Don't let emotions hijack your life. 3 practices to master emotional regulation.
How to get off the emotional roller-coaster and start making your best, often hard decisions and choices.
I remember dreading those hour-long runs I made myself do after another fridge wipe-out when something I didn’t feel I could handle came up.
I remember feeling so crushed when I didn’t go for a potentially life-changing career opportunity because I was too anxious, I found excuses to say NO to it that made all the sense.
I regret all the times I didn’t get to be in the relationships I so desired because I was too much in my head, too self-conscious to actually dive in and explore what it could be.
Emotions aren’t our friends or enemies.
Nor they are right or wrong.
Or objective or subjective.
Emotions are products of our brains, summaries designed to make us take certain actions, avoid certain actions or stay still. If you think of any emotion, no matter how complex - that’s what it does, helps us to take certain actions.
Our brain produces emotions to make us aware of what’s happening inside our body, what’s happening outside in the world to help us survive, thrive and manage our energy balance.
Emotions aren’t accurate! They are the best predictions based on our past experiences and knowledge designed to keep us safe. Emotions aren’t aware of the future, of what’s possible, of what potential we have inside of us! Emotions are designed to keep us safe right now, cause as far as our brain is concerned - now is all that matters. Without now there’s no tomorrow.
Sometimes emotions are useful, sometimes not so much.
When we feel anxious or nervous before an important presentation or a call - it’s not very useful to get the outcome we want. If only there was a tool to make us feel different…
When we feel bored and tired before a potentially life-changing pitch where we need to “infect” with our enthusiasm other people, investors, customers, future business partners - it’s also not very useful. If only we could make ourselves feel different…
When we have a fitness goal but challenges in our life keep us reaching for that ice cream tub all too often - not very useful to reach our goals! If only we had a tool to help us deal with difficult emotional stuff better, more aligned with where we want to go…
You can see how emotions we experience at any moment aren’t always that useful in our current environment, with our current goals, for the future we want to build. And yet they are very powerful, they change the course of our life whether we are in control or they control us.
How do we get better at noticing useful and useless emotions and at changing our emotional states to serve US? The future WE want to build?
I learned this skill a few years back, while going through another coaching certification. Now I finally feel like whichever storms are happening in the world around me or in my inner world - I have the ability to stay fully aware, to stay conscious and present, and to choose which emotional waves to ride to shape the path forward VS being thrown from side to side like a lifeless boat by the winds of life.
I am the captain of my life. I’m the navigator. I can choose where the journey ends.
If you are totally honest, in your daily life, how many decisions do you choose and how many are hijacked by your emotions?
3 tools that helped me get off the emotional roller-coaster.
Why I don’t “cheat” with food, I don’t escape uncomfortable conversations, I don’t avoid challenges in business.
There’s this moment when an emotion happens and the urge to take certain action arrives.
It’s brief. It’s fast. It’s barely noticeable.
For the mind without mindful practice it’s almost impossible to catch. Somebody told you a harsh thing, you felt like crying, you reached for another ice cream. Somebody attacked you, you felt angry, you said too many things and there’s no turning back in that relationship.
Those moments - they change the course of our life. Most successful people learned how to never take snappy decisions like that. In fact, it’s best to never make any decision in any emotional state, too happy or too sad.
There’s a tiny gap between an event and our reaction. Meditation helps you to catch and widen that gap, and talk to your prefrontal cortex, the logical decision maker, before taking any action. Meditation helps you decide VS react, where you want this situation to go. There’s no right or wrong, but there’s a decision that you want to make to shape the course of your life.
There are millions of ways you can meditate. From the latest research, it seems, that all you need is 13 minutes a day, in one swoop or several. Focus on your breathing, your 3rd eye, or some other sensation. It’s all about focus practice, it’s all about being present, it’s all about being aware. The practice changes the structure and function of your brain. It helps you to stay checked in no matter how high emotions fly.
For me that’s the most important benefit of meditation - I don’t react to things, I respond by choice. I make balanced decisions and I don’t feel like I have to react a certain way just because everyone else does it. People can scream and argue and get emotional - I don’t care, I stay calm and make the decision that I believe works the best for after all the emotions that are fleeting settle down.
Meditation helps me to stay present but it doesn’t help me to change my state when I need it. Like when I’m too nervous to give a talk or get on an important call, or when I feel not so alert and energizing when I need to inspire and motivate other people when I need to pitch something. Meditation doesn’t help me to calm down when some business issue makes me feel anxious. It didn’t help me when I used food to cope with life stressors.
Breathing practice helped!
Breathing that I started to use exactly when I needed to change my emotional state. Not during meditation or when everything is good and I’m feeling all fabulous. No. I started using breathing practice when I felt like shit or too nervous. I used it right on stage at the beginning of my talk to not choke but deliver my absolute best. When I talk to someone and my emotions rise and I feel like I can’t say what I need to say - I breathe and I say it. When I’m feeling bored, unmotivated and I need to deliver a workshop to help people, to get opportunities - I breathe right then and there to change my physical and emotional state. When I can’t fall asleep because of my racing thoughts - I breathe and I fall asleep in 10 minutes or less, no magnesium needed. I breathe into life to feel the way I need to feel to shape my path forward.
I’m the captain of my ship. I’m the navigator. I’m aware of the weather but it’s up to me which direction I go.
Here’s all you need to know about breathing practice.
EXHALE-FOCUSED breathing to calm down from nervous, racing-thoughts, overly excited or anxious state. 4 counts in 8 counts out, 3-6 times, 5 minutes if you need more. It works like magic. It changes our heart rate. It changes our thoughts. It changes everything. And we are in control of it.
INHALE-FOCUSED breathing, also known as hyperventilation, breathe in long and fully, breath out shortly - to wake up, to raise alertness, to feel energized and ready to go, motivated and upbeat. 25-30 breaths, 2-3 cycles, and no coffee or pep talk needed to make a powerful impression or to keep the hustle going.
COLD EXPOSURE TO GET COMFORTABLE WITH DISCOMFORT
I never liked heated-up situations or confrontations. I wasn’t consciously avoiding them but I also used to choose, as I realized, a less challenging course of action because I wasn’t comfortable with being uncomfortable. Cold changed this for me.
Taking regular cold showers, cold baths, staying there longer than I was comfortable with allowed me to learn in practice, in a controlled environment that I can feel discomfort and I can still stay calm and make good decisions. When you get into uncomfortably cold water committed to stay in, you learn how to adapt VS looking for a way to escape. You learn how to make it work VS quitting. You learn to figure challenging things out VS running away to a new destination. It’s life-changing! And I’m only starting to experience all the benefits.
There are tons of health benefits associated with these protocols - reduced inflammation, better digestion, better-working immune system, better sleep, better fitness recovery, healthier metabolism, better learning abilities, greater memory, lower rates of cognitive decline, improved longevity biomarkers, better mental health… any health benefit, you name, these 3 will improve it.
But for me, it was all about managing my emotional state that made the biggest difference. Nobody taught me these for the first 30 years of my life and so I lived on this emotional roller-coaster never getting off this ride that kept me stuck, that kept me from changing faster, that kept me from advancing my life.
My fitness, my health, the depth of my relationships, my business journey - they aren’t perfect but they are moving exactly where I wanna go in my future. And that’s all that matters - to meaningfully move towards the destination we choose.
Meditation, breathing, and cold exposure will get you there.
What would you do if your emotions didn’t control your actions? Where would you be today? Where will you go tomorrow?
▶️Connect with me on Instagram to watch me demonstrate all the tools, share your experience, and to ask questions.
▶️Take a moment to create a schedule for these practices and see your mind and life changing.
WORK WITH ME: You can schedule a session with me to master emotional regulation tools and other brain skills HERE.
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