Did you know that emotions can affect your physical well-being? For better or worse, our emotions will eventually be reflected in our health.
When left to freely experience our emotions, without judgment or attachment, we allow fluid expression and productive coping that leads to healthier bodies.
Those who have good emotional health are often mindful of their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and emotions. They’ve learnt healthy ways to deal with the stress and problems they encounter in their daily lives. They feel good about their lives and have healthy relationships.
On the other hand, repressed emotions may drain our mental energy, create harmful stress for the body, and lead to future health problems. This is especially true for negative emotions, such as fear or insecurity.
Chronic stress may even occur due to negative attitudes. With continued feelings of despair or hopelessness, the repeated stress upsets the body’s hormones. This leads to abnormal chemical reactions in the brain and eventual damage to the immune system. Ultimately, this may even shorten the lifespan.
To further understand the destructiveness of negative emotions, it may be good to look into the source of emotions.
Where do emotions come from?
We all feel differently. Have you ever wondered why some people can be extremely cold, while others could cry at almost anything?
Contrary to popular belief, emotions do not come from the heart. According to VeryWellHealth, our emotions are influenced by a network of interconnected structures in the brain that make up what is known as the limbic system. This includes key structures such as the hypothalamus, the hippocampus , the amygdala, and the limbic cortex. These parts play a pivotal role in our emotions and behavioral responses. Interestingly, our feelings are interconnected to how we learn, process memories, and regulate our hormones.
While our past experiences may have a factor in how we feel towards certain situations, how we react to these feelings may also indirectly alter our cognitive beliefs, memory, and body chemistry. If left unmanaged, negative emotional stress can ruin your life in many ways.
Here are 5 ways emotional stress may be ruining your life:
1. Not thinking clearly and making bad judgements
As the saying goes, ‘Never reply when you’re angry. Never make decisions when you’re sad. Never make promises when you;re happy”.
How many times had doing this led to undesirable outcomes? Think of the couple who mistakenly fell out due to a petty misunderstanding. Or the elderly who get scammed of their retirement money after being flattered by a con artist.
Those who get easily swayed by strong emotions bear the risk of highly irrational decisions.
2. Feeling stuck
It is okay to feel stuck. However, staying stuck is not.
Feelings of fear and insecurity can be paralyzing. Even worse, it can alter our perception. It is human nature to remember events that elicit strong emotions. When we look back on experiences, emotions are known to polarize our views.
Negative emotions can cloud our belief system. Feelings of incompetency and fear may lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy – where one may not put in effort because they feel that they would fail anyway. This may build up to feelings of being stuck, as we may start to feel that we are not good at anything we do.
3. Lack of energy and Motivation
Emotions are tiring – physically and mentally.
For those who keep getting overwhelmed by situations in their life, it may be due to their strong emotions. A common way to cope with negative emotions would be to run away. This may involve completely avoiding situations or escaping through sleep.
However, we can’t run away from everything. Difficult tasks can make us feel frustrated, sad, or even helpless. But if we keep avoiding them, we may never grow.
4. Chronic Stress
Strong emotions take a toll on the body.
As mentioned earlier, the parts of the brain that control emotion are interconnected to the parts that regulate hormones. Consistent emotional stress can lead to our body chemistry going haywire.
This could lead to chronic health problems such as high blood pressure and lowered immune systems. Furthermore, it may lead to maladaptive coping behaviors such as drinking or binge eating – which will also affect physical health.
5. Bad Interpersonal Relationships
Emotions may seem like something personal. However, how we feel affects the people around us as well.
In a social context, how we react to negative emotions gives others a signal of whether we are pleasant or unpleasant people to be with. Would you want to be associated with a person who becomes violent each time they feel frustrated? Or a person who is always moody and finds fault in every situation?
Emotional stress and being overwhelmed by emotions can have adverse effects on our choices, goals, motivation, health and relationships. However, there are healthy ways to deal with it to reach better outcomes.
How to deal with emotional stress?
Here are some actionable steps that can be taken to regain control over emotions.
1. Pause, breathe, and slow down.
The first step to managing emotional stress would be to take a quick breather before taking action.
As simple as this sounds, this is often difficult to do. We have to catch ourselves in the moment and stop in the midst of our racing emotions.
Taking a deep inhale, holding it for a few seconds, and followed by a long exhale can do great wonders. It helps to slow down our heart rate, and brings us back from our flight or fight reaction. This allows more rational thinking to occur.
2. Understand and recognize the exact emotion you are feeling.
As we calm our bodies down through deep breathing, it is time to examine our emotions a little more.
Identify the emotions that are currently being felt – anger, disgust, sadness, joy. The more specific, the better. Tools such as emoQ cards may be useful for us to recognize and pinpoint the exact spectrum of emotions that we may be feeling
Being more mindful of what is going on allows a more objective view of the situation.
3. Dig deeper and analyze what’s really causing the emotion. Be curious.
After identifying the emotion or emotions that are affecting us, it is time to explore the root cause behind it. It may be from previous experiences or our preconceived beliefs.
Being able to investigate further to the source of our emotions will enable a better understanding of self. It can be a powerful way to uncover biases, hidden fears, or the origin of our bad habits.
4. Leverage on self-coaching tools (emoQ cards)
Using self-coaching tools can allow simple and objective facilitation of emotional processing.
For example, emoQ cards are a tool that presents the user with a list of primary and secondary emotions that they can choose to best represent their current emotional state. It also has a set of tried and tested questions that allow for deeper reflection.
It may not always be easy to objectively identify our own emotions and ask relevant questions while facing emotional distress. Self-coaching tools can help to redirect our mental resources immediately with less effort.
Dealing with negative emotions is about embracing the fact that we are feeling them. We need to determine why we are feeling the way we are and allow ourselves to receive the messages that the emotions are signaling to us. This lets us consciously release the emotions and move forward.
Managing negative emotions also involves not letting them overwhelm us. We can keep our emotions under control without denying that they’re there.
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