Emotions play a critical role in how we perceive and interact with others around us. Yet, emotions also have the power to control us and this can have harmful consequences on our emotional and even physical well-being. How exactly do we increase our emotional awareness, so that we become more perceptive of the emotions we are experiencing and respond to them so that we can make better decisions for ourselves and improve relationships with our families and friends?
On 11 July 2020, 12 participants from SHINE’s Hey Belle programme, in collaboration with YWLC, underwent a specially designed workshop on Zoom led led by our very own YWLC member Elle Cheng, Authenticity Coach and Founder of RAW (Relating Authentic World), to equip them with strategies and skills to increase their emotional awareness, develop resilience, as well as greater self-acceptance and trust in their own capabilities.
Our workshop participants being guided through a self-reflection exercise by Elle Cheng, Authenticity Coach, during the workshop.
Beginning with a ‘check-in’ exercise to help the participants be more present during the workshop, Elle encouraged them to keep an open mind and have the courage to share their experiences and learn from each other, as this would ensure they would make the most of the session. This was followed by several guided, self-reflective exercises facilitated by our YWLC mentors that allowed our participants to apply some of the tools and tips shared by Elle on how they could better identify and respond to their emotions, and achieve a higher level of awareness of their emotions and feelings. Sharing is indeed caring, and over the course of the workshop, our participants stepped out of their comfort zones to draw from their own personal experiences and how they could apply the learnings from the workshop to gain a greater sense of clarity on their emotions, and how they could make emotional awareness and integral part of their daily lives.
Here are three ‘hacks’ that Elle shared with our participants on how we can heighten our emotional awareness:
You are not your thoughts nor emotions: Rather, it is about how we respond to these emotions and thoughts that define who we are. Elle stressed to the participants that it was important not to let our emotions control us; while we need to acknowledge these emotions as and when we experience them, we need to release them and do not give them the opportunity to define or control us in any way.
Regulate your emotions with your body: Here’s an interesting fact – did you know that the Latin derivative for the word ‘emotion’ – ‘emotere’ – literally means energy in motion? It is little wonder, then, that strong, negative emotions have a tendency to exert a physical toll on our bodies, and we find ourselves feeling lethargic or even exhausted. So, how can we remedy this? Elle encouraged our participants to do something that makes them feel energised physically. For example, changing one’s posture could help one feel more confident and assured, while mindful breathing can help ease feelings of tension or stress.
Stop, reflect, respond: Dubbed as the ‘King of all hacks’, Elle called on our participants to utilise the traffic light model as the best ‘hack’ or tool to help them in their journeys towards achieving emotional wellness. Under the traffic light model, the colour red denotes stopping to recognise the emotions or feelings that one would feel in particular situation; yellow denotes pausing to reflect on these emotions or feelings, and how they might manifest physically in one’s body; and finally, green denotes responding to these emotions by drawing from one’s values and life experiences. For example, feelings of stress or anxiety could be alleviated by practising meditation, reading a book, or even simple stretching exercises.
Indeed, this was certainly a timely workshop, not just for our participants from Hey Belle, but even our YWLC mentors as many of us would have experienced an array of intense, and sometimes uncomfortable emotions, given the unprecedented scale of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant circuit breaker period that all but disrupted our day-to-day routines and sense of normalcy.
Nevertheless, the key message that Elle emphasised throughout the workshop was clear – we are not alone in experiencing this whirlwind of emotions, and there are useful hacks and tips that we could utilise to motivate us to take productive action despite our emotions and thoughts, whether positive or negative. More importantly, it is important that we honour our emotions and affirm the feelings that we experience on a daily basis; not only is this a practice in mindfulness, but it is also the first step towards achieving mental wellness and building self-compassion, resilience and confidence.