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Understanding your emotions

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It is important to acknowledge your emotions and understand how they affect the rest of your being because they are good indicators of coping with situations. Additionally, they help you identify how you feel about other people and their experiences. You know how your mind can run in a maze, and suddenly you are anxious or fearful? Discovering where a feeling stems from can empower you to regulate it. Fundamentally, the root cause of your emotions is your thoughts. Therefore, a thought can illicit an emotion, influencing your behaviour. Lastly, your repeated behaviour creates habits, aka your lifestyle – a domino effect of influence. The practice of emotion regulation is often referred to as mindfulness. According to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness is a cognitive control strategy that helps with teaching people not to fixate on ways of thinking that only increase feeling overwhelmed.

Is there such a thing as “bad” emotions?

Emotions are neither good nor bad. Although we describe them as such depending on the feelings/responses/actions, they invoke in us. The “bad” emotions are recognised as such when you experience sadness for long periods. Consequently, prolonged sadness, hopelessness and helplessness could signify a person struggling with mental health [National Institute of Mental Health].  Namely depression. Let’s pause here for a bit. Being sad is not a bad thing. For instance, it is normal to feel disappointed, frustrated, angry or sad when your favourite sports team loses or if you experience conflict with a friend. These are emotions that influence your reactions to what you go through. Understanding your feelings requires being aware of them and seeing them as little guides helping you to realise.

The impact your emotions have

Our emotions are strongly linked to our mental and physical health, so it is essential to understand and recognise their impact on us. To further illustrate prolonged sadness. That is when you feel sadness consistently regardless of good or bad news and experiences. For example, if your sports team wins or if you and your friend make amends, you may feel slightly happy, yet the feeling is heavily covered with an inexplicable sadness. It’s not that you’re unhappy with the results or have resolved the issue. Instead, you generally struggle to be happy for longer than that instant simply – it’s a mental tug of war. Moreover, trauma-causing incidents can affect a spiral of “bad” emotions, which, when left unchecked, can lead to increasingly severe mental health struggles.

The indicators you may want to look out for

Various signs could indicate real battles with mental health, including anxiety and fear, erratic mood swings, tension/pain in the body and other physical indicators. It is not always easy to discern whether you need help when you are in this state. Hence, it is wise to seek aid to determine the severity of their effect on you. The best way to do this is to is seek help through counselling and therapy. Sadly, this is not a recommendation that most people quickly welcome because of a skewed perception that needing assistance with mental health struggle(s) portrays one as weak. Take courage by seeking support.

You are not alone

Finally, the most challenging thing about battling tough emotions and struggling with mental health is that you feel helpless. A Tswana-translated proverb says, “A person does not see himself”. In this context, the proverb should encourage you that even if you don’t have the strength to overcome mental health issues, there is always someone who can help you. Someone who will walk the journey of healing with you. Be encouraged, and do not let shame steal hope from your life. God has given you a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control and included fellow believers who are passionate about guiding you on how to use these skills well.

If you need someone to talk to please contact the Child Protection Hotline which is a service that makes free counselling accessible to young people.

Written by Dineo Phadimenyane

Written by: Dineo Phadimenyane

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