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Do Emotions Sometimes Get the Best of You at Work? Use This.

Do Emotions Sometimes Get the Best of You at Work? Use This.

Did you know the word emotion comes from the Latin word “emovere,” meaning to move, move out, or move through? It is also said to come from the word "emotere," which translates to energy in motion.

I first heard this translation a few years back and thought to myself:

Interesting…my emotions are an energy in motion? They move through me.

It was hard to comprehend at the time as my emotions felt like me. It felt like when I was mad, frustrated, happy, sad, elated, angry, or overjoyed, that this was who I was.

As analytical thinkers, we typically are taught to value achievements, problem solving, thinking logically, facts, and data. If you think about emotions, they most likely don’t fit into how we are supposed to operate in the world, let alone the workplace.

[Related: Three Coping Methods to Ease Work-Related Stress and Restore Energy]

Suppressing only intensifies the emotions.

From the outside, no one would have suspected the emotions bubbling just below the surface. When an emotion surfaced, most of the time, I pushed it back down, but it was there; I could feel it.

Sometimes, however, the feelings spilled over. I would ask my kids or my husband to do something for the tenth time after working all day and being exhausted, and like magma looking for a crevice in the earth, I would erupt. There must be something wrong with me, innately, since this anger was part of me and defined me. This riddled me with shame and guilt.

So why are these emotions engaged? Why do they move through us?

Learning our triggers.

When we are triggered by a situation outside of our control (kids not listening, spouses making sarcastic comments, a situation at work), something inside of us is triggered. Often, a festering sore from our childhood.

When we were unable to process these emotions in childhood or at a young age, the emotion is unable to flow through us and gets stuck in our bodies, causing both physical and physiological reactions.

[Related: Work/Life Balance is Skin Deep — Build Sustainability Through Cultivating Healthy Habits]

Allowing instead of suppressing.

You can loosen the ties binding you by becoming aware of your emotional reactions. When you feel an emotion begin to move through you, follow these steps.

1) Notice and identify your emotions.

In her book My Stroke of Insight, neuroscientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor states it takes 90 seconds to identify an emotion and allow it to dissipate while you notice it. What we can learn from this is we are not the emotion. We are the one who sees and experiences the emotion moving through us.

Using mindfulness, which in simple terms is to focus our awareness, notice the emotion. Notice how the emotion feels in your body and identify what you are feeling.

2) Observe the emotions.

Once you realize that you are not the emotion, you can observe the emotions. You'll start to slow down when you are triggered. In that slowed down state, you'll noticed that you can feel the emotions move through you. As an example, the emotion of anger, for me, starts in my stomach. Like a fire, using the oxygen in my lungs, it explodes into my chest, moving up so quickly to reach the air outside of me.

I started to do this practice more frequently, each time learning a little more about myself, each time growing my emotional intelligence. I kept doing this because if I could watch the emotion flow through me, then I must not be the emotion.

One of the keys in observing our emotions is to accept them non-judgmentally. We all feel a myriad of emotions; this is a natural part of being human. When we suppress or repress our emotions, they can become more intense, and trigger suppressed emotions in the moment. Giving ourselves permission to feel the emotions and accept them non-judgmentally allows the emotion to dissipate through us.

Using mindfulness, allow the emotions – all the thoughts, feelings, images, and sensations – to move through you. Use your breath. Take a deep breath in and exhale, breathe as you watch them. Observe all of this as though you are watching a movie.

3) Compassionate release.

This realization that I am not my emotions provided so much relief from guilt and shame, but more importantly, for me, it allowed me to experience compassion for myself and others. I saw they too were being overcome by their emotions, unable to observe them, unable to realize that they are not their emotions.

In this process, allow yourself to feel compassion and then allow yourself to release the emotion.

There are many ways to release emotions – here are a few:

  • Move your body with any form of exercise, yoga, running, biking, or even jumping, dancing, or stomping your feet.
  • Journal - When we write it allows the emotion to move out of us onto the paper, helping to clear our mind.
  • Express your emotions - Talk through the emotions with a therapist, practitioner, or someone who can hold the space, non-judgmentally, as you share.
  • Mindfulness meditation – There are many mindfulness-based meditations you can find online to release emotions.
  • Breathwork - Allowing yourself to breathe through the emotion, to accept it, non-judgmentally, feeling it all while breathing, can release emotions.

It's a part of the human experience.

When you experience your emotions not as unwanted visitors, but as neighbors who help you experience the world, you can appreciate the purpose they serve in your life.

Without frustration, how would you experience true joy at a job well done? Without sadness, how would you understand the depth of happiness you enjoy when you hold a new baby? Without grief, how would you hold space for love?

You are not less because of your emotions, but more. They do not define you, and they do not control you, but they are part of you. You are the one who is aware of your emotions.

[Related: Think Like a Child: How Playing Drastically Improves Your Creativity at Work]


Jessica LaMarre melds her engineering brain and holistic approaches to empower high achievers to access personal and professional success from the inside out. Her work has been featured in ForbesWomen, Upjouney, Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, and Medium. You can learn more about her on her website.

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