When I first started out as a speaker and facilitator I was travelling around North America on a speaking tour called "Take More Action", The focus on the tour was to engage youth on the social and environmental issues we faced as a world and to empower young people to volunteer both locally and globally.
It was an amazing experience and one of the things I'm most proud of.
It was also incredibly challenging and stretched me to my capacity. Ask anyone who lives on the road and they'll tell you how challenging the driving, hotels, airplane food, and being away from the people you care about the most for long periods of time can be. Emotionally it takes it's toll on you.
About halfway through 8-month tour I found myself is a really hard place. Exhausted, overwhelmed at times and feeling all kinds of negative emotions that I didn't really have control over. I was travelling with my speaking partner, Guistina, and we were rarely more than 20 feet away from each other that entire tour.
My job was to show up every morning energetic, positive and engaging...even when I didn't feel any of those things. At times I struggled with it.
But one thing I did learn to do that helped out a lot was this:
I labelled my emotions.
I had (and still have) a small notebook that I carried around with me. Before I would get into a school or start a speech, I would find a quiet place and I would write down all of the emotions that I was experiencing. Sometimes those included things like anger, resentment, loneliness, sadness, being overwhelmed and sometimes it was happiness, love, joy, gratitude.
Most times it was a combination of both positive and negative. b
Doing this, at the time, helped me put a name to what I was feeling and put it off to the side temporarily so that I could come back and deal with it when I was ready (and not about to speak to a room full of youth who wanted to be empowered to change the world).
I only later found out that what I was doing was one of the best things that I could have done to manage those negative emotions at the time!
In Positive Psychology and Mindfulness research it's called Affect Labelling. Studies have shown that by labelling your emotions, you can better manage them.
And that makes sense, right? It's difficult to manage an emotion if you don't know what that emotion is. It's challenging to address what's wrong when you you can't put your finger on it.
So how do you do it?
1. Take some time to sit down with a pen and piece of paper and ask yourself What am I feeling right now? Then just list whatever comes to your mind. No judgement
2. When the time is right, come back to that list and ask yourself What is contributing to these feelings? or Why do I feel this way? This is a great opportunity to journal and connect with yourself!
3. Next, ask yourself "Do I want to feel more or less of this particular emotion?"
4. Last, brainstorm some ways that you can feel more or less of the emotion you're labelling.
It's important that we don't just focus on the negative emotions that we're feeling when we do this. A great coach told me one "What you focus on grows" so it's important to spend more time on what you want more of in your life. By labelling positive emotions as well as negative ones, you allow yourself to identify what's contributing to that positive so that you can bring it back in regularly (e.g. good conversations or regular exercise).
It's been emotional,
Matt Tod is an international speaker, leadership facilitator, writer and lover of all things Zombie-related.