Last week, my boyfriend brought me gift from his business trip: a mood ring. I hadn't had one since the '90s and was thrilled. Back then they hadn't worked so well, but apparently they've upped the technology in these rings since my childhood (or perhaps my moods have just gotten stronger...). In any case, the ring seemed to work like magic -- turning to purple (love) when I was fawning over my Bella pup, pink (romance) when I was with my boyfriend, yellow (anxious) when I was about to give Bella the medicine I knew she didn't want to take, and green (mixed emotions) when I was feeling an array of things. It was magic -- and I was mesmerized, checking it every so often to see if it matched up with my current emotions.
Though for the most part it stayed normal (blue), it surprisingly morphed to green (mixed emotions) frequently over the course of the few days I was wearing it. Which got to me thinking: how often are we really in one emotional state? I often find myself defining my emotions with a single word -- "happy," "sad," "angry," etc. -- but wearing this ring (as silly as it is) has made me realize that my emotional state is often much more complex than a single word. And this past week was a particularly good illustration of that.
Last Wednesday (the very same day I received the mood ring!), I launched Live Happily Ever After Now : A Guide + Workbook for Living in the Moment. I was overwhelmed with the wonderful response I received (and am still receiving!) for the workbook. It is the first product I've launched and I had no idea what to expect. The positive feedback (and sales!) had my heart soaring, confirming what I'd been questioning from the very first day I decided to leave my full time job: would people really want to pay for my work? Turns out the answer is YES! and I couldn't have been happier.
But my stellar mood was dampened by a frustrating and sobering reality: Bella, who had already lost nearly two of her eight pounds, wasn't eating.* This meant Bella wasn't taking the medicine she needed to help regulate her kidney disease. No matter what I tried -- fresh chicken, salmon, treats -- she wouldn't eat. I was devastated, recalling the vet telling me that one of the signs of it being "the end" would be that she would stop eating. As thrilled as I was to be launching Live Happily Ever After Now, staying in the present was increasing difficult.
My emotions were all over the place -- one moment I was thrilled to see another sale pop up in my inbox, the next I was looking at super-skinny Bella with tears spilling down my cheeks. My mood ring was green and my emotions were most currently mixed. Coping with constant assents and descents was maddening (Should I allow myself to be happy about my workbook's success while Bella lay starving at my feet? Should I direct all my attention to Bella, who seemed so frail and helpless, and ignore those exciting emails flooding my inbox?), and in the midst of it all I realized that this must be common.
At some point, we all encounter days (months? years?) filled with altering moments of happiness and sadness, fear and hope, gratitude and anger. When we face these emotions one after another -- or even at the same time -- managing them can be difficult. What do we focus on? What do we push aside? I've never been an advocate of ignoring emotions (they always creep back in eventually...), but how do we cope with a myriad of emotions at once?
Managing mixed emotions can be incredibly difficult, especially when in the midst of experiencing them. In a highly emotional state, the last thing you probably want to do is think about how you can manage your emotions -- but, believe me, it's worth putting in a little extra effort to help yourself cope. Below are some of the things I've tried over the past few days, things that have really helped me to cope with the ups and downs...
5 Ways to Manage Mixed Emotions
1. Acknowledge your emotions. Emotions are not choices and we don't usually contemplate on which one we could like before we experience it. They sneak up on us and suddenly we're feeling happy or sad or angry or elated. The first step in managing your emotions is realizing that they are there. When you find yourself feeling or acting emotional, take a moment to think about how you're feeling. Ask yourself what emotions you are really experiencing. Pay attention to your body. It will give you clues (clenched fists, increased heartbeat, etc.) to alert you of a new emotional state. Once you've identified your emotions, you have a much better chance of managing them.
2. Accept what you're feeling. Accepting emotions doesn't come always come easily. For example, it was hard for me to accept my feelings of elation when I knew Bella wasn't doing well. Happiness seemed like a contradiction (even though it was unrelated to her illness). Even so, I realized I had to accept my emotions -- whatever they were. We're all entitled to feel how we want to feel (what we do with those feelings is a different story...). When faced with mixed emotions, it's important to both acknowledge and accept them. Even if your emotions don't seem to fit with the situation, even if your emotions seem to contradict one another, accepting them without judgment will help you cope.
3. Find outlets for your emotions. Emotions don't do well when you keep them all bottled up inside. It helps to let them out -- through talking about them, writing about them, etc. Identify an outlet that works for you (for me, it's writing) and let your emotions flow freely in that arena. For some, it might be hours of chatting with a close friend. For others, it might be taking to the field, gym, or court and expressing those emotions through physical exertion. Whatever works best for you, find it and make good use of it. Letting your emotions out in a healthy way is one of the best ways to manage them, especially when you are dealing with more than one emotion.
4. Indulge in relaxation. In a heightened emotional state -- particularly one with multiple emotions -- relaxation is probably going to be the last thing on your mind. When I found myself overjoyed and overwhelmed last week, the last thing I wanted to do (or even thought I could do!) was relax. But relaxation really helps to put things in perspective. No matter how crazy things are, find a few moments to take a break and relax. Even if it's just a minute or two, taking some time away from whatever is impacting your emotions can work wonders. A deep breath, a brisk walk, a moment alone -- all of these can help you find solace in times of emotional craziness.
5. Bring yourself back to the now. Especially when dealing with a mixture of negative emotions, staying in the now doesn't seem like the best idea. However, most negative emotions are a result of worrying about what could be or fretting about what could be. Staying in the moment allows us to focus on what's happening right now -- not what could happen or what did happen. Even when it's hard, being present is always more positive than focusing on the past or future. When I was struggling last week, I pulled out my Live Happily Ever After Now workbook and started filling it out. Doing so brought me back to the moment and made my magnitude of emotions much easier to manage.
More than we'd probably like to admit, we're ruled by our emotions. Good or bad, they often find a way to permeate our lives, our work, our interactions with others. Most people just let their emotions take the reins because it seems like the easiest path in times of extreme emotion. Of course, the easiest path is often an illusion and letting our emotions have control often results in more difficulty than delight. While we'll never be able to control everything we feel (and don't think we'd want to), we can take some responsibility for our emotions.
The small scrap of paper that came with my mood ring reads: Your own energy will cause the mood ring to change color to reveal your inner emotions. Whether or not you're wearing a mood ring, your inner emotions are on display through your words and actions. Your emotional state plays a huge role in what kind of day you will have, how you will interact with others, what types of decisions you'll make, etc. Don't let your life be ruled by your moods -- instead, take control of your emotions, take accountability for your feelings. You have more power over your emotions than you realize.
* Bella's now eating again and seems a little bit more like her old self. Yay!