Managing Emotions for Peak Performance
In this article I share with you my simple way of thinking about what emotions are, how feelings relate to emotions and how we can begin to become more aware of our emotions and have more choice with our responses.
Emotions are triggered as our brains become aware of something (either consciously or unconsciously), this trigger then causes biochemical changes in our body’s central nervous system which encourages us to express something (the emotion) and causes psycho-physical sensations in our bodies (otherwise known as feelings).
So, for example, if we suddenly become aware of a huge tiger a few feet away from us, our body’s central nervous system will flip into ‘fight or flight’ mode, we will show the emotion of fear and be driven to run as fast as we can, and we might feel sick, internally.
However, if we see something that we like and find amusing, our body will produce endorphins and we will express the emotion of happiness through laughter or smiling and we will probably feel energised and ‘lighter’ internally.
I like to think of emotions as energy in motion (e-motions), as emotions are the result of energy (i.e. biochemical) changes in our bodies.
There is a lot of ongoing debate about the exact difference between emotions and feelings but I think the simple answer is that emotions are seen externally and feelings are our own internal barometer to what is going on for us emotionally.
Emotional intelligence comes from having an awareness of own emotions (how they affect our performance and their impact on others) and an ability to control and manage our emotional response and maintain balance.
Try becoming more aware of your emotions
Every emotion that we have causes an energy change in our body so more emotional awareness gives us more choice about what we subject ourselves and others to.
If we are not in tune with our emotions, we might be completely unaware of an emotion we are experiencing but others can see it in our behaviour and our body expresses this through tension or illness.
Or we might be so overtaken by the energy of an emotion that we almost become this emotion (e.g. anger) and we lose control of our behaviour and overreact.
Sometimes we might be aware of an emotion but we try to repress it because we are ashamed or fearful but our body will still react biochemically.
The diagram below shows some of the emotions we experience and the typical energy impacts on our bodies.
Ideally we want to spend most of our time on the right hand side of the diagram moving between Empowering and Re-energising emotions, as this is healthier for us and more pleasant for the people around us!
When we experience emotions on the left hand side of the diagram we can balance them by doing things or exposing ourselves to things that trigger emotions on the right hand side of the diagram.
The emotions in the RED zone are the ones that trigger our bodies into a ‘fight or flight’ response, if we stay in this zone for long periods of time it can cause harmful effects. A great phase to remember is ‘Anger is one letter away from Danger’ !
As we become more aware of emotions, through our feelings, we have a more choice. Our feelings will provide us with more data with which to make decisions and take action. Can you remember the last time you had a ‘gut feeling’ about something that proved to be correct? Recent research has shown that decisions based on feelings alone can be just as accurate as those based on facts and data, so if you use both – wow!
So have a think about the following questions:
What are you feeling at the moment? What clues does this give you to the emotions are you experiencing? Where would you position yourself on the graphic, right now?
How can you express your emotions? What action do you need to take?
What emotions would you like to be experiencing? What can you do to make this happen?
When you are at your most calm and balanced – what do you feel?
I’d love to know whether you found this topic interesting and/or whether you agree with my distinction between feelings and emotions – do let me know.