How to Change Your Emotional StateJan 27, 2021
How to Change Your Emotional State
This morning was a doozy. My kiddo was tearfully struggling with schoolwork, conflicting contractors showed up to work on the same room and I was limping around on a hip that this pregnancy has apparently decided is suddenly and completely dysfunctional. Between the people who showed up at my house with no warning, the physical pain and the tears leaking out of my kid … my body felt clenched, strained and brittle. Emotionally, I was confused, angry and exhausted (all by 8:30 am.) The thing is -- I just really wanted to be present and curious about my kid’s experience, be confident in how I spoke with the men working on our house, and compassionate with my body while it adapts. So how to get from here to there?
Mindfulness practices teach the importance of recognizing and sitting with your current state of mind in order to be present. Positive Psychology teaches a process of immediately changing your thoughts and state to something positive in order to move forward. Which to choose??
After 15 years of coaching experience, a lot of therapy, hundreds of hours of education and a lot of practice (and mistakes) I teach how important it is to identify, place value on and work with your current experience … and how invaluable it is to have tools that ensure you’re not “stuck,” spinning circles in that place. I help clients identify “here” and “there” (where they are and where they’re going,) then create physical actions that will help bridge the gap between the two.
The three step process is pretty simple on the surface. Show up. Look forward. Take steps. But when emotions and situations are charged, it gets tricky! Here are the three steps in detail, but I’m gonna highly recommend lots of practice in not-super-challenging situations (like...start with “I’m out of cornflakes! Oh no! What’s for breakfast?” and practice for a while.)
The first step to changing your emotional state is : Show up with what is.
Take an inventory of how you feel emotionally and what that feels like physically. Scan your body and your thoughts for a few, descriptive words and notice them without thinking through “why, how, who” and the other stories we assign to our experiences. Pro tip: Also stay away from “I feel like.” and stick with “I feel <emotion word or physical feeling.>”
This morning, I noticed that I was feeling frustrated, confused and clenched. I could feel it in my chest and upper shoulders, and my breathing had shifted.
Next : Decide where you’d like to be.
This requires a lot of attention, because we’re not talking about what you want to DO just yet. We’re talking about how you want to feel in your body, experience your thoughts and show up with your emotions. You’ll notice what EMOTION and PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE you’d like to shift into.
This morning, I wanted to feel compassionate and confident, relaxed in my body and grounded in my feet.
Lastly : Clear Out and Step In.
Here, you do something physical or ritualistic to unclench from your current state (without trying to shove it away.) This could be as simple as clenching your fists SUPER tight, then release all tension on an exhale … or as complicated as setting aside time to journal your feelings or write a letter you’ll never send. Then making a cup of tea, going for a walk or practicing active kindness.
This morning, I took a few long breaths, pictured the outcome I wanted, took some extra time to do my hair and put on some makeup, made a cup of tea and stepped back in feeling purpose in my words and actions, and feeling centered in my body.
I’m gonna tell you from teaching and from doing: THIS TAKES PRACTICE. Our brains have very carefully and intrinsically wired survival-based responses that we’ve learned over time. Snapping, shutting down, over-apologizing, fixing… they’re all ways to ease uncomfortable sensations that our brain is using to signal to us that something isn't right. These steps are hard - night impossible - if you’re not practiced, fatigued or under-fueled. I mean, let’s be honest -- how many fights happen because someone didn’t have dinner and it’s 9 pm?
So practice! In the small places, over and over, just check in, set your sights, and help your body transition.
Then let me know in the comments below how it went!
If you weren’t able to make it to my workshop on Emotional Detox for the full range of practices around there, just email us at [email protected] and we’ll hook you up with a $10 download, complete with meditation downloads and worksheets.
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