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Explore our suite of self-care tools and resources to help you better understand and manage your mental health.

The importance of managing emotions

The teenage years are an exciting time for many of us. There is so much going on in our lives, such as starting at a new school, meeting new people, and making more friends.

We may also be trying out new activities and experiences, learning to be more independent, taking on new responsibilities, and finding our strengths. As we adjust to these changes, it is natural to feel excited, tense and even sad at times. So, it is important for us to learn to manage our feelings so we can perform at our best.

The importance of managing emotions

What are emotions and why do we feel them?

We all experience emotions as a normal and important part of our lives.

Emotions are
information

They help us know how to respond appropriately to circumstances we’re in and frame what we make of the situation.

It’s normal to feel
all kinds of emotions

All emotions have their functions.
Experiencing the full range of emotions adds meaning to our lives and helps us to handle challenges.

What are emotions and why do we feel them?

6 basic emotions

There is a wide range of emotions. However, there are generally 6 basic emotions, which are universally experienced:

Anger
Anger

An emotional state leading to feelings of hostility and frustration

Disgust
Disgust

A strong emotion that results in feelings of great dislike

Fear
Fear

A primal emotion that is important to survival and triggers a fight or flight response

Happiness
Happiness

A pleasant emotional state that produces feelings of joy, contentment, and satisfaction

Sadness
Sadness

An emotional state characterised by feelings of disappointment, grief or hopelessness

Surprise
Surprise

A brief emotional state, either positive or negative, following something unexpected

Understanding our emotions

Understanding our emotions

In our teenage years, we may sometimes experience stronger emotions. For instance, we may feel angry and sad more often.

At times, we may also find it difficult to manage our emotions. However, this is normal as our brains are still developing:

  • When emotions occur, two parts of our brains are at play: the amygdala and the pre-frontal cortex.
  • The amygdala is the part of our brains that regulates emotions while the pre-frontal cortex helps in reasoning and self-control.
  • In our adolescence, the amygdala develops faster than the pre-frontal cortex, and is therefore more active in making us feel what we feel.
  • We may notice that older people are better at controlling their emotions, as their prefrontal cortex is more developed than ours. When we reach our 20s and our pre-frontal cortex is more developed, we may find ourselves better at managing our emotions.

Why is it important to understand and manage our emotions?

Although emotions are an instinctive and natural thing, they can sometimes be intense and overwhelming. That’s why we can all benefit from understanding and managing our emotions healthily.

Managing our emotions helps us make better decisions, big or small.
Managing our emotions helps us make better decisions, big or small.
Understanding our emotions allows us to become aware of the causes, so we can learn how to respond in constructive ways.
Understanding our emotions allows us to become aware of the causes, so we can learn how to respond in constructive ways.
Accepting our emotions allows us to view our thoughts and perspectives objectively, instead of automatically making negative judgements about ourselves and others.
Accepting our emotions allows us to view our thoughts and perspectives objectively, instead of automatically making negative judgements about ourselves and others.

Watch this video to see why it’s important to acknowledge and manage our emotions as they arise.


How do we manage our emotions?

Some of us may have trouble identifying emotions – especially as we tend to experience many emotions (including complex and unfamiliar ones) all at the same time. Letting the strong emotions we feel get out of hand might increase our risk of developing mental health problems, so it is important for us to learn how to manage our emotions.

Step 1: Identify the emotion
  • Practice noticing and identifying our emotions by using the feelings tracker to identify how we are feeling.
  • Avoid brushing away or pretending not to have certain emotions as we might get overwhelmed and become less effective at managing them. Our feelings are there to help us make sense of what’s going on!
  • Check in with our body too. We may also feel some body sensations with certain emotions – perhaps our face gets hot and muscles tense up.
Step 2: Know why we feel the way we do
  • Accept all our emotions as natural and not something to avoid. Seek to understand and figure out what happened that got us feeling this way.
  • Holding back uncomfortable emotions, e.g. sadness can cause these emotions to stay around longer, making us feel more depressed or anxious.
  • Our emotions can arise from many things. It could be events, situations, or even our own thoughts or memories.
  • Knowing what brought about that feeling and why we felt that way would also make it easier for us to have a better grip and assess how best to manage our feelings.
Step 3: Manage unhelpful thoughts
  • Consider whether things are really as bad as they seem. Sometimes, unhelpful thinking patterns may magnify the negativity of the situation. For example, we may overgeneralise and think, “I have failed once, I will fail again for sure”.
  • When we have such negative thoughts, we can use My Positivity Guide to reframe such thoughts by focusing on the good things around us.
  • Shred away these unhelpful thinking patterns using the Emotions Explorer.
  • Think about the best way to express our emotions or regulate them, so we can feel better. For example, would it feel more helpful to gently confront someone or work off the feeling by going for a run?
Step 4: Take action and adopt self-care tips
  • Consider doing more of the things we enjoy such as spending time in nature, listening to music or even having sufficient sleep. When we have insufficient sleep, it may be harder to manage our emotions.
  • For those who are 11 to 13 years old, it is recommended they aim for 9 to 11 hours of sleep. For those aged 14 to 17, the recommended sleep duration is 8 to 10 hours each day.
  • We can also try exercising as it has mood-boosting effects and relieves stress.
  • Learn relaxation skills such as:
How do we manage our emotions?

Be mindful to avoid toxic positivity

When managing our emotions, we might unknowingly fall into the mindset of toxic positivity, which refers to an obsession with positive thinking. This is the belief that people should put a positive spin on all experiences, neglecting and brushing away emotions like sadness and anger, in a bid to feel “positive and happy” all the time.

Signs of toxic positivity

Toxic positivity can often be subtle or not noticeable, but learning to recognise the signs can help us better identify this type of behaviour. Some signs include:

Brushing off problems rather than facing them.

Brushing off problems rather than facing them.

Feeling guilty about being sad, angry, or disappointed.

Feeling guilty about being sad, angry, or disappointed.

Hiding true feelings behind feel-good quotes that seem more socially acceptable.

Hiding true feelings behind feel-good quotes that seem more socially acceptable.

Hiding/Disguising how we really feel or trying to 'get over' painful emotions.

Hiding/Disguising how we really feel or trying to 'get over' painful emotions.

Shaming other people when they don’t have a positive attitude.

Shaming other people when they don’t have a positive attitude.

Minimising other people’s feelings because they make us uncomfortable.

Minimising other people’s feelings because they make us uncomfortable.

Risks of toxic positivity

There are also risks such as:Increased isolation and stigma (a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance) which discourage us from seeking support.Increased communication issues as we don’t see a need to solve our relationship problems because we only focus on the positive.Low self-esteem due to the inability to feel positive. We may feel as though we are failing.

There are also risks such as:

  • Increased isolation and stigma (a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance) which discourage us from seeking support.
  • Increased communication issues as we don’t see a need to solve our relationship problems because we only focus on the positive.
  • Low self-esteem due to the inability to feel positive. We may feel as though we are failing.

How do I talk about my emotions?

Talking to others about our emotions can also help us explore new perspectives and understand our thinking patterns.

Pick someone to talk to

That someone can be a friend, sibling, parent, teacher or school counsellor. We can just go to the person we feel we can trust and say, “Got a minute? There’s something I want to share.” We can then share how we feel and why. We may just find ourselves surprised that someone can help us feel better and assure us that we are not alone.

Know that we can talk about our feelings anytime

We don’t have to wait for our problems to be big or have a special time to talk about them. It’s good to practise talking about them earlier as it allows us to notice them. This can take place while going home with a classmate after school, or with a sibling at home.

We don’t have to talk about every feeling we have but noticing our feelings and saying how we feel and why, is good practice and a healthy way to express them. It is also okay to not know why we are feeling certain emotions. We can still say something like “I feel angry but I don’t know why.”

The more we talk about it, the easier it gets. It doesn’t just help us understand ourselves, but also increases the connection that we have with people who matter to us.

How do I talk about my emotions?

What if we encounter traumatic events?

Traumatic events are anything that can cause great stress to us. They can range from the death of a loved one, being physically abused, witnessing violence in the family, to events like being in a car accident.

Common and natural emotions felt after traumatic events can include fear, shame, guilt, anger, and sadness. Knowing how we feel can help us make sense of our experience. The time taken to recover and heal from traumatic events is not the same for everyone, and that’s okay. In the process of recovery, one of the things that is within our control is our ability to manage our emotions.

However, if the uncontrollable reactions (such as flashbacks and nightmares) and emotions that follow from traumatic events are overwhelming and last a long time until they affect us and the people around us, it is a cause for concern.

What if we encounter traumatic events?

Common signs that our emotions feel too much for us include:

Expressing emotions that are too intense for a situation
Finding trouble in calming ourselves down
Having difficulty identifying our emotions
Having problems controlling our attention
Being impulsive

If our emotions become too overwhelming and are beyond our control, we can always reach out to seek support. A trusted adult/friend, or a healthcare professional, can help us in our times of need. Learn more on how we can reach out to them here.

Mental health services

If you or someone you know is experiencing serious or violent family conflicts or is in an abusive situation, reach out for help by calling:


Belle, Beyond the Label Helpbot

Belle, Beyond the Label helpbot, is an interactive platform for users to find mental health resources and services in a private and convenient manner. If you or anyone you know is overwhelmed with stress or anxiety, find the help you need via Belle.

References

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