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1.3.2 Identifying Emotional Stressors

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1.3.2 Identifying Emotional Stressors

Controlling your emotions means you can recognise them and can develop strategies to act on them when appropriate. The following steps may help you with the process of identifying and analysing emotional stressors in the workplace:

1. Understand what causes your emotions.

Human emotions fall into basic categories, such as joy, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, and anger. More complex emotions are combinations of these basic ones. Jealousy, for example, is a complex emotion in reaction to fear. This fear may be caused by things in your personal life. You may feel that you are not ‘as good’ as someone else, or fear being abandoned because you are not ‘perfect.’

If you can learn to recognise what kinds of situations cause which emotions, you will be able to tell the difference between anger and fear. Remember that sometimes multiple emotions can show up at the same time and the person who is experiencing the emotions may not be able to distinguish between the two.

2. Recognise that emotions are not random.

Emotions often occur on a subconscious level. By learning to recognise your emotions and bringing them to a conscious level, you will be more able to control them. Repressing emotions does not make them disappear on their own. If you can recognise the emotion the moment you feel it instead of letting it build up and intensify, you will know that you are gaining control.  

Another crucial thing to do is to accept responsibility for your emotions. Do not blame other people for them. Taking full responsibility will help you control your emotions better.

3. Be aware of what you thought or experienced when the emotion began.

Regularly during the day, ask yourself how you are feeling. Keep a journal, if you can. Even if you only use it at the end of the day, write down your thoughts, feelings and situations that cause a particular emotion in you. Stop and analyse what you were thinking about. Focus until you find what thought was causing that emotion. This way, you can pinpoint the trigger that made you feel that way instead of letting its origin slip away. 

Documenting your emotions also helps in determining just how much of a trigger you can tolerate. Understanding these things will help in facilitating your emotions when faced with overwhelming situations. 

If you are unsure of how to start writing in your journal, you can use the following guidelines:

You may already know what triggers certain emotions in you but analysing it further by using the steps outlined above may help you discover the hidden roots of your stress. For example, an employee may have made a joke while talking to their manager, but the manager did not laugh.  The employee interpreted the lack of reaction as the manager being angry at them and jumped to the conclusion that they did not do a good job that day. This can spiral to feelings of sadness and inadequacy, all in just a short amount of time without the person even being aware of it. If they took the time to analyse their feelings in that situation, they would have realised that the manager’s lack of reaction was not an expression of anger toward them. 

There is nothing wrong with negative feelings and thoughts, as you cannot control them all the time. These are natural, as long as you do not let them consume you with worry. Like the example above, there may have been times that you assumed something was about you. You may have misinterpreted something and felt anger or sadness. Feeling those emotions at the moment is fine, as long as you take the time later to calm down and analyse your emotional state. 

You should also note what kind of relationship you have with your emotions.

  1. Do you experience feelings that change smoothly, encountering one emotion after another as your experiences change?
  2. Are your emotions accompanied by physical sensations, in places such as your stomach or chest?
  3. Do you experience discrete feelings, such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy, each of which is evident even in subtle facial expressions?
  4. Can you experience feelings strong enough to capture others’ attention?
  5. Do you factor your emotions into your decision-making?

If any of these experiences are unfamiliar, then you may have learned to suppress or disregard the emotions you are feeling. Many people are disconnected from their emotions, especially the strong core emotions such as anger, fear, sadness and joy. This may be the result of experiences that taught them to shut their feelings off. But although emotions can be distorted, denied, or ignored, they cannot be eliminated. They are still there, whether the person is aware of them or not.

In order to be emotionally healthy and intelligent, you must rediscover and reconnect with your emotions, accept them and become comfortable with them. Do not let your past emotions and the situations that triggered them distract you from your goal. Learn to recognise and anticipate what triggers your emotions.