"This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a small commission. Thanks.”
Do you ever find it hard to keep your feelings in check?
- You might have a lot of anger and rage and often lose your cool instead of being calm and accepting.
- Or maybe you deal with anxiety and fear and often get stuck in worries and self-doubt instead of moving forward with confidence.
- You might even find it hard to control “positive” feelings like excitement because you can’t stay focused on one thing because you’re always getting distracted by shiny things.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, since most of us were never taught how to control our feelings… If you want to learn how to handle your anger better, have you ever taken a class or talked to a coach about it?
No, neither do I! That’s odd, because what skill is more important in life?
You see, being able to control your emotions is important for everything else you do in life…
Should you not be able to control your worry and need to be perfect, you will never be able to do as well in school as you could.
You won’t make much progress in your relationships if you can’t control your anger, no matter how hard you work to improve your interactions.
It doesn’t matter how good a new business chance is if you can’t go after it because of fears and beliefs that hold you back.
The most important things in life rely on how well you can handle your feelings.
Luckily, you can learn how to do this. Besides that, there are a few skills you can work on that will help you deal with tough feelings in almost any situation.
How to become emotionally strong?
These are the seven most important ones:
1. Think about what you think
Metacognition is the ability to be aware of and judge your own ideas, feelings, beliefs, moods, expectations, self-talk, and other things that are going on in your mind.
Our thoughts are on autopilot most of the time—things happen, and we react:
When your partner gives you a mean look, you say something mean back.
You don’t know how to answer your boss’s passive-aggressive email, so you go on Facebook to pass the time.
Something painful from the past comes to mind, and you get lost in thoughts of sorrow.
The more you don’t pay attention to your own thoughts, the more your actions turn into responses instead of choices.
For this reason, there is a lot of stress and anger:
- You will feel anxious all the time if your normal way of talking to yourself is to make bad things seem much worse than they really are.
- If you always criticize back when someone says something bad about you, you’ll be very upset and angry all the time.
- There will be a lot of shame and fake guilt in your life if you automatically judge yourself and take things personally when bad things happen.
If you can learn to stop and notice what’s going on in your thoughts, on the other hand, you can act with intention and purpose.
You shouldn’t try to fix your feelings right away. Instead, try to understand them better.
2. Switching your attention
The things that most people think about are what interests them.
Our minds jump from one thing to another quickly, even when we’re not paying attention. This happens whether we’re scrolling through social media or daydreaming about a new car.
This is what’s wrong with letting your attention sail that way:
The things that you think about define the things that you feel.
Take a look:
- You will feel a lot of stress if you worry about the future all the time.
- You will feel bad about yourself if you always think about the mistakes you’ve made in the past.
- If you always think about how someone has hurt you, you’ll be very angry.
You have to change what you think about if you want to change how you feel.
It can be hard to do this, though:
It can be hard to get your mind back on your work when you’re stuck in a worry cycle.
People who are stuck on a grudge against them find it hard to be present with the person sitting next to them.
It’s hard to do the things you know will make you feel better when you can’t stop thinking about how you feel.
In the end, getting out of negative thought patterns and the emotional chaos they cause depends on your attention control—being able to recognize when you’re focusing on something that isn’t helpful, shift your attention to something else, and resist the urge to return to the negative thought pattern.
But here’s the thing: you can train your attention to be more focused. It will stay weak if you don’t work it out. In other words, your feelings and mood will depend on what comes to mind.
Practice managing your attention if you want to take charge of your feelings.
As a first step, mindfulness meditation can help you do that.
Self-compassion is a really easy idea:
Take care of yourself like you would a friend when you’re having a hard time.
Being too hard on ourselves and berating ourselves every time we mess up is something that most of us do. That’s funny, because we’re generally very kind and forgiving when other people mess up!
As kids, most of us were taught that being hard on yourself is the “secret” to being successful and happy. We learn the wrong thing when we think that being tough on ourselves will keep us from failing, just like the tough drill sergeant yelling at his new trainees.
But that’s not really true…
Self-judgment doesn’t help most people achieve; it gets in the way.
Also, most people would be much more productive and happy if they stopped shaming themselves every time they failed or did something wrong.
The more you beat yourself up for making a mistake, the more painful emotions and stress you add to the anger or sadness that comes with making a mistake.
When you judge yourself, you make bad feelings worse and can get stuck in a cycle of bad moods and painful feelings.
Learn to be kind to yourself instead of harsh on yourself if you want to avoid these painful emotional ups and downs and instead become emotionally strong.
4. Tolerance for emotions
A big part of being emotionally strong is learning how to handle bad feelings and emotions in a way that keeps them from getting out of hand.
But sometimes the bad feelings are just going to happen:
- Even if you are very kind to yourself, making mistakes will still hurt and make you feel guilty or ashamed.
- They will still hurt you when they show up out of the blue, no matter how self-aware you are of them.
- You will always be able to handle your attention better, but sometimes you will get stuck in worry, which will make you anxious.
That is to say…
Even if you’re feeling bad, you have to keep going with your life.
Like a runner who has to keep going even though they’re tired to finish the race, you have to be able to go through life even when you’re having bad feelings.
Because, well, what else is there?
You should do important things right away, not wait until you feel good. That will lead to a lot of sorrow and putting things off.
But it’s definitely hard to do even small things when we’re angry or sad. To do this, you need to improve your mental strength.
Going back to the running example… Running for a long time when they’re tired and hurt is only possible because they’ve built up their strength and endurance.
At first, they ran a couple of miles to get stronger. As they got stronger, they worked up to five miles, then ten, and so on.
That’s how mental tolerance works, too…
If you want to get stronger emotionally, you need to get used to feeling bad.
So, the next time you feel a bad feeling, don’t ask yourself, “How can I not feel so bad?” Think about this question: How can I use this to improve my ability to handle my feelings?
5. Restructuring the mind
How we feel mentally is based on how we think. And what we say to ourselves inside our heads has a lot to do with how we think.
Unfortunately, a lot of us learn to talk to ourselves in a very negative and pessimistic way as kids:
- You start to think “Oh my God, it’s all over now” as soon as something bad happens.
- When you make a mistake, you turn it into a flaw in your character: I’m such a fool!
- You think someone is mean when they look at you sideways: She’s always being so critical!
The problem with talking badly to yourself all the time is that it makes your worst fears come true…
Everything starts to feel pretty bad when you keep telling yourself how bad things are.
Getting out of this mess means changing the way you talk to yourself so it’s more true and realistic. Cognitive restructuring is a powerful way to do this kind of brain retraining.
To put it simply, it means learning how to
- Figure out why you talk badly to yourself and stop doing it.
- Look at the link between what you think and how you feel.
- Come up with new, more realistic ways to understand what’s happening to you.
- Keeping an eye on the ways that these different stories can help you feel and act better.
If you want some useful tips on how to deal with bad thoughts, like negative self-talk, check out this guide I just finished: 10 good ways to deal with negative thoughts
6. Being assertive
When most people hear the word “assertive,” they picture someone who is rude or pushy.
In fact, though, being assertive isn’t rude or pushy at all. Being assertive is a good range of behaviors that are in between quiet and aggressive:
- When you communicate aggressively, you don’t care about what other people want or need (for example, you might manipulate them).
- When you don’t care about your own wants and needs, you communicate passively (as a “pushover”).
- There is assertive communication when you say what you want and need in an honest way while also being kind to others.
What does this have to do with getting stronger emotionally?
When you avoid conflict with other people all the time, you end up causing conflict within yourself.
The most common time for this to happen is when people are too quiet when they talk:
- “Going with the flow” is what most people do when the group needs to make a choice.
- It’s always hard for you to say what you think or feel.
- You give up easily to stay out of trouble.
The problem with being so inactive and accommodating to other people is this:
- Giving in to other people’s wants all the time and ignoring your own makes you feel bad about yourself, and your self-esteem goes down.
- The fact that you never get your needs met makes you more angry and stressed out.
- In the end, you get angry at other people because you never get what you want and they always do.
Popular Emotional Intelligence Courses
- Emotional Intelligence Courses Coursera
- Mental Toughness Udemy Courses
- Mentally STRONG Method Online Course
image source: Image by Freepik