“I lock away the pain, put aside the fears, show you only smiles, not the hidden tears.” – Unknown
Are we led by our thoughts or by our feelings? Often we hear people look down upon those who express emotion in the workplace. Specifically negative emotions such as fear, hurt and betrayal. Why is that? Is it a result of a culture that has continued to perpetuate over centuries that emotions are weak; that only logic is strength and shall prevail?
When a comment is made about someone being emotional, or referred to as an ‘emotional person’ although it may just be an observation, it is typically not perceived as a compliment. So we spend our careers toughening ourselves up, building up walls, and building what some refer to as a ‘teflon barrier’.
I have to admit, I have coached others in the past to let things go, and take caution in sharing too much of their emotions in the workplace, specifically those perceived as negative. So I have to ask myself; have I become a soldier of stereotypes instead of a champion for change?
After much deliberation between me, myself and I… the realization occurred to me that in our attempt to teach others to manage through their emotions in a healthy way, we instead may be teaching them to hide and shut off their emotions.
What do you think a person will do, if you tell them they shouldn’t let a situation frustrate them? Or that they should not allow a circumstance to make them cry or feel sad? Unless you provide them with the tools to learn healthy release of these emotions, they may just shove them down or push them aside. Or as today’s subculture of the popular Vampire Diaries TV series refers to it; shut off their humanity. And what happens when the cup runneth’ over and the emotion is allowed to creep back up? It will explode with a force so strong, that without the proper tools they will not be equipped to tame the wild emotional beast that has been sequestered in the deep dungeons of their heart.
A little dramatic? Sure. But you do have to admit it resonates.
The reality is; in an attempt to deal with the taboos of feelings in the workplace, some people will turn to unhealthy ways to keep that emotional beast down. Anxiety, depression and unhappiness begins to take shape. Most of the time people will attribute this to stress and the hectic lives they live. Suppressing the beast with alcohol, food, drugs and other not so healthy vices.
Yet…. it doesn’t have to turn into a beast that must be kept out of sight.
I like to think of it as a ‘pitbull’ pup. If raised with care, compassion and training, it will be controlled, loving and obedient. Or it can become unruly and out of control if ignored, mistreated and used in fight.
So next time, we see tears and strong emotions in the workplace, lets show compassion and kindness. Let’s begin a revolution that says that feelings are not bad. After all, we are emotional beings which IS a part of the human experience. We can find healthy ways to manage our emotions and respect them simulatoeulsy.
Ask yourself as you reflect on the following three bullet points; do you have a healthy oversight on your emotions or have you imprisoned them in an effort to contain them?
- Do you reflect and talk it out sincerely? Do you acknowledge that feelings are a natural and healthy response to life situations? Or do you shove powerful emotions out of sight, quick to forget, deflect and deny?
- Do you take the time to release physical tension that builds up through highly emotional situations? Do you take walks, exercise, hike or do yoga regularly? Or do you bury your emotions in unhealthy vices?
- Do you let love in? Pause and appreciate the beauty around you? Hug your loved ones often? Say thanks for all you have instead of dwelling of what you don’t have? Surround yourself with people who are your rocks? Or do you shut yourself off wanting to be alone to simmer in your emotions?
Don’t deny your feelings and emotions.
Acknowledge and find healthy ways to express them in the appropriate way…at the appropriate time.
Most importantly, let’s show the value emotions have in our society today by respecting them and honoring them. By doing that we will help others, including ourselves to build our self-esteem and learn healthy ways to process that which we feel. Isn’t there already enough judgment in the world today? Is life not complicated enough already? The last thing any of us needs is to have the additional pressure of having to come off as if nothing bothers us.
So next time someone hurts you or makes you feel frustrated at work due to their actions, I dare you to tell them. After all, we hear about how important it is to be authentic in the progressive workplace. Be real, be sincere, be respectful ….and be an advocate for change.
Picture courtesy: Dialectic Chaos by Satania Digital Art (http://satania.deviantart.com)
The world is a chaotic place. There are expectations, obligations and responsibilities. There are needs and wants, yours and those of others. Emotions flying high and low, hitting you from all angles. Making sense of it all, sorting through it and prioritizing is a challenge. Learning how to protect yourself and stay grounded can be an extremely daunting task in this world today.
Some people protect themselves from the madness by defense, building walls and shutting down. Others go on the offense and hit hard before the chaos of our world can impact them. Either one is a way to protect the vulnerabilities of our heart and soul. Both may be manageable in the short term- but both will ultimately have dire consequences in the long term- as both require holding on to your struggles and don’t allow the relevant emotions to release.
So, how do you sort and prioritize through the madness that life blows our way? How do you ensure it doesn’t build up and smack you in the face when you least expect it down the road?
People often talk about values. Values can help you define your priorities in life. They can help you define what really does matters and what does not. There is no right and wrong, there is just what resonates deep inside your soul. In the world of intense energy flying all around us, we are all susceptible to people who are angry, needy or pushy. We find ourselves pulled down by the negativity of those emotions. Finding your values and concretely planting them into the center of your life is core; and then using the self-care tools available to you to stay grounded to those values. So each time you are hit with toxic emotions and situations; you take a step back, shackle yourself to your grounding principles, and begin enacting the tools to stay connected to what really matters to you.
All of us experience stress. How we deal with it is what keeps us centered and grounded to our values and priorities. Here are a few ideas to keep you sane in this mad world…
1- Just breathe. Yes, simply just breathe. Stop what you are doing, take a mental break and just breathe. Breathe deeply and slowly. You would be surprised how often we forget to breath and as the world becomes more and more overwhelming we take shorter, shallower breaths without even realizing it. All that oxygen reaching your brain and every cell in your body will help clear you.
2- Express yourself. Shutting down and pushing the feelings aside just buries them deep inside. Communicate through whatever expression is right for you…to get the emotions out. Whether through keeping a journal and writing to get them out of your head or by finding someone to talk to that will listen and acknowledge your feelings. It is not about complaining; it is about getting the fog out of your head, whether with a close friend, your partner or a counselor. If you are not the talking type, then scream, cry, paint, listen to music and sing along with it….anything to express your feelings and just GET IT OUT. Ultimately, there is nothing more impactful than talking it out. To start with, just find a way to express your emotions and don’t hold them in.
3- Move your body. Yes just move it. Go for a walk, take a jog. Go for a swim, do some yoga, weights, cardio….whatever works for you. At a minimum, stretch. The key is to move your muscles, joints and your body any way you can. Feel the movement to your core…and yes while you are at it go back to number one and just breathe.
4- Get out to the elements. I don’t know what it is about the sun shining on your face and the smell of fresh grass. Or the feel of a forest air, the snowflakes falling or ocean waves crashing against the shore. Whichever way, getting out amongst the elements is one of the most comforting feelings. Whether it is the fresh air or the earth beneath your feet that somehow helps bring perspective, but just get outside. Slow down as you get out to nature and take a moment to appreciate the elements. Getting out to nature will force you to mellow out and if you remember to breathe, you may have the extra soothing benefit of a whiff of nearby wild lavender or pine when you least expect it.
5- Surround yourself with others of similar values. Remember the whole value and principle concept? Well, when the going gets tough is the most critical time to surround yourself with others of similar values. Is your faith something you value? Then surround yourself with your faith community or others who can share in your spirituality; whichever core belief you have is nothing short of the comfort you need during times of intense stress. These are the people who will be your support group, encourage you, and share in your knowledge that you are strong and will get through whatever life throws your way. If a core value is family or friends; surround yourself with them. They will be your rocks.
6- Reflect. Self-reflection…whether through formal meditation or moments of silence and observation, this is the key in connecting to your values and regaining composure so you can get back on track and focus on your priorities. Use your journal to write down thoughts of reflection or just sit in peace amongst the elements and enjoy the silence while you meditate on what truly matters and the bigger picture of life. It will only be via reflection that you can get clear on what grounds you and what this life is all about for YOU. What really matters to you? What are your beliefs, your principles, what do YOU value???
7- Take a break. There are times when you just have to get away from the distractions and all the stresses of life so you can think, reflect and well…just breathe. Sometimes just taking a drive out of your area or getting away for a couple days (if you can’t take a vacation and truly go away), will make a huge difference.
I am sure there is so much more we can all do to manage through the stress, chaos and madness of life coming at us. Knowing what is important to you in life is core, so as you get bombarded with the madness of life you can easily release the little stuff. The stuff that is just surface and really doesn’t matter in the bigger scheme of it all. Your time and energy is precious, so focus it on the right stuff. Only you can figure out what the right stuff is….and I can only hope the above tools will provide you with some small solace of peace.