Emotions: daily challenges and role for our health
Modern life is full of emotional challenges. The pressure to succeed, the need to “keep up”, the fear of losing and the desire to have good relationships and job satisfaction are all factors that make strong emotions spring up.
However, what we learn in our society is not how to work with our emotions, but how to block and avoid them. And we do it quite well. There are a multitude of ways to avoid our feelings between alcohol, medicines and drugs. Obstructing emotions, however, is not good for mental or physical health. It’s like pressing the accelerator and brake of your car simultaneously, creating an internal pressure cooker.
In an effort to mitigate or suppress emotions, our mind and body use tactics such as muscle contraction and breathing. Symptoms such as anxiety and depression can arise from the way we relate to these “survival” emotions, which are biological forces that should not be ignored. When we want to hinder the flow of emotions because they are too overwhelming or conflicting, we put the mind and body under stress, creating psychological distress and symptoms. Emotional stress, for example, has been linked not only to mental illnesses, but also to physical problems such as heart disease, intestinal problems, headaches, insomnia and autoimmune disorders.
Most people are often governed by emotions without any awareness that this is happening. But once you understand the power of emotions, simply recognizing your own can be of great help.
Current neuroscience suggests that the more emotions and conflicts a person experiences, the more anxiety he feels. This is due in part to the vagus nerve, one of the body’s major emotional centers. It responds to the emotions unleashed in the mid-brain by sending signals to the heart, lungs and intestines. These signals prepare the body to act appropriately and immediately in the service of survival. The body is ready to react to perceived danger before the person is aware that an emotion has been triggered. It is the reason why emotions are not under our conscious control.
Teaching emotions and recognizing them
The role that emotions play in creating physical suffering and the resulting healing is becoming an increasingly popular theme in psychotherapy. However, this is not yet part of traditional care standards. Emotion education is not yet mandatory in social assistance programmes, doctoral programmes in psychology and medical schools.
However, simply teaching people that emotions are not under conscious control would help enormously. Basic biology and anatomy explain that we cannot prevent our emotions from being unleashed, as they come from the central section of our brain that is not under conscious control.
The practice of mindfulness is a very useful activity to recognize your emotions and thoughts, welcoming them as they are. It teaches us to welcome ourselves beyond the prejudices we have built upon ourselves to protect ourselves from non-existent enemies. At the same time, however, the practice of mindfulness does not leave us at the mercy of our emotions, but teaches us not to respond immediately and automatically to them.
Emotions, mindfulness and performance at work
Mindfulness trains us to welcome our emotions and not to react immediately, impulsively. This training allows for greater cognitive flexibility, which leads to greater freedom of action and greater adaptability.
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