spiralling colours in the sky

In many of the webinar training sessions I have been running lately, I find myself drawn toward looking for analogies and metaphors to help people get the message of the day. Emotions are an intrinsic part of the human experience, shaping our thoughts, actions, and overall well-being. However, when we neglect our emotional well-being, emotions can spiral out of control, causing significant distress. I try to explain how emotions can spiral out of control if left alone when we don’t look after our wellbeing.

Especially in the workplace where people are so busy, lost in the conditioning and habits that full-time work can bring. Negative emotions can drop like a stone and hit rock bottom in a relatively short space of time. If we want to experience more positive emotions we have to pick up the negative emotions and work with them to access higher and more productive states of mind. This takes effort, motivation, and discipline. There is so much research out there that points to this fact, working the muscles of wellbeing will bring positive results.

We can do simple things based on the valuable insights from science and work on our emotional well-being with practical steps to achieve. However, is is not as easy as it might sound. Listening to people who attend my webinars still having trouble to facing their demons, they listen to the lessons and still roll their eyes being the TEAMs screens when they hear the science. Some, the ones who have been through the pain of change, know from experience what it is that need to be done.

Prevention is the message that we need to constantly promote in the workplace, helping people realise that each individual has a part to play in their own state of mind and the emotions that they feel. As you will read from some of the rich sources of science below there are consequences to neglecting emotional well being.

Suppressed emotions, negative thought patterns, lack of self-care, unresolved trauma, and limited emotional intelligence are all contributors to emotions spiraling out of control. Research suggests that suppressing emotions leads to increased stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms.

Similarly, negative thought patterns perpetuate a cycle of negativity, amplifying emotional distress (Seligman, 2003). Neglecting self-care compromises emotional resilience and increases the risk of burnout (Maslach et al., 2001). Unresolved trauma or past negative experiences can resurface unexpectedly, triggering intense emotional reactions. Moreover, limited emotional intelligence hinders effective emotion regulation, empathy, and communication (Goleman, 1995).

The impacts are huge, I was never taught how to regulate and manage my emotions at home or in any part of my education, I am convinced that is the case for many people, then we end up in the workplace trying to deal with other stressors and pressure.

Strategies for Enhancing Emotional Well-Being:
a) Self-Reflection and Mindfulness: Cultivating self-awareness through practices like journaling and mindfulness enhances emotional well-being. Yes roll those eyes, and yes people just don’t bother to try or even open their minds to this. Research by Shapiro et al. (2011) demonstrates the positive impact of mindfulness on reducing emotional reactivity and increasing self-awareness.

b) Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Engaging in healthy coping strategies helps manage emotions effectively. Exercise and deep breathing exercises have been shown to reduce stress and improve emotional well-being (Rosenbaum et al., 2018). Connecting with supportive individuals, such as friends or family, also aids in emotional regulation (Lakey & Cohen, 2000). There is so much on the internet that we can all try, breathing is so easy, yet still, we don’t bother, procrastination can be a way of life.

c) Seeking Support: Seeking support is crucial when emotions become overwhelming. Professional help, such as therapy or counseling, offers a safe space to process emotions and promote healing (Lambert & Ogles, 2004). Research highlights the efficacy of therapy in improving emotional well-being. So many managers in the webinars talk about how staff are still not utilising the service to their EAP, even though it is free and people have access to so many professional services.

d) Setting Healthy Boundaries: Establishing healthy boundaries protects emotional well-being. Research emphasises the importance of autonomy and self-care in fostering emotional well-being. Are you take your full break allocations? Can you practice a little bit on mindfulness after some focus and productivity? Just changing routine by 1% every day can make a big change over a lifetime. Maybe learning to say no, every now and then.

e) Continuous Learning: Developing emotional intelligence through learning and growth empowers individuals to navigate emotions skillfully. Books like “Emotional Intelligence” by Goleman (1995) and workshops on emotional intelligence provide valuable insights and practical strategies. These are great reads, oldies but goodies, I still recommend to new managers that they get into this subject of emotional intelligence, eyes rolls or not, we have to participate in our emotion effectively if we want any chance of a feeling of good wellbeing.

Prioritising emotional well-being is essential for leading a balanced and fulfilling life. By acknowledging the consequences of neglected emotional well-being and implementing strategies for improvement, we can prevent emotions from spiraling out of control. What can you commit to trying, changing and just having a go? Make your changes small and easy to achieve, low hanging fruit is the expression I use to describe how we can motivate ourselves through action.

Main References:

  • Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. Bantam.
  • Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397–422.
  • Seligman, M. E. (2003). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. Free Press.
  • Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2011). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67(6), 746–768.

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