How I handle disruptive emotions

Image of Brian Kight
Brian Kight

Let's talk about what to do when you don't feel good. Not physically, but emotionally.

Think about a time you felt emotionally disrupted, disconnected, or in an emotional funk. Search your mind for experiences of guilt, anxiety, dread, resentment, gloom, frustration, disappointment, doubt, confusion, shock, insecurity, helplessness, or any other extension of this list.

While you have more control over your emotions than you may realize, you don't have total control over your emotions. No one does. Even at our best, feelings make their presence known in ways that impact our thoughts, decisions, actions, interactions, and even our bodies.

A big part of discipline is deciding what to do when you don't feel like you're in a good place emotionally. You know you’re going to feel emotionally turbulent at times. What’s your plan? I've developed an approach that helps me. It may help you too.

First, I give myself a specific and limited time window to feel, understand, and process my disruptive feelings. I don't deny or ignore them, but I don't give in to them, either.

Instead, I acknowledge them and let them exist within me. I permit myself to experience them for a specific and limited time window. The more painful and disruptive the feeling, the more critical it is for me to do this step.

Next, I establish a moment (I use a time and place threshold like, "When I park my car at work on Wednesday morning.") when I will let those feelings flush out so I can move on. When I cross the time and place threshold, I intentionally shed my negative emotional energy.

Then, I move forward with a new attitude, perspective, and focus aimed at more productive emotions rather than continue to wallow in how I felt about something that happened in the recent past. I choose the time and place as specifically as I can. The more specific the better. It works like an objective finish line to my negative emotional state.

My objective is to let disruptive feelings settle like a crashing wave dissipating back into the ocean instead of allowing them to swirl around inside me, wreaking havoc. If I don’t force them out on my timeline, there’s no telling how long they’ll stick around and what problems they’ll create for me.

You can't control everything you feel, but you can control how you respond when you don't feel good. Disruptive emotions will happen. Limit the time you stay bogged down in them. There is a time to feel it and a time to flush it and move on. Develop your discipline to do both well.

Answer the call. Do the work.

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