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Emotions – window to your stressful world

What do your emotions tell you about your stress level?

From Stress for Success by Jacquelyn Ferguson
Retrieved March 15, 2016

Emotions out of control - stressed to the maxHow many people don’t connect their emotions to their stress? How many people would you guess wander through life with little awareness of their own behaviors and subsequent consequences? How many people blunder through life like a bull in a china shop?

To some degree we are all self-ignorant. We all have blind spots and miss tons of clues as to how our own reactions often cause more stress than the event to which we are reacting. Tuning into your emotions can expose many of these blind spots so you have a fighting chance of understanding how your reactions contribute to your stress.Emotions uncontrolled, stressed out employee

An underappreciated window into your stress reactions is your emotions. Psychotherapists are well aware that emotions are vital in identifying what’s bothering you. You can learn about your inner emotional world to help you navigate your outer world.

Tune into your emotions to become aware of which situations and people trigger your stress response. These reactions are fueled by anger and/or fear-type emotions: impatience, irritation, intimidation, jealousy, insecurity, etc. Once you recognize these emotions it’s a short hop to feeling the tension they create in your physical body.

Who in your life easily triggers your stress emotions? When these emotions are swimming around in your body, what do you feel physically: Tension in your arms and legs? A queasy stomach? Pay attention until you can easily see the connection.

Crying womanOnce you make the connection between a stressful person you can recognize your emotional and physical signs of tension in response to that stimulus, you are closer to being able to choose a healthier response.

Try this: choose a person or a situation that consistently triggers your stress emotions. Try to find one that you can ignore without negative consequences.

  1. Make the connection between your emotional reaction to a stressful situation or person and your body tension that develops from it.
  2. For one week, avoid the situation or the person and pay attention to any greater sense of calmness and freedom from tension.

This will help your observing self: you can observe your emotional reactions rather than be impacted by them. Watching and witnessing your internal emotional state makes the stressor less personal. You can dampen some of the drama and be more objective. This, in turn, helps your body relax.

Over time, the development of your observing self can improve your heRelaxed womanalth. You’ll become more aware of your blood pressure, physical tension, and other symptoms. Consciously observing yourself can also lower cortisol (the stress hormone) thereby protecting your body from the ravages of stress.

Your observing self requires your conscious awareness of the emotion on which you have chosen to focus.  Mindfulness (maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment) advises you to observe without judgment.

Judgment of yourself or others is a fertile area for the observing self. Observe without trying to change. Simply notice. Right behind your negative judgment, “I’m so stupid,” are negative emotions aimed at yourself. Just as when the judgment is about someone else, it triggers emotions based in anger or fear. Close on its heels are the physical signs of stress and tension.

Your observing self can help break your dysfunctional, habitual, and emotional reactions by distancing you from them, giving you a brief moment to decide how you prefer to respond. This puts you into the driver’s seat of your own life rather than being a victim to your life-long internal insecurities. I call this a “space of time” between the stressful event and your reaction to it. With this little space of time a well-developed observing self can choose a more appropriate response.

Happy emotions, stress free teens

Stress-free teens

Your defensive reactions are much if not most of what feeds your physical symptoms and the resulting physical and emotional maladies. Every desire to choke someone puts pressure on your heart and adversely affects you in a multitude of other ways.

In other words, it’s not just that jerk who puts stress on you, it’s your own defensive reactions. And the only part of stress you can control is your own reaction.

Your growing observations of automatic, emotional, and defensive reactions increase your power to decide if you want to change them for your own benefit. Your choice will influence whether your blood pressure shoots up or calms down, whether your internal inflammation grows exacerbating your arthritis or subsides and calms it. It’s always your choice and yours alone.

Retrieved from http://www.stressforsuccess.blogspot.com/ 3/15/16

Jacquelyn Ferguson

Author Jacquelyn Ferguson







Ms. Ferguson is the author of Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple. 


Assess your emotions before a confrontation

Let Your Body WinYou swear you’re prepared to speak calmly and professionally to a coworker you believe is intentionally sabotaging you. But the second you open your mouth to say something, BAM! you’re practically yelling at him! The first moments of an encounter set the stage for the entire conversation and you know you’ve blown it. But how can you control your aggression?

Use advice from the great book, “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler (McGraw-Hill, 2002.)

Defensive emotions once engaged are difficult to turn off. And the more defensive you are the more convinced you are that you’re right, giving more fuel to your emotions. If you’ve blown it you may want to apologize and arrange to talk later after you privately take responsibility for your emotions. Here’s how.

Last week I wrote about the book’s advice to identify the other person’s behavior and ask yourself why s/he is behaving that way. Your answer is what actually causes your emotions, not the other person’s behavior. It’s vital to understand this so you can move beyond your defensiveness.

For example, you and I are working on a project together. I discover that you’ve met privately with our boss. Plus, when we both attend meetings you “hog” the time, making it seem like you’re in charge of the project, which you’re not.

“Why” do I think you’re hogging the limelight and excluding me from meetings? My answer: “Because you want all of the credit.” Doesn’t this assumption fuel my anger and resentment?

But just because I believe this doesn’t make it true. If my “why” answer is defensive and judgmental, which it is, I need to identify your behaviors and the facts of the situation before speaking to you.
* Fact/behavior: you had two meetings with the boss that I wasn’t notified of so couldn’t attend. You didn’t inform me later either.
* Fact/behavior: when we presented our idea together you spoke for several minutes while I spoke far less.

Separating the facts and your behaviors from my assumption that you want all of the credit balances me emotionally. I feel more in the driver’s seat of my own life, which decreases my stress therefore my defensiveness. I can assertively speak to you by using this formula:
1. State the facts from my point of view;
2. My interpretation of their meaning;
3. How I feel about it;
4. Ask if I understand correctly.

E.g., “Tom, you didn’t inform me of the meetings you had privately with the boss. This makes me think excluding me was intentional. I felt resentment and was hurt by this. Was I purposefully excluded and if so, why?”

Substituting my assumptions (“hogging” and “wanting all the credit”) with the facts of the situation including your behavior plus using this formula to address my concerns can help balance me so I’m less likely to become instantly defensive.

Next week we’ll look at additional ideas to improve your ability to handle your “crucial conversations.”

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple.