In order for you to help others and serve others well, you need to understand and control your emotions. This will help you stay calm when caring for others and allow you to be a good example to the people you care for.
The following recommendations are effective tools that will help you do that.
- Know your emotional self – Know your emotional reactions and how the emotions of others affect you. Ask yourself what your emotional tendencies are. You want to get to the place where you are not uncomfortable when others are emotional or when you express your own emotions. If you feel uncomfortable seeing people cry, you may have the tendency to avoid helping people who are struggling with depression, grief, or other difficult situations. Identify your emotional triggers and your reactions by writing on a piece of paper the emotions that make you feel uncomfortable and, next to each one, identifying your reactions. You will be able to see your emotional tendencies and work through those situations that may need attention.
- You are an anchor and example – When others are in emotional chaos, you are an anchor that brings stability to them. Take care of your emotions first. Know yourself; practice balance in your emotional life so you will be ready to help others with their emotions. Don’t let their emotional reactions destabilize you.
Practice self-regulation – Emotional self-regulation is the ability to modulate our emotional reactions. Rather than letting our emotional reactions rule us uncontrollably, using self-control to modulate and decrease those reactions to make them more balanced and appropriate is something people can learn.
Another simple word that explains emotional self-regulation is what the Bible calls “self-control” (Titus 2:12; 2 Pet. 1:5–6; 1 Pet. 4:7). The reason I want to teach you the term self-regulation is because sometimes people interpret self-control as “holding it inside.” The problem with this is that if you “hold” all the emotions inside, you may end up exploding in an emotional reaction that could result in rage, having an emotional breakdown, or experiencing even physical symptoms.
- Name your feelings – Learn to identify your emotions and name your feelings; call them for what they are: sadness, anger, fear, happiness, frustration, satisfaction. Once you have identified what you feel, express this by naming the feeling; for instance, “I feel sad,” “This situation is frustrating,” “I am angry.” Naming your feelings helps you gain awareness, identifies your needs, gives you insight over the situation, gives you a sense of direction toward the resolution of the cause of those feelings, and ultimately helps you manage those feelings appropriately. It also helps you to find Scriptures or articles that address the emotions you’ve named and identified.
- Identify influencing factors – Identify the stressors contributing to your emotional reactions. Once you have identified them, you can explore a resolution. And you’ll be more aware of the circumstances in which you’re likely to become emotional.
- Think clearly – Thinking about situations the right or the wrong way will influence the emotional reactions. Stay with the facts; don’t jump to conclusions, overanalyze, or misinterpret a situation. The key to thinking correctly is often listening well. Use the guidelines in Philippians 4:8–9: whatever is true, right, pure, noble, worthy of praise. The principles in 1 Corinthians 13 are also helpful. When these are taken and applied together, you’ll be more at peace and loving toward others. People will sense this, and it can help calm them down. Plus, it’s a good example to them.
- Take care of yourself – God created us as spiritual and physical creatures. Neglecting the inner man affects the outer man, and vice versa. Skip a few meals and see how hungry you are. Stay up for a few nights and see how much easier it is for you to be tempted to be irritated. This means that caring for our physical bodies is a wise and godly endeavor. Practicing the following steps can go a long way in helping you manage your emotions. Don’t dismiss them because they seem “unspiritual.” We must be good stewards of our entire person.
- Healthy eating
- Drinking water
- Reasonable exposure to sunlight
- Social support or a support system
- Open up – Talking is more powerful than people think. Talking in general is therapeutic; it helps you think better and feel better. Practice talking, verbalizing your thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs. Doing so helps de-escalate the intensity of potential emotional reactions.
God cares about your emotions
God also cares about your emotions. Sometimes we forget that Jesus relates to our emotions. However, Jesus also experienced emotional reactions—abandonment, sadness, anger, the need to be accompanied, betrayal, and many others. Jesus cried; He was frustrated at people when they used the house of God for ungodly purposes; He felt compassion, love, and anguish; and He knows what it is to help others in distress. God cares about your emotions; this will be the consistent message you should tell yourself. Jesus is your Peace, and He is the Prince of Peace. Scripture says that the God of peace will be with us (Phil. 4:9). Don’t let the emotions of others deregulate you and make you lose your focus. You are an instrument of God to help others find that emotional peace and balance that is found only in our Savior.
Beauregard, M. “Mind Does Really Matter: Evidence from Neuroimaging Studies of Emotional Self-regulation, Psychotherapy, and Placebo Effect.” Progress in Neurobiology (2007). http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2007.01.005
Beauregard, M., V. Paquette, and J. Lévesque. “Dysfunction in the Neural Circuitry of Emotional Self-regulation in Major Depressive Disorder.” Neuroreport, 17(8) (2006): 843–846. http://doi.org/10.1097/01.wnr.0000220132.32091.9f
Davila, Z. ¡No sé lo que me pasa! [I don’t know what’s happening to me!]. El Paso, TX: Casa Bautista de Publicaciones (Baptist Spanish Publishing House), 2013.
Siegel, D. The Whole-Brain Child. New York: Bantam Books, 2012.