Why Do We Need to Learn to Cope with Our Emotions?

Human life is full of emotional ups and downs. But things are even worse in this day and age, because we live in a world that has never been as busy and demanding. We deal with constant triggers on both the personal and professional fronts and hence end up living in environments that are highly charged with emotions.

Man sitting holding head in hands, unab;e to handle his emotions.

Emotional mood swings as adults can happen because of various reasons. Here are a few common ones.

  • job instability or insecurity,
  • relationship or family stress,
  • financial difficulties,
  • toxic news and media,
  • death or sickness of friends or family members

However, we have been taught to resist our emotions since we were kids. Adults often say things to children like, “Stop crying!”, “Boys don't cry,” “Girls don't shout”, “Don’t argue”, and so on.

Our culture has taught us to avoid expressing any feelings and emotions that are considered negative. As a result, when we grow up we tend to suppress them. This leads to our emotions being bottled up and manifesting in unhealthy ways that can harm us.

A young girl suppressing her emotion of anger and it manifesting as her wanting to break a pencil she is holding in both her hands. She is sitting at a desk with her notebook in front of her.

Especially given that we are now living in a world that is characterized by VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity), it is essential to manage our emotions. If we look around, we can witness a feeling of change, turbulence, and uncertainty in our professional, personal, and social lives.

In this article we discuss why it is becoming more and more critical for us to recognize our emotions and learn to regulate them.

VUCA (Volatality, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) doodle illustration  of words and symbols. Regulating our emotions is extremely critical in a VICA world.
The world we live in today is characterized as a VUCA world; we have to learn to navigate it

What happens when we don’t regulate our emotions?

When we let our emotions take over, they can manifest in unhealthy and unproductive ways. Some of them include:

  • getting angry or upset and walking away,
  • yelling at people,
  • making poor decisions and choices,
  • getting physically aggressive and/or fighting,
  • shutting down and giving the ‘silent treatment’,
  • badmouthing/gossiping
  • making false accusations
Closeup portrait of angry man screaming, with fist in air, unable to control his emotions
When we fail to regulate our emotions our behaviour goes out of control

It is easy to see that any of these behaviours can have adverse effects on our professional or personal lives. They stem from a lack of understanding of our feelings and their triggers. They mostly go back to when we were very young and unable to process and express our emotions in healthy ways.

What actually happens when we can’t regulate our emotions?

As adults, we usually have two options when we face stressful situations:

  1. let our emotions take over and drive our reactions, or
  2. understand and manage our emotions so that we choose how to react

#2 is obviously the harder choice, but is also the most appropriate one. Once we master regulating our emotions, we can experience the benefits in all aspects of life.

Diagram showing emotional triggers, emotions and the reactions to our emotions
Our emotions can be managed; the first step is to become aware of them and our triggers

Suppressing our emotions causes suffering

When we try to suppress our feelings, unwanted emotions, it leads to more pain and negativity. Ignoring them can give us temporary relief, but in the long term it will ruin our mental well-being. For example: When you are wounded, if you simply put a band aid on it, it might temporarily stop the bleeding, and you may get some relief from the pain. But unless it is treated or medicated with an antiseptic (or might need stitches at times), in a few days, the wound will become infectious, and cause further damage.

A glass bottle with the word emotions written on a label. The image indicates bottling up of emotions.
Bottling up and suppressing our emotions is never the right approach to managing them

Recognizing our emotions is vital for our physical and mental well-being. Emotions actually help us understand what is going on around us. For example, if we don’t get good grades in exams, or get rejected from a job, we experience a feeling of sadness and disappointment.

Our body communicates with ourselves and others through emotions.

When we feel anger, disappointment, distress, or rejection, we should not ignore or hide the feeling from ourselves. Instead, trying to address why we are feeling the emotion and accepting it is the solution.

Remember, there are no ‘negative’ emotions

A very common belief is that there are positive and negative emotions, and that we need to embrace positive emotions and suppress the negative ones.

However, we are all human and we are bound to feel a range of emotions depending on our circumstances. All our emotions are valid; regulating them is key to more fruitful outcomes.

It is a fallacy that some emotions are negative while others are positive.
Closeup portrait, dull upset sad young woman in white dress sitting on bench, really depressed, down about something
All our emotions are valid, including unpleasant ones

Let’s say we are in a job interview or a sales discussion at work when the compensation or contract value is being discussed. If the discussion is going well and in your favour, would you smile and jump for the joy revealing to the other party that you are very excited. Wouldn’t this reaction be giving away your position? How about at a poker table? Would you smile and let the opponent know you have a great set of cards?

On the flip side, if a close friend or relative passes away, or you go through a break-up, are you not supposed to be sad? Isn’t it natural to feel grief or sadness with this loss? But will yelling or taking it out on someone else help the situation?

So as we can see with both cases, there are situations in which we are bound to feel happiness and sadness. Managing how we react and engaging with our emotions in a healthy way is the key.

How does regulating our emotions help us?

1. Identifying our emotions and naming them itself is powerful

Research indicates that the simple act of naming our emotions has the ability to calm us down and make us feel in control. Identifying and naming our emotions is a big part of regulating them. In fact, this is what constitutes emotional intelligence: the ability to become aware of our emotions, experience them, and approach them with kindness.

2. It helps us channelize our emotions

As we explained earlier, all human emotions are normal. But if we fail to channelize and regulate emotions in the right direction, it can affect our lifestyle, friendships, and relationships.

If we learn to identify our emotions, understand the reason behind their occurrence, and find a healthy outlet for them, it will be beneficial for our personal, professional, and social lives.

For example, when one is angry, instead of yelling or hurting someone around us, going for run or engaging in some structured martial arts is a productive way to unleash more control. Journaling our thoughts or taking some time to meditate while learning to deep-breathe are other tools to help us address our feelings and understand the roots of our triggers.

father and his son standing on balcony enjoying deep breathing which is a great technique to battle stress and practise mindfulness
Regulating our emotions can help us channelize them in healthy ways

3. It is vital for healthy relationships

Emotional awareness nurtures relationships. If we understand our emotions, we are able to express our feelings better.

Two young men talking to each other animatedly in the outdoors. Expressing ourselves to our loved ones is only possible when we know our own emotions.
Emotionally aware people find it easier to communicate with partners and loved ones than those who are not

If we are unable to cope with our emotions and suppress them, it can create miscommunication between people around us. The better we understand our feelings, the more we will be able to overcome difficulties in relationships.

4. It can help us lead healthier lives

Running from our emotions will just end up making us feel exhausted. If we ignore our emotions instead of processing them, we prevent ourselves from living a healthy life. Jealousy, anxiety, happiness, frustration, anger, pain, and feeling are natural and part of the human experience.

For example, it is understandable to feel dejected after missing out on a promotion at work. It is also very likely to feel disappointed when someone close to you made a mistake.

Suppressing our feelings without processing them could lead to all kinds of issues in the long term.

It could affect our stress and anxiety levels, our concentration at work, our relationships (with our colleagues/boss/customers and friends), and all of these things could have ripple effects in return.

(Read our articles on internal and the external signs of stress to learn more.)

If we learn to cope with both unpleasant and pleasant emotions, we will be able to manage them. We hence need to develop emotional tools and coping tactics to deal with them.

5. It enables us to ask for help

Life is uncertain and full of ups and downs. There will be times when things won’t go well, and we’ll need someone to share our feelings. Being capable of recognizing our emotions is the first step to sharing how we feel and unburdening ourselves.

Image of a note against the backdrop of a plant. The note says: "I am struggling. Please help.' It indicates asking for help to regulate one's emotions.
It is important to ask for help when we feel we are overwhelmed with our emotions
When we understand our emotions, we can ask for guidance and support from others.

We should learn how to communicate with people around us and identify what we need to regulate our emotions.

Wrapping up...

Being vulnerable and expressing our emotions is not a sign of weakness; in fact it shows our real strength. We have to accept our emotions to live a healthy life. Suppressing our feelings can make any situation worse.

Image of a group of human stick figures. One of them is holding a happy smiley but has a thought bubble with a sad smiley. It indicates how human beings mask emotions and don't show how they're really feeling to the world.
We needn’t always show our emotions to the world, but accepting them is essential

However, there will be times when we can’t express or process our emotions at the moment. This is when we can use healthy coping strategies to deal with them. To reiterate, we deserve to feel our emotions, embrace them, and treat ourselves with kindness.

Did you enjoy this article?

Do Subscribe and Follow us on our YouTube page for more Life Skills related content.


Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes only. Lokyatha has observed best effort due diligence and all health related content is reviewed by a trained professional before publishing. However, this should not and can not replace personalized medical help. Please refer to a professional in all cases of need.