How to Manage Your Emotions

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My son got his driver’s license! Woo hoo!! It was so exciting to watch him drive away from the dealership in his brand new car and even more exciting that I have an extra 2 hours in my day.

But as I was following him home, I started crying my eyes out. “Where had the time gone? He is not a baby anymore! How would I live without him when he goes away to college? What if he moves to California and I never get to see him or my grandchildren? (He is only a junior in high school, obviously I was thinking too far ahead).

Emotions are interesting things. Sometimes we can control them and other times they are clearly in charge. I saw a client yesterday who is going through a divorce. She can’t think of anything else. Her emotions are running the show. She is having trouble working, sleeping and being alone.

Another one of my clients just found out his wife has breast cancer. He feels like he is on an emotional rollercoaster with no off button.

Emotions do serve a purpose in our lives. They help us survive and thrive. They motivate us to take action and avoid danger. They help us make decisions. But sometimes we get stuck with a painful emotion that we can’t shake. How do we move through the painful emotions and get to the happy ones faster?

When we are feeling pain, we have a desire to resist it. We eat, drink, take a pill or buy something to make us feel better in the moment. Then we wake up and the pain is still there.

Research has shown that when you sit with the emotion for 90 seconds, it actually passes through you. If you can just be with the sadness, anger, frustration or loneliness for just 90 seconds, then it will dissolve. Say things to yourself such as, “I can handle this feeling”, “It will pass” and “I will get through this”.

Set your timer for 90 seconds and meditate. Close your eyes, breathe deep and allow the emotion to run it’s course.

This doesn’t mean you will be over a breakup or your pet’s death in 90 seconds. The emotion will come back. But the more you allow yourself to feel the 90 second rushes without resisting them, the faster you will get to the happy feelings.

Another way to get from sad to glad faster is to avoid making up upsetting stories. In other words, be with the pure emotion from the event itself, not the emotion from the story you made up about the event.

When something bad happens, feeling lost, confused, sad or angry is natural. These are the 90-second emotions. When you start asking why and making up answers, then the 90 seconds becomes 90 minutes. The pain turns into suffering.

The truth is, you may never know the real reason why something happened. You may never find out why they did what they did. All that really matters is healing from the incident, learning and moving forward. If you need to know why and insist on making up a story, choose one that makes you feel good.

For example, my client’s husband was unfaithful. Instead of making that event mean she was a terrible wife, she made it mean that he had problems that caused him to cheat. This protected her self worth and allowed her to heal faster.

When I was following my son home, I could have allowed myself cry happy tears and feel grateful for 90 seconds. But instead, I created a scenario that made me sad for 15 minutes.

So I fixed it. When I pulled into the driveway, I wiped my tears and imagined buying a 2nd home in California, a mile away from my son and his family. I saw myself taking my grandkids to the park and for ice cream. I threw in a picture of me looking like a hot Grandma. 😉 That did the trick. I instantly felt better and got out of the car with a big smile on my face.

Many times, we can’t control reality, but we can control our interpretation of reality. This is our access to freedom, purpose and joy.

Make friends with your emotions. Create stories where you come out on top. Turn your pain into possibility.

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