Asking for a Friend: Help! How do I stop my emotions from taking control of my life?

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  • Each week, we respond to a question from our readers and give advice and resources they can turn to
  • This week, we help a student who makes emotional decisions and wants to learn how to be more rational
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It’s easy to make rash decisions, and you don’t need to turn your emotions off; you just need to know how to regulate them! Photo: Shutterstock

Need an answer to a personal question that you’ve never mustered the courage to ask? We’ve been there. Whether it is about school, family issues or social life, share your thoughts with us. If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please fill out this Google Form. Don’t worry – you will remain anonymous!

Dear Friend,

I recently realised that I often make decisions based on my mood at the time, and I usually end up regretting my choice. I want to learn how to be a more rational and responsible person. How do I stop my emotions from taking control of my life?

Sincerely, Sentimental Me

I’m always worried and jealous - what can I do?

Dear Sentimental Me,

Making rash decisions, without really considering the consequences, is a problem that many people have. Intense emotions can be hard to handle and take a toll on a person. Let’s talk about how to understand and manage them.

Create a buffer

The best, and perhaps most obvious, advice we can give is to give yourself some space before making a decision. Do something that takes your mind off how you’re feeling, something that brings you peace - maybe you can take a walk, play video games, or listen to some music. After giving yourself a break to let your emotions subside, you can come back and look at your problem with fresh perspective.

You can’t turn your emotions on and off, but you can learn how to control them. Photo: Shutterstock

Accept your emotions

Emotions are a natural part of being human, and they are not all bad. Even negative feelings like anxiety, anger, and sadness can teach us important lessons. They make our lives colourful and challenging; if life were easy all the time, it would be hard to learn something new. Rather than repressing your emotions, a better goal would be to learn how to regulate and understand them.

Identify your emotions and thoughts

Quite often, simply recognising and identifying your emotions can help you regain a sense of control. Are you depressed because you lost something important? Angry about being treated unfairly? Anxious about being confronted? Try to spell out exactly which emotions bubble to the surface; it can help you gain important insight into your mind.

Help! I’m a good student, so my friends and family don’t take my stress seriously

Express your feelings

You have to feel your feelings; it’s crucial for getting through distressing emotions. Keep a personal journal - whether digital or on paper - where you can write about your feelings, or write a letter to yourself. It might help you uncover some patterns and emotional triggers, and you can also keep track of how you reacted to different situations. This will help you learn more about yourself and help you learn how to take better control of your emotions. You also don’t have to go about this alone; talking to someone you trust is a good way to vent and have your feelings validated. They might also be able to give you some advice, or tips that worked for them when they faced a similar problem.

You’ve got this, Friend of a Friend

The question was answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under Shall We Talk, a mental health initiative launched with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health.

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