Everyone has that one person in their lives who always seems to keep a cool head no matter the situation. They handle life’s ups and downs with apparent ease, never losing their temper or needing to drown their sorrows in a pint of ice cream. On days when it feels like your emotions are in the driving seat of your life, you may look to such people and wonder exactly what secret powers they have to seemingly control their emotions.
In the study of psychology, resilience refers to the quality to easily adapt to life’s challenges and with close control over one’s emotions. While there does seem to be a genetic disposition for resilience, one’s environment and the situations they undergo play a major role in how it is ultimately shaped. This means that anyone can learn the art of resilience - they simply need to find the strategies that will work for them.
There are seven fundamental human emotions at the core of the human experience: joy, surprise, fear, disgust, anger, contempt, and sadness. These are said to be hardwired into our brain and manifest through various bodily responses such as changes in breathing speeds, heart rate, and facial expressions. When we talk about feelings, we are referring to how we interpret the environment as well as these various bodily responses.
From an evolutionary perspective, emotions weren’t simply present to color the world; they helped to keep us alive. By thinking, we could make slow sense of the world, but feeling prompted the quick actions required to successfully escape danger. Changes in physiology supported this. However, today a mismatch between emotions and instinctual actions can severely impact relationships and cause significant friction in our life, particularly at work or at home. It even increases the risk of engaging in harmful coping mechanisms like substance abuse.
Alongside navigating implications for our decision-making, emotions keep us motivated while enabling us to understand those around us and to help form deeper attachments. That’s why simply shutting them down is not the best approach. Instead, your aim should be to understand and then control your response to your overwhelming feelings.
Here are some strategies that can help you do just that:
We’ve been dealing with our emotions our whole life, but that doesn’t mean we have a good understanding of them. Overlapping bodily responses - a pounding heart for excitement and fear, for instance, can cause confusion when trying to figure out our circumstances. This confusion plays into the type and degree of our response, especially when it happens before we have even had time to fully process the problem.
That’s why it’s helpful to take a breath and figure out what our body and brain are telling us. Your emotions are like messengers; they give you important information you can use. Correctly identifying and labeling them can prevent you from misacting in the moment. So the next time you feel intense negative feelings, take a breath. Not only will this give you a little time to distance yourself from that first onslaught of emotion, but it can reduce bodily symptoms such as a racing heart that might further confuse the matter.
Uncertainty is an emotional state that our brain tends to not be too fond of. Our instinct is to treat things we don’t fully understand as a threat and react accordingly. The fight-or-flight response might be helpful when confronted by a snake, for instance, but it very rarely helps with the stresses of the modern world. Taking a step back and temporarily removing ourselves from the situation is a better strategy for finding a way to resolve it.
While physical space might be useful in some situations, mental space is essential too. Taking your mind off your negative feelings enables you to return your body to its neutral state, allowing you to more easily process the details of the situation. Listening to music is an excellent way to do this. Not only can it serve as a helpful distraction, but it can also actively support you in processing your emotions while boosting the production of comforting hormones that can help make you feel better.
With a bit of time and thought, you will be able to better understand your emotions which will help you accept them and, in turn, become more comfortable with them. Writing things down is a good way to gain a different perspective. When doing this, you should aim to identify each emotion individually and what underlies it. This allows you to reflect fully on the situation, the various outcomes, and how you could respond.
Taking the time to consider all the possible paths forward reminds you that you are not simply a helpless figure in your life. Regaining a sense of control removes the uncertainty and helplessness that often underlie disproportionate and unhelpful responses to stressful situations. Instead, you get to reframe them from negative to positive, for example, by viewing something not as fearful but as a future challenge. Flexing these emotion-regulating muscles will only continue to get easier, changing the way you view and respond to powerful negative emotions in the future. This is a key reason why Spiritune’s app design helps you navigate, check-in and label your emotions, which is the first step towards taking control over them.
Music and mental health are closely interlinked in a myriad of ways, including emotional experience and management. That’s why at Spiritune we are committed to helping our community experience the powerful benefits that navigating your emotions and then receiving music that helps enhance our emotional and mental wellness can offer.