As we adapt to a new reality, it is normal to feel overwhelmed by emotions. More importantly, we need to understand these feelings so we can channel them to positive action and change.
Emotions are understandably running the gamut right now. In the space of days, many of us have gone from our usual routines to a world of remote working, social distancing or sheltering in place. As we adjust to a new reality and manage a great deal of uncertainty in our work and lives, it’s important to take time to recognize our emotions and practice using them positively to support our well-being and productivity.
Historically, emotions have gotten a bad rap at the workplace – and they shouldn’t. When you Google “managing emotions in the workplace,” many terms that pop up connect to feelings in the most visceral sense: tears, fears and tantrums.
The truth is that we have a wide range of emotions. Some are positive like the excitement you feel when you get to lead a project that aligns perfectly to your interests or the sense of pride that comes from being recognized for exceptional work.
Others are more challenging like the anxiety that may come from trying to adapt to a new working reality or frustration when you can’t seem to get on the same page as your colleagues (or make your video conferencing system work). And sometimes these feelings do become more visible as many articles on the topic have highlighted.
What’s important to remember about emotions is that they are natural, and they have value. Emotions help sound an alarm when something is out of line. They can shine a light on underlying motivations and desires. They can inspire introspection as well as positive action and change.
And science backs these concepts up. At Emergenetics®, we often talk about the microbiome living within our gut and the connection between our gut and our brain. The data reveals that our gut feelings, which influence a lot of our emotions and mood aren’t something to be ignored. They should be recognized and considered.
Emotions can be powerful allies that help us understand something about ourselves, others or a decision. The trick lies in how we understand and manage feelings in a way that can positively inform our work and achieve better outcomes.
The next time your gut-brain begins to talk, or you start to feel emotions bubbling up consider using the five steps outlined below.
Connecting Emotional Response to Work Productivity
Taking a moment to pause is particularly important for emotions that we often consider “negative” or “challenging” like fear or frustration – and it can be helpful no matter what you’re feeling. After all, you can benefit from understanding what drives your more “positive” emotions as well.
Try counting to ten and taking three deep breaths to give yourself time to better understand your energies rather than responding immediately. You may also consider standing up from your desk and taking a walk to give yourself time to process.
2. Recognize and name your feelings.
In any given instant mindfulness training can come in handy as it can be hard to pause in the moment. And, by taking a beat, acknowledging the feelings you’re experiencing and giving them a name – like nerves, enthusiasm or hesitation – you can start to understand what your body is trying to tell you.
3. Get curious.
Don’t try to push the emotion aside. Instead get curious and ask yourself questions about it like:
- What’s happening around me that may be contributing to this feeling?
- Where is this emotion coming from?
- What was said or done that may be motivating this reaction?
Using a tool like the Emergenetics® Profile can help provide further insights into your emotions. By gaining awareness into yourself as well as your preferences for certain ways of thinking and behaving, you can begin to discover what internal or external factors may influence you to feel a certain way.
4. Sort the feeling.
With greater clarity about what you’re feeling and why, you can better categorize whether the feeling is useful to the situation at hand or not. The writers of No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work were recently interviewed on NPR where they highlighted the importance of sorting relevant and irrelevant emotions. Relevant emotions are ones that relate to a choice you need to make, while irrelevant ones don’t impact the situation at hand.
5. Focus on the pertinent emotions.
Now that you have a stronger understanding of which emotions are related to the present challenge, try setting aside the irrelevant ones for now and consider the implications and reasoning behind your relevant feelings.
With a renewed focus you can gain greater insights into what your emotions are guiding you to do next whether that’s taking a different direction, asking questions to better understand the reasoning behind a decision, seeking another perspective, giving yourself a mental health break or something else.
Managing emotion takes practice. Even the seemingly simple step of pausing can be a challenge when you are just starting out. As you experience the ups and downs that may be arising from the stress and uncertainty of our current global realities, give yourself grace and understand that it will take time to effectively channel your feelings.
The results will be worth it as you begin to use these insights into your emotions to drive positive change and better outcomes at work as well as improved well-being and enhanced understanding in your life.