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  • Dr. Winifred Lender

Learning to Monitor your True Emotions

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

The earlier we become aware of how we are really doing, the more likely we can make a plan to effect change.

To avoid being emotionally triggered in normal daily situations, we need to continually be checking in with ourselves and evaluating how we are doing.


How are you Really Feeling?


“How are you?”


It’s a question we are asked numerous times a day. A question that usually has an automatic reply.


We typically smile and say, “fine” or something along these lines. We hardly think about our answer, or more important, how we are truly feeling.


Our failure to truly think about how we are feeling is due in large part to the speed of our daily life and our need to respond quickly. In our typical day, we become easily consumed with efficiency and our to-do-list.


Thinking about how we are really feeling is usually not on the list of important items for the day. Often, we can lose a sense of how we are really doing until we are forced to attend to our feelings.


We may ignore, push aside or deny feelings — such as anxiety or depression — in an effort to be efficient. We may tell ourselves that we’ll think about the issues later when we have time, or may hope the issues and feelings will resolve themselves. Often, we may be so consumed with what we’re doing we fail to even recognize these feelings.


It is possible to push aside the feelings for a time, but eventually they build up and can’t be ignored. We may be surprised when we “blow up” at a friend or family member for no apparent reason or become overwhelmed during the course of a normal day.

We may act in a way that is out of proportion to the situation because we are carrying a high level of emotion into the situation from other stressors we have not acknowledged.

The normal daily situation may trigger the flow of the emotion from the feelings we were suppressing. A “blow up” often leads us to feel badly about ourselves; we may feel we acted irrationally, hurt others’ feelings or may have affected a relationship with a family member, friend or colleague.


To avoid being emotionally triggered in normal daily situations, we need to continually be checking in with ourselves and evaluating how we are doing. By forcing a focus on daily feelings, we are able to evaluate and plan ways to decrease stressors before they build up to a point where they will seep out in an uncontrolled way. The earlier we become aware of how we are really doing, the more likely we can make a plan to effect change. While it might be hard to take time out to check in with how you’re feeling, it will pay dividends in the long run.

Practicing certain cognitive and behavioral techniques on a daily basis can support you in becoming more aware of how you’re feeling and identifying the stressors that are affecting you. Setting aside five to 10 minutes a day to run though these activities will help you to know how you are really doing and allow you to make change that can prevent you from being triggered.


Tips for Monitoring your Emotions

Now take some time to explore how you are really doing:

» Do a quick body check during the day to look for muscle tension. Stress often results in tension in our bodies. If you find tension, engage in stress-reducing activities, such a stretching, yoga, walking or other physical activities.

» Do a breathing check to assess if your breathing is short and shallow and shows a stressed state. If you find you are not engaging in deep diaphragmatic breathing, take steps to reset and practice this type of breathing. Click here for a previous column focused on this type of breathing.

» To eliminate free-floating stress, contain it by organizing a prescribed worry time daily. This activity will highlight issues that are stressing you. Click here for a previous column on Planned Worry.

» Some negative motions can be improved by prioritizing positivity. That is, intentionally organizing our day to include activities that are mood enhancing for us (i.e., going for a walk, talking with a friend, gardening, seeing a movie) can be effective in decreasing these negative feelings. Click here for a previous column on prioritizing positivity.

» Seek help if you find you need more support in managing stressors, or if you find you are continually overreacting to daily nonemotional situations.

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WINIFRED LENDER, Ph.D., 2019