No amount of planning and structure can prevent life from shoving the unexpected our way from time to time. If everything was easy and routine, we would basically be a society of unemotional robots. There would be no zest for life; how could we really know happiness without being tested?

We aren’t robots and each of us has an incredible arsenal of emotions ready to jump at a moment’s notice. Effectively controlling emotions is the very core of emotional intelligence and helps us bounce back from the turmoil life may throw our direction.

How we deal with ourselves and others depends greatly on our emotions. Exerting emotional control reinforces productivity and performance in relationships, at work and all other aspects of our lives. Have you ever noticed someone who is obviously under severe duress, yet they managed to keep it together and remained positive? Effortlessly? That’s a prime example of emotional control.

The following tips can assist in pretty much any situation where you feel your emotions might get the best of you!

Tune In

It’s so easy to ignore our emotions and disconnect. Avoiding how we really feel or minimizing our emotions won’t elicit emotional control. In fact, it has the opposite effect because we aren’t really acknowledging the presence of an emotion. We think by keeping the emotion buried inside that represents control.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking emotions are inherently bad and should be hidden. Go ahead and get to know your emotions. Pay close attention to exactly what you are feeling. Give it a funny name if that helps, like Negative Nancy if you’re feeling particularly pessimistic or Hyper Hannah when you just can’t sit still and focus.

Back Your Truck Up

So, you’ve identified the emotion, embraced it even. This next step is to reflect on where this emotion is coming from and determine the best direction to take it. Mentally thumb through the Rolodex of memories and go back to another time you remember experiencing this same emotion.

Was there a specific trigger invoking this emotion? How did you handle it? Would you do things differently if you could go back in time? If your previous emotional response wasn’t pleasant and didn’t yield the desires results, consider trying a different approach this time.

Social Cues

When you’re in social situations, the people around you can tell you a lot about the energy of the environment without saying a word. Notice body language and facial expressions. Learn to pick up on their emotional energy and then determine if what you’re feeling is a direct reflection of their emotions.

Picture taking a very important exam for which you are well-prepared and confident you know the material. Several people around you are visibly anxious; tapping pencils, can’t keep still, constantly glancing at the clock. Do you feed off their emotions and allow anxiety to take over? Or do you remain calm and control your emotions?

Challenge Your Assumptions

When on the brink of emotional overload, consider that your intuition may have gone way out into left field and created false conclusions which are clouding your ability to respond appropriately. Before acting out, look at the situation from all vantage points.

Consider the facts, look at the source of information, and remember the trigger and why it may be influencing your current outlook. Without all the facts, you can’t possibly make an informed decision on how to respond to this emotion. And until you can, sit on it.

2-Minute Time Out

If you’re in a situation which requires a near immediate response, it’s okay to take a beat to quickly process the steps above. It’s only 120 seconds but it’s time enough to decide whether you are going to proceed with an appropriate, articulate response or if you aren’t going to be able to control your mouth and regret it later.

Reward Yourself

Create a reward system for yourself. When you feel you’ve handled an emotion responsibly, give yourself a treat. Maybe you defused a situation which could have escalated to a physical altercation even though you really wanted to yell and scream it out. Whatever the case, make sure to reinforce positive behaviors.

Controlling our emotions isn’t always an easy task! And when your emotions run away with themselves, don’t beat yourself up. Let it go. Just do better next time.

Practice Positivity

And finally, we can’t really expect to have full control of our emotions if we aren’t focusing on the good this life has to offer. Remember Pessimistic Patty? She needs to take a back seat and let her cousin Optimistic Omar drive this vehicle. When we feel centered and happy, controlling emotions becomes less stressful.

Don’t waste any more time than absolutely necessary on untoward emotions! Do things you love! Spend time with people who are encouraging, enveloped in positivity and have a great outlook on life. And remember to smile! A simple smile goes a long way, not just for you, but for those who notice your smile. It’s almost impossible not to smile back at someone smiling at you! Make your positivity infectious!