Emotions operate on many levels – they have a physical component as well as a psychological one. They operate in every part of a person, affecting many aspects, which is why it is so important to gain control of our emotions and our resulting behaviour.
Negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, negativity, frustration and depression cause specific chemical reactions in your body, and studies suggest these can cause chronic illness if not managed properly.
Emotions that are not felt, controlled and released, but are buried within the body can contribute to physical illness later.
“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
- Self-control is the ability to control one’s emotions, behaviour, and reactions in the face of external demands.
- It is vital for overcoming fears, obsessions, addictions, or any kind of negative thinking.
- It puts you in control of your life, your behaviour, and your reactions.
- Emotions need to be controlled – they operate on both a physical as well as a psychological level.
- Self-control strengthens self-esteem, confidence, inner strength and willpower.
- It eliminates the feeling of helplessness and reacting inappropriately to challenging situations.
- It helps to develop patience and tolerance.
- It helps to manifest mental and emotional detachment, giving peace of mind.
- Self-control means not reacting immediately to emotional triggers.
- Empower yourself by focusing only on what you can control.
- Reframe your negative thoughts into positive ones.
- Look at the bigger picture so as not to get caught up in frustrating details.
Action Plan to develop Self-Control
- Prepare in advance
This is a technique to prevent a triggering of the negative emotion. For example, if you know that you’re most likely to get angry when you’re in a hurry, then don’t leave things to the last minute. Get out of the house or office 10 minutes before you need to, and you won’t be bothered so much by pedestrians, cars, or slow elevators.
Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason. Meditation actually trains your brain in self-control (and it improves your emotional intelligence). Techniques such as mindfulness improve your self-awareness and your brain’s ability to resist destructive impulses.
Visualise yourself acting with self-control and self-restraint. Take one of the instances where you usually act with a lack of control and visualise that you are acting calmly and with self-mastery.
Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses.
If you’re having trouble resisting the impulse to walk over to the office next door to have a go at someone, just keep on walking. You should have the impulse under control by the time you get back!
- Eat and sleep well
When attempting to exert self-control your brain uses up your stores of glucose. If your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses.
When you are tired, your brain cells’ ability to absorb glucose is greatly reduced and your brain’s ability to control impulses without glucose is minimal.
Also, without enough sleep you are more likely to crave sugary snacks to compensate for low glucose levels. Sugary foods spike your sugar levels quickly and leave you drained and vulnerable shortly afterwards, so eat nutritious whole foods instead.
- Forgive yourself
In attempts at self-control, a vicious cycle of failing to control oneself followed by feeling intense self-hatred and disgust is common. These emotions typically lead to over-indulging in the offending behaviour.
When you slip up, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just don’t wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.
- Find a healthy outlet
Emotions should never be bottled up but should be managed and released in a healthy way. Talk to someone you trust or keep a journal and transfer your emotions from your inner self onto the paper. To discharge their feelings some people find it helpful to engage in aggressive exercises such as kickboxing or martial arts; others meditate.
Self-control is vital for overcoming any kind of negative thinking and it puts you in control of your life. Whatever challenges you are facing that may cause stress or negative emotions, you can handle them by exercising control.
In times of stress ask yourself this question: ‘Am I going to die right now?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ then realise that you can handle the situation. We know that some situations are extremely difficult to deal with, but step by step, we can find solutions, we can exercise self-control and we can move forward.
“Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.” Grandma Moses
Thoughts for the week:
- How is your self-control?
- Are there times when you are out of control?
- This week pick out some points from the action plan and implement them.
- Re-read the blog to absorb some of the important points.