The first step in managing emotions is determining what, in fact, we are actually feeling. Emotions create physical sensations and reactions; interestingly, dissimilar emotions often evoke the same response. For example, anxiety and excitement are much alike in chemical and physical reactions, but we think of them very differently! Our thoughts determine the emotional reaction. Remember, emotions arise unconsciously and how we think about the sensation determines the emotional label.

According to Darlene Mininni, Ph.D*, there are four emotions: anxiety, sadness, anger, and happiness. Perhaps we can think of each one as an “umbrella” term. Oftentimes, when we are caught in a situation that is uncomfortable, frightening, or enraging, we don’t know what we are really feeling and react from that place of confusion, rarely with optimal outcome. It happens to everyone. However, it is worth the effort to tune into and manage our emotions.

Take a few minutes, if possible, and breathe, move, journal etc. and determine what you are feeling. Dr. Mininni* suggests asking these or similar questions:

“Anxiety: “What am I afraid of?”

Sadness: “What have I (or fear I will) lost?”

Anger: ” How have I or my values been attacked?”

Happiness: “What have I (or stand to) gain?”

Once you answer these questions, the next step is to take action, if possible. Make lists of solutions, talk with friends/counselor, ask an expert. If you can, take action. If there is no solution, consider how you will cope with the emotion. Next week we will discuss meditation as a coping skill. Until next time, keep breathing, moving, and writing down some gratitude!

*(Paraphrased information found in various online locations.)

*For more information, check: The Emotional Tool Kit by Darlene Mininni, Ph.D.

Written by Lori Brandt