Luisa Tam
SCMP Columnist
The Naked Truth
by Luisa Tam
The Naked Truth
by Luisa Tam

Heightened emotions can ruin your life and relationships: how to recognise and manage intense or irrational feelings

  • Emotions are an intrinsic part of our lives, but if they become too intense or irrational, they can cause problems
  • Fortunately, there are a number of strategies to help us learn to manage these feelings

As we know, our emotions fluctuate from time to time and these changes can be triggered by external or internal factors. But at times, they can be affected for reasons we can’t easily understand.

When we are unable to manage, process, or control our emotions, it can be frustrating, both to ourselves and others around us. But if we learn to manage our emotions appropriately, it can bring innumerable benefits to our well-being as well as our relationships, including romantic ones.

We are also painfully aware of the emotional strain brought on by festive seasons such as the Lunar New Year. Periods like this can be exhausting for anyone, given the physical, financial and emotional strain that comes with entertaining family and friends.

Plus, the threat of Covid-19 hasn’t helped matters. With the upcoming holiday taking place against the backdrop of a global pandemic, understanding emotional regulation is especially crucial now.

Christine Deschemin is a hypnotherapist who practises in Hong Kong. Photo: Christine Deschemin

The first thing is to understand what heightened emotions are, and how we get to such a state.

Christine Deschemin, a certified hypnotherapist and founder of the Hong Kong-based Renewed Edge Hypnotherapy Centre, says: “We are naturally wired to feel a range of emotions for a limited period of time. But when the emotions venture out of a manageable range for too long, they take the best out of us and impact our ability to function in society and in our relationships.”

How to protect your mental health during and after the pandemic

Deschemin says the contributing factors are situational and psychological. “Stress, major life changes, grief, and trauma create situations where emotions affect people’s day-to-day life. Prolonged stress, anxiety and depression can also impair a person’s ability to regulate their emotions. In the case of depression, negative emotions tend to be more intense while positive emotions pale in comparison.”

If we want to better manage our emotions to benefit ourselves and our relationships, we need to remind ourselves that emotions are good.

She explains, “They are inherently intertwined with our physiology. They help us take action and raise our awareness about the situation. For example, fear is a healthy emotion when justified. We naturally seek protection or shelter when we are afraid of something. But the problem arises when the fear is irrational.”

Remember that we are all human, and this means accepting that we can have a whole range of emotions. Some of them are positive, others less so. We are wired to experience a whole range of emotions and trying to ignore or control our emotions is a mistake
Christine Deschemin, hypnotherapist and founder of Renewed Edge Hypnotherapy Centre

Deschemin stresses that it is vital to reframe the experience that is triggering the intense emotion. By changing the way in which you frame such a situation, you can take away much of that emotion’s intensity and better cope with it. She reminds us that one huge mistake that can cause any progress we have made to backslide is to keep focusing on the feelings.

“Focus on the underlying need instead. When you are aware of the kind of inner talk that brings out a particular emotion, you can reframe your perspective in a way that leads to a more productive behaviour.

“A common mistake people make is focusing on controlling emotions instead of focusing on the type of behaviour that yields the most benefits. The emotions will then become more manageable if you choose to focus on the end result.”

Regulating your emotions helps you lead a balanced life. Illustration: Marcelo Duhalde

Self-regulation is of paramount importance if you want to achieve balanced relationships with yourself and others.

She points out some common mistakes people make when they try to manage their emotions and offers advice on how to avoid these pitfalls.

“Remember that we are all human, and this means accepting that we can have a whole range of emotions. Some of them are positive, others less so. We are wired to experience a whole range of emotions and trying to ignore or control our emotions is a mistake.”

Emotions, good and bad, are part of life, and trying to ignore them is a mistake. Photo: Shutterstock

One approach is to elevate your emotional awareness, and to do so without judgment. Try to discover why you are feeling that emotion. Then, find out what it tells you about how you perceive yourself or the world, she advises.

“Learn to pause when you feel angry and when you experience other negative feelings. A pause allows you to become aware of what you’re feeling. It is only by increasing the amount of data that you collect about yourself that you can devise new plans.”

“Change your mindset; emotions are not something we have to eliminate but a gift that evolution has given us.”

Hypnotherapy can help people deal with fears and anxieties. Photo: Shutterstock

She adds that hypnotherapy can help a person deal with phobias, manage stress and relieve anxiety and depression. “It is the tool of choice to help reframe a perspective, and this tool can be learned over the course of a few sessions. Once a situation loses some of its triggers, the associated emotions lose their intensity as well.”

If two people cause negative effects on each other’s emotions, does that mean the relationship is doomed?

Deschemin explains: “The relationship is not necessarily doomed, but it needs adjustments from both partners. You can hate someone for pushing your buttons, but you can also work on removing those triggers.”

A good night’s sleep and a healthy diet are important for your well-being. Photo: Shutterstock

Top tips on how to regulate your emotions

• Sufficient sleep and a healthy diet nurture a healthy mind

• Exercise regularly such as doing aerobic exercise

• Try to avoid anxiety producing news

• Manage your environment; stay away from emotional triggers until you can handle them

• Don’t try to numb you emotions as they will come back stronger. People numb emotions by distracting themselves with food, video streaming or being busy

• Label your emotions and identify the causes

Luisa Tam is a correspondent at the Post