The other day I was feeling . . . frazzled? I’m not really sure. I wasn’t sad, or angry. Maybe tired? Or anxious? For some reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I was feeling. All I knew was that I was getting a bit snappy with my 3-year-old even though he was being cute and hilarious, as always, and that there was a vague feeling of something being not-quite-right.
It was frustrating to know that something was off, but not be able to pinpoint what the problem was.
So I worked backward. I was snappish, yes, but still mostly cheerful. The day was going well nothing specific had gone “wrong” but I could feel myself sabotaging that goodness with my own behavior. What was it that was going on inside my head to make me act that way?
Identifying our emotions and moods seems like such a basic, pre-school level ability. We should be able to feel it when we are mad, or sad, or frustrated, or anxious. Right? But I’ve noticed in my life lately that I often have several emotions going on at once and I can’t quite pinpoint what it is that is making me feel “off.” Or I’ll look around and like the other day things seem to be fine, but there is some indistinct sense of unease that is shading my perspective. And sometimes I’m just so busy that taking a minute to stop and think about how I’m acting and why seems like too much to ask.
But taking that minute or two can make a huge difference in how we handle difficult emotions. That’s why it’s important to catalogue our behaviors as they relate to how we feel. Are you, for example, someone who really just wants to be alone when you are sad? Are you a shouter when you’re angry, or more of a silent stone? Maybe when you feel frustrated you channel those frustrations into a cleaning spree. It’s often at the end of a stressful week that I find myself craving some time in the kitchen creating something beautiful, delicious, and nourishing.
Once we recognize how we process our daily emotions and moods, it becomes easier to control the behavior that stems from them. If we see that we’re starting to retreat from our families, for example, it might be a signal that we’ve taken on too much and we need to let something go.
My own behavior that day when I was short with my little boy let me know that I was feeling anxious and insecure. I was uncertain about how I had handled some situations and was second-guessing myself. In fact, I was replaying the situation in my head over and over again and, instead of delighting in my boy’s sense of humor, I was annoyed that he was interrupting my internal monologue. When I realized that, I tried to put it behind me. There was nothing I could do about the situation at the moment, and dwelling on it was sending ripples through my family and keeping me from laughing along with my boy.
image via istockphoto.com