Emotions. They can be overwhelming, complicated, confusing, and sometimes we just don’t know what to do with them. We may have been taught growing up that it wasn’t ok to show emotion, or perhaps you grew up in a home where emotions were explosive. Emotions, while important, are not always true. They are an indication of, or a response to, what is going on within or around us, and therefore we should use them as a temperature reading, not fact. Emotions can be positive or negative, but whatever emotions are coming out of us is a reflection of what’s going on in our hearts…YIKES! (see Luke 6:43-45).
What is Emotional Wellness?
Emotional Wellness is the ability to cope with life stressors, and adapt to change and difficult circumstances. When you achieve emotional wellness, you become aware of your emotions and are able to choose and control your responses. You are more productive, have healthier relationships, and experience improved self-esteem and physical health.
What does the Bible say about emotions?
God created us in his image (Gen 1:27), and emotions are part of who we are. We were created to glorify God, and so were our emotions. When sin entered the world, it affected the way we interact with ourselves, others and God; therefore, affecting our ability to manage and interpret our emotions.
The hope? Romans 12:2 reminds us that through the holy spirit our hearts and minds are renewed. We can learn to slow down our reaction time. We can explore and learn what our emotions are communicating and we can CHOOSE how to respond rather than react.
We tend to want to avoid uncomfortable emotions and the ones that make us feel out of control. Emotions, whether positive or negative, are an indication of what’s going on inside us. While we can’t change our emotions, we can change how we respond. Our mindset is powerful. What we focus on will determine how we respond or react. Challenge yourself to focus on scripture and allow God to change your mindset. The closer you grow to God, the more you will experience the ability to control your responses.
Next time you’re experiencing strong emotions, remind yourself not to suppress or avoid them. Rather, ask yourself, what are my emotions trying to communicate to me?
Don’t let your emotions pile up. Take a break. Go back to scripture and search for what is honoring to God. Pray and ask yourself how to respond in a way that will be honoring. Communicate your feelings and assess where the emotion is coming from using assertive communication.
Take a step back to gain some perspective. Write your thoughts down, unfiltered, before you respond. Get those yucky feelings out and then tear it up.
Remind yourself that emotions are just a temperature reading. Emotions are not fact.
Embrace failures as a learning experience. We are all human and we all sin, so we are bound to mess up sometimes. Recognize those moments when you mess up, apologize and choose how you will respond differently the next time.
Embrace your Emotions
The first step in learning how to embrace your emotions and move towards self-control is being able to NAME what you are feeling. Sometimes that is hard, especially if you grew up in a home where emotions weren’t talked about or expressed in a healthy way. Or perhaps you were sent to your room to “figure it out” and “calm down” without any discussion of how you were feeling. Often, we tend to skip right on over to anger. But did you know that anger is a secondary emotion? This means that there’s another emotion underlying anger such as hurt, jealousy, or embarrassment.
Next time you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, angry, or hurt, take time to PAUSE-CALM-THINK.
1. Hit the pause button. Don’t react. Walk away and pray.
2. Do something to calm your body. Take some deep breaths, step outside for some fresh air, or move your body. Activate your parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response).
3. Once your sympathetic (fight/flight response) nervous system is calm, your prefrontal cortex (thinking brain), can reengage. Take time to think about how you will RESPOND. Is your interpretation of the event correct? Will your response be motivated by sin or motivated by wanting to glorify God?
Grab your journal and assess where the emotion is coming from, what thoughts are surrounding the situation or emotion, how you would normally respond to it, and one way you could respond differently. Pray and ask God to help you respond in a way that is honoring.