There’s no right or wrong when it comes to experiencing your feelings – but when it comes to expressing them, over which you do have some choice, there’s a limit.

When the way you express emotions starts interfering with your daily functioning – your job, friendships, relationship – you’re in the danger zone.

Of course, it’s normal to react emotionally to a stressful event such as a death, retrenchment or relationship break-up, and sometimes a great, big, spontaneous burst of emotion is appropriate and healing.

But when your negative emotional reaction drags on and on, you should investigate the deeper issues behind it. For instance, if you often feel tearful and victimised, and dread going to work in the morning, and spit mean comments when colleagues forget to pass on phone messages, there’s a problem. Over-the-top emotional reactions often hint at underlying emotional pressures that you haven’t yet acknowledged or dealt with.

If you’re not reacting to a particular event, but you’re often tearful, irritable or over-emotional, you could be experiencing a mood disorder such as depression, anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder, or perhaps you’re emotionally immature – in other words, you have difficulty differentiating between feeling an emotion and expressing it. That said, some people are also simply more active emotionally – they have a wider array of feelings and they’re more sensitive to life.

The key to handling your feelings is taking time to get to know yourself. Emotions are a part of life, and the more aware you are of your own emotional state, the more self-control you’ll have in expressing your feelings.



1. Don’t repress or downplay your

Instead, acknowledge them and allow yourself to really feel them. For instance, if you’re on the verge of tears, don’t ignore the urge. Go somewhere private and let yourself cry. If you want to scream with frustration, do it in a car or go into your bedroom and shout into your pillow.

2. Learn to bite your tongue

When you’re moments away from lashing out at somebody, remove yourself from the situation and spend a few minutes alone to gather your thoughts. Without judgment, identify what you’re feeling. Is it panic? Anger? Despair? Calm yourself back to rational thought with whatever works for you – counting slowly to 20, taking 10 deep breaths, remembering a recent tragedy in the news, or, literally, biting your tongue!

3. Use your emotions as feedback

Your feelings can help you pinpoint what’s actually bothering you. Express your emotions in writing, answering these questions:

Q. Why am I feeling this way?
Q. What is it related to?

We often experience a number of feelings, rather than one in isolation, and sorting through them helps us understand our underlying needs and wants.

4. Channel your emotional energy into a constructive response

Choose how you’re going to communicate or express what you’re feeling. You might decide to confront someone in a calm, cool, rational way, or talk through a difficult situation or traumatic event with a close friend, or move jobs, or opt to see a therapist.

Remember, your emotions sit inside your body. Releasing physical tension by playing squash, punching a cushion when you’re angry, or having a massage when feeling stressed can go a long way in helping you stay healthy.