1 in 4 people are said to be suffering with poor mental health, but does this constant coverage lead to us self-diagnosing and overanalysing emotions as a bad thing? Emotional intelligence is the art of understanding, processing and managing our moods and feelings. It's also proven to ward off mental health issues. Here are 3 steps to getting our emotions under control ...
A key aspect of emotional intelligence is identifying exactly what emotion we’re feeling. It's distinguishing between love and lust. It’s telling the difference between angry and hangry (an everyday confusion for many of us!). According to the University of California, being able to name our feelings and fears helps us rationalise and deal with recurring situations and emotions. We all know it’s often repeat feelings which crop up at inconvenient times. Realistically, it takes patience and wisdom to name them effectively. For example, while many of us may feel ‘angry’ or ‘empty’ in a certain situation, often the root emotion is something deeper; perhaps disappointment, rejection or confusion. This can be tricky to distinguish!
As humans, it's important that we express ourselves honestly and process emotion. That we make space for it. That we acknowledge emotion as part of the very nature of God. Even the shortest sentence of the Bible has tangible weight here: ‘Jesus wept.’ This tiny verse creates a vast space to appreciate the emotion of the Most High. Sorrow and grief in its rightful place, rightfully expressed. We also see God in states of anger, anguish, disappointment... the list goes on. So how often do we make space for our emotions? How often do we allow ourselves to respond to what’s happening around us? We know this isn’t always easy in an ‘I’m fine’ culture, but once we’ve ‘named’ our emotions, having friendships and safe spaces to discuss them can make such a difference. Tell someone, write it down or pray! Suppression may lead to depression, so naming and allowing ourselves to feel is key to emotional health.
That's not to say erratic outbursts aren’t the best way to express ourselves or take care of our minds. It's also not to say that every emotion we feel reflects God's character. But it's giving ourselves permission to feel and power to control those feelings. Once we're able to discern the root of our emotions, we can find methods to overcome or appreciate them. Try the acronym ‘HALT’ - am I hungry, angry, lonely or tired? These states often mess with our feelings and perspective. Let’s make sure we eat regularly, breathe fresh air, spend time with others and get some rest in our busy schedules. When Elijah was honest with God about his complete despair, we see God respond with instructions to eat baked goods and rest (we could get used to that remedy…). Check it out in 1 Kings 19. Our honesty also creates space to connect with and receive from God - on good days, we can invest in storing scriptures to pull out on rainy days. Some of our favorites include Psalm 56:8, Philippians 4:4-9 and Psalm 139. There’s plenty to go around, so why not store your own in notebooks, phone reminders and in your mind for when your feelings take over!