Wednesday, October 10, 2012

From Outbursts to Outstanding: How to Manage Your Emotions Wisely - Whitney Hopler

Do you often feel unglued emotionally? Life is full of stress that can lead to overwhelming emotions such as fear and anger. Those feelings can well up inside your soul to the point where you struggle with emotional outbursts, which can significantly damage your relationships with God and other people.

Even if you’ve developed a habit of losing control of your emotions, God can give you the self-control you need to manage them wisely and enjoy the healthy relationships He intends for you.

Here’s how:

Admit your struggles. Be honest with yourself about the destructive ways you’ve been managing your emotions, confess your sins (such as hurting people against whom you’ve unleashed emotional outbursts) to God, and ask God to empower you to change so that you can start dealing with your emotions in healthy ways.

Recognize that your emotions can work for you rather than against you. Your emotions aren’t bad; they’re good when you use them for the purpose for which God created them: to fully experience life. Step into the healing process with confidence. Don’t get overwhelmed when you think about how hard it seems to change. Instead, rely on the grace that God will give you day by day for the healing process. Whenever you make mistakes, learn from them and move on, knowing that imperfect progress is still progress that matters.

Change your thought patterns. Since your thoughts determine the way you choose to respond to the emotions you feel, you need to replace unhealthy thoughts with healthy thoughts that will help you wisely manage your emotions. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind every day, empowering you to think thoughts that reflect the truth. Remind yourself that God is constantly working for good in your life, so you can stop feeling freaked out from trying to fix your problems on your own. Realize that you can face situations that are out of your control without acting out of control emotionally, because God is ultimately in control of your life, and He wants the best for you.

View emotionally unglued moments as wake-up calls. When you feel overwhelmed by your emotions and unable to manage them, pay attention to what triggers you to feel that way, and then ask God to help you heal and grow in whatever areas in which you need His help. Don’t label yourself as a mess and stay stuck in your struggles. Instead, trust that God really can help you change for the better over time.

Identify your style of reacting to troubling emotions. People tend to react in one of two ways to emotions that feel troubling to them: exploding (pushing emotions outward) or stuffing (pushing emotions inward). Once you’ve identified how you naturally react to emotions that disturb you, you can choose to respond to them intentionally rather than react to them without thinking first. Instead of exploding or stuffing, aim to process troubling emotions with integrity, relying on the Holy Spirit’s help to do so.

Overcome emotionally exploding. Create a response template you can use in a heated moment (when you’re tempted to explode into an emotional outburst), so you can respond in a healthier way that spewing your emotions out. Start by honoring the person with whom you’re in conflict as someone whom God loves. Respect his or her dignity when you respond. Aim to respond in a brief and graceful way, by acknowledging your hurt, clarifying your intentions, honestly yet gently expressing your thoughts about the issue, apologizing if appropriate, asking the person to give you grace in this situation, and extending compassion to him or her. Read and memorize some Bible verses that help you calm down when you’re upset and inspire you to trust God in difficult situations. Then ask the Holy Spirit to bring them to mind whenever you find yourself in a heated moment. Trust the Holy Spirit to help you learn how to restrain your emotions well. Spend some time with God in a quiet place regularly, humbling yourself, asking God to reveal what He wants you to learn from your emotional struggles, and listening for God’s answers.

Overcome emotionally stuffing. Decide to deal with your emotions through honest transparency rather than stuffing them deep inside, where they will change into bitterness that can poison your relationships with God and other people. Instead of putting up barriers between yourself and people who have emotionally hurt you, set up healthy boundaries that communicate clear expectations but still make it possible for relationships to continue. Realize that your job in relationships with hurtful people is simply to be obedient to God in the way you act toward those people; it’s not your job to fix hurtful people, or to allow them to continue to treat you with disrespect or abuse. If a person continues emotionally toxic behaviors toward you even after you’ve set up boundaries, cut off the relationship to protect yourself. Do your best to live in peace with people who do respect your boundaries. When conflict arises in those relationships, tackle the issue, not the person. Also, ask yourself whether you’re really trying to improve the relationship, or whether you’re simply trying to prove you’re right – and make your goal improving the relationship. Deal with unrealistic expectations that may be causing you to stuff your emotions. Openly and gently discuss your expectations with others, and then prayerfully discern whether or not your expectations are realistic. Ask God to help you let go of unrealistic expectations (things that people are either unable or unwilling to do for you).

Check your motives and assumptions. When you begin to feel emotionally overwhelmed, reflect on your motives and assumptions about other people in that particular situation. If you sense selfishness, pride, impatience, anger, or bitterness at work in your soul, remember who you are (God’s beloved child) and redirect your focus to Jesus, asking Him to purify your motives and give you a healthy perspective on the situation. Also, recognize that you can’t accurately assume what other people’s motives are for what they say and do – only God knows – so trust Him to help you successfully handle the situation.

Make praise and thanksgiving habits in your life. Develop a frequent pattern of praising God and thanking Him for His work in your life. Doing so will invite His power to flow through your life in fresh ways, changing negatives to positives and empowering you to manage your emotions well.

Enjoy Sabbath rest in your life. Observe the weekly Sabbath that God wants you to take. When you do, you’ll gain the rest you need to help control your emotions, plus the time to focus more deeply on how God wants you to heal and grow emotionally.

Source: Adapted from Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, copyright 2012 by Lysa TerKheurst. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich.,

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