Try living a day in which you do not feel any emotion. You would realize that it is difficult even to imagine a life without emotions. Emotions are a part of our daily life and existence. They form the very fabric of our life and interpersonal relations. Emotions exist on a continuum.
There are various intensities of an emotion that can be experienced by us. You can experience extreme elation or slight happiness, severe grief or just pensiveness. However, most of us usually maintain a balance of emotions. When faced with a conflicting situation, individuals attempt to adjust and derive a coping mechanism either with task or defense oriented reactions. These coping patterns help them prevent abnormal emotional reactions such as anxiety, depression etc.
Anxiety is a condition that an individual develops in case of failure to adopt an appropriate ego defense.
For example, if the individual fails to adhere to a defense of rationalization for his immoral act (like cheating or stealing), he may develop intense apprehension about the outcomes of such an act. Anxious individuals find it difficult to concentrate or to make decisions even for trivial matters. The state of depression affects an individual’s ability to think rationally, feel realistically, and work effectively. The condition overwhelms the mood state of the individual. Because of its enduring nature, the individual who suffers from depression develops a variety of symptoms like difficulty in falling asleep, increased level of psychomotor agitation or retardation, decreased ability to think or concentrate, and loss of interest in personal or social activities, etc.
In daily life, we are often faced with conflicting situations. Under demanding and stressful conditions, a lot of negative emotions like fear, anxiety, disgust, etc. develop in an individual to a considerable extent.
Such negative emotions, if allowed to prevail for a long time, are likely to affect adversely the person’s psychological and physical health. This is the reason why most of the stress management programs emphasize emotion management as an integral part of stress management. The major focus of emotion management techniques is the reduction of negative emotions and enhancing positive emotions.
Though most researchers focus their attention only on negative emotions like anger, fear, anxiety, etc., recently the field of ‘Positive Psychology’ has gained much prominence. As the name suggests, positive psychology concerns itself with the study of features that enrich life like, hope, happiness, creativity, courage, optimism, cheerfulness, etc. Effective emotion management is the key to effective social functioning in modern times.
The following tips might prove useful to you for achieving the desired balance of emotions:
• Enhance self-awareness: Be aware of your own emotions and feelings. Try to gain insight into the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of your feelings.
• Appraise the situation objectively: It has been proposed that emotion is preceded by evaluation of the event. If the event is experienced as disturbing, your sympathetic nervous system is activated and you feel stressed. If you do not experience the event as disturbing, then there is no stress. Hence, it is you who decides whether to feel sad and anxious or happy and relaxed.
• Do some self-monitoring: This involves constant or periodic evaluation of your past accomplishments, emotional and physical states, real and vicarious experiences. A positive appraisal would enhance your faith in yourself and lead to enhanced feeling of wellness and contentment.
• Engage in self-modeling: Be the ideal for you. Repeatedly observe the best parts of your past performance and use them as an inspiration and motivation to perform better in the future.
• Perceptual reorganization and cognitive restructuring: Try viewing the events differently and visualise the other side of the coin. Restructure your thoughts to enhance positive and reassuring feelings and eliminate negative thoughts.
• Be creative: Find and develop an interest or a hobby. Engage in an activity that interests and amuses you.
• Develop and nurture good relationships: Choose your friends carefully. In the company of happy and cheerful friends you will feel happy in general.
• Have empathy: Try understanding other’s feelings too. Make your relationships meaningful and valuable. Seek as well as provide support mutually.
• Participate in community service: Help yourself by helping others. By doing community service (for example, helping an intellectually challenged child learn an adaptive skill), you will gain important insights about your own difficulties.