Mackay: Try these strategies to help get a grip on your emotions

  • Article by: HARVEY MACKAY
  • July 29, 2012 - 6:05 PM

You are driving to work when a driver cuts into your lane and nearly clips you. You get mad, and it sets you off for the morning.

A co-worker calls in "sick" -- again -- so you'll be doing double-duty for the third time this month. Your own work is piling up while you try to cover for her. You head to the manager, ready to explode.

You have tickets for a ballgame you've been looking forward to attending with your family, but the dark clouds overhead open up and ruin your plans. Your kids are disappointed, and you curse the weather gods.

Wouldn't it be great if you could control your emotions and shake off these events, along with all the other things that might happen to you on any given day? It's natural to be upset when things don't go according to plan. But all too often, we overreact and start a domino effect that prevents us from seeing the positive side of anything.

George Foreman, former heavyweight boxing champ, makes a great point: "Being angry and resentful of someone is like letting them live rent-free in your head."

Fortunately, there are some very effective strategies for getting a grip on your emotions. It takes practice, but the payoff is unmistakable. Your blood pressure will thank you, too.

Practice good self-care. Take care of your own physical, emotional and mental needs. Someone who does this will be able to handle negative emotions better -- and not become a threat to others.

Identify what anger and frustration feel like -- in your head and in your body. If people are cut off from their feelings, there is a much higher chance that they'll act rashly.

Get out of the stressful situation and take a walk. Take the time you need to process feelings and emotions. Perhaps it's enough to take a deep breath and count to 10 -- slowly.

Vent to someone who will listen without judging.

Find a temporary distraction. Engage in an activity to take your mind off the upsetting subject.

Take action. Think about how the situation could be positively changed, and then encourage steps to help solve the problem.

Communicate your desire for change to others who can help make the change a reality.

Think about "what's right" rather than "what's wrong."

According to a story on, "A gardener ran a business that had been in the family for two or three generations .... For as long as anyone could remember, the current owner and previous generations of owners were extremely positive, happy people. Most folk assumed it was because they ran a successful business. In fact, it was the other way around.

"A tradition in the business was that the owner always wore a big lapel badge, saying 'Business is Great!' even though it went through tough times like any other. What never changed, however, were the owner's attitude and the badge.

"Everyone who saw the badge for the first time invariably asked, 'What's so great about business?'

"The badge always tended to start a conversation, which typically involved the owner talking about lots of positive aspects of business and work. Even the most miserable would usually end up feeling a lot happier after just a couple minutes of listening to all this infectious enthusiasm and positivity.

"It is tough to measure an attitude like this, but to one extent or another, it's probably a self-fulfilling prophecy. The business owner freely admitted: 'The badge came first. The great business followed.'"

Mackay's Moral: Attitude is the mind's paintbrush -- it can color any situation.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail

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