We are all making sure to take good care of our health: we are eating moderately and choose healthy ingredients, exercising regularly (well, we are trying to…), having our beauty sleep and most of all, we are trying to avoid all kinds of toxic substances. Or, are we? No matter how hard we try, a certain kind of toxic influence is unavoidable for all of us: it’s our emotions.
It has been commonly known that our mind and body are linked. However, dealing with negative emotions (anger, hatred, fear etc.) on a daily basis can do much more to our well-being than simply make us feel unpleasant or hurt. Scientific research shows that experiencing anger for only 5 minutes could impair your immune system for more than six hours (Rein, Atkinson, & McCraty, 1995) and that people who are often angry or hostile are 19% more likely to suffer from heart disease (Kam, 2015). However, the answer is not in suppressing negative emotions: statistics shows that `bottling up` destructive emotions increases possibility of cancer for up to 70% (Hagan, 2013). As we can see, letting negative emotions overwhelm us can be dangerous not only for our health – it can literally be fatal, unless we do something about it! But if these emotional states are inevitable, what solution could be optimal in the long-run?
The only successful way of reducing these health risks is through enhancing your emotional intelligence. Recent studies show that emotional intelligence (EI) is connected not only with physical but also with our mental health (Shabani, Hassan, Ahmad, & Baba, 2010). People with high EI do not only manage their emotions and social relations better than others – according to Bar-On findings (2006), they are building highly productive strategies for coping with stress and dealing with different demands and problems in everyday life. Next steps are key points of successful emotional management:
- ACCEPT YOUR OWN FEELINGS. Modern society, in order to promote a false image of `instant happiness`, created false belief that expressing negative feelings is almost certainly a sign of weakness or even worse, mental disease. This is why many people feel afraid to admit their emotions even to themselves, thinking that they will be labeled as socially awkward and inadequate. Once you dismiss these prejudices you will be more confident about accepting how you actually feel and realize there are no reasons to feel guilty about your emotions. Also, this will help you to locate the stressors in your life and to eliminate them more easily.
- CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS, DON`T LET THEM CONTROL YOU. And now about the other side of the coin: showing your true feelings is healthy, but not if it means having anger attacks every time you are stuck in traffic, nor bursting into tears if your nail gets broken. It is essential to stop destructive emotions overcoming you: think why it is so easy for you to get angry or sad, and maybe you will find out that the real reason is far more simple (or complex!) than everyday situations that seem to cause your emotional breakdowns. It will be much easier to deal with it once you understand what makes you behave this way.
- BE POSITIVE. It may sound like a fortune-cookie statement, but it really is important to `always look for a bright side`. Having positive attitude towards life can make everyday difficulties more bearable and consequently make you more resilient to negative things in your life. Humor is an excellent weapon in this fight: try to smile as much as you can. Studies show that smiling is a great way to reduce your stress level (Kraft & Pressman, 2012).
- TRY TO UNDERSTAND OTHERS. When you learn how to accept and handle your own negative emotions, you will become more tolerant of emotional burnouts of others. Empathy is the key – it helps to realize that destructive emotions in most cases emerge from painful feeling, they are not connected with a conscious desire to hurt another person. By becoming more forgiving and tolerant towards other people, you can significantly improve your own emotional wellbeing.
- AVOID CONFLICTS. No matter how full of understanding you are sometimes you will not be able to escape hostile behavior of another person. In that case, taking an active role in the conflict is the worst possible idea – it will only ignite negative emotions on both sides. Instead of arguing, try a more compassionate approach that will eventually lead to constructive conversation. And if you feel that all your attempts to improve the communication have failed, move away or ignore the inexcusable behavior. Remember: if you cannot solve the problem, it probably means that it is not your problem at all.
- LET IT GO. This is maybe the most powerful technique for releasing all negative feelings from your mind: learn to let it go. This refers to all bad memories from your past, all things that made you feel bad and all the people who`ve hurt you somehow. Even if you have all the reasons on your side to be angry or plan revenge, you should know that those emotions are destroying nothing but your own health and wasting nothing but your own time. Letting them go does not mean that certain people got away with their bad actions: it means that they don`t have power over you anymore. As Jonathan Lockwood Huie said: “Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace”.
Incorporating emotional awareness and emotional management into your life is easy and fun – with CamomileQ science-based activities and games: Sign up today!
By Marina Musatova, Psy.D. and Katarina Mijatovic, MSc.
Bar-On, R. (2006). The Bar-On model of emotional-social intelligence (ESI). Psicothema, 18, supl., 13-25. .
Hagan, P. (2013). Don’t bottle up your emotions – it’ll knock years off your life and raise cancer risk by 70 percent. Retrieved from: link
Kam, K. (2015). How Anger Can Hurt Your Heart. Retrieved from: link
Kraft, T., & Pressman, S. (2012). Grin and bear it: the influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response. Psychological Science, 23(11), 1372-8.
Rein, G., Atkinson, M., & McCraty, R. (1995). The Physiological and Psychological Effects of Compassion and Anger. Journal of Advancement in Medicine, 8(2), 87-105.
Shabani, J., Hassan, S., Ahmad, A., & Baba, M. (2010). Exploring the Relationship of Emotional Intelligence with Mental Health among Early Adolescents. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 2, 2, 209-216.