to control your thoughts. Negative thoughts can sap you of the energy you need to take action. But how can you learn to think positively and thus be helped to control your emotions?
One way is to refuse to dwell on negative things that make you feel depressed or insecure. You can replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Doing this may not be easy, but with effort it can be done.
Consider a young woman named Jasmine. “I feel so overwhelmed by all that I’m faced with,” she once lamented. “New job, new responsibilities. My emotions are spent. I find it difficult to breathe.” It is not surprising for a person to feel that way on occasion, and it can cause one to feel insecure, unsure of oneself.
It may well be that you feel insecure when you are confronted with a new or unfamiliar task. ‘I’ll never be able to do this,’ you may tell yourself. But you can control such feelings of insecurity by refusing to dwell on negative thoughts. Focus on learning to do the task competently. Ask questions, and follow instructions.
The more competent you become at a task, the less insecure you will feel. Do not dwell on your weaknesses, allowing them to paralyze you and prevent you from applying yourself to making improvement. Similarly, you can build your confidence by acknowledging your strengths to cope with your weaknesses.
Another way you can help to control your emotions is to set modest, realistic goals and accept your limitations. Also avoid unfairly comparing yourself with others.
Slowing Down Anger
Managing anger can be another difficult challenge. Like Kate, mentioned at the outset, anger prompts many young ones to say and do things that are hurtful or destructive.
Granted, it is normal to feel anger at times. Again it comes down to controlling your thoughts. When someone upsets you, try to understand why he or she behaved that way. Was that person deliberately trying to hurt you? Could it be that he or she was acting impulsively or out of ignorance? Making allowances for the mistakes of others can help slow down your feelings of anger.
What, though, if anger is justified? If necessary, talk the matter out with the individual. Or perhaps the best thing to do is simply to let the matter drop—let go of the anger and move on with your life.
Interestingly, your friends can have an influence on how you deal with anger. Being around people who make an effort to control their anger can help you to develop self-control yourself. They may also be able to give you “skillful direction” when you face difficulties.
Other Practical Steps
A popular exercise book says: “Countless studies have proven that how you move your body influences your mood through your biochemistry. Hormone and oxygen levels all change with the kind of movements you make.” There is no question about it, physical exercise is beneficial. Why not establish a modest routine of regular exercise? It can have a good effect on the way you feel. Maintaining a healthful diet can likewise bring benefits.
Consider, too, your choices of music and entertainment. A study published in The Harvard Mental Health Letter said: “Viewing violence . . . tends to stir angry and aggressive feelings. . . . People watching violent films thought more aggressive thoughts and showed a rise in blood pressure.” So make wise decisions when it comes to what you listen to and watch.
Special thanks to Hans Dinovak for sharing this article.