From awesome to awful (and back again…)
Last Thursday, I found myself in one of those situations where everything goes from awesome to awful in an instant. I was stranded at the airport due to a mix-up by the Qantas staff. What I felt was frustration, anger, disappointment and sad (that’s the pc version)! The words do not do the strength of my emotions justice!
While these negative emotions threatened to derail my entire day, I fought the urge to succumb (and get cranky with the gate staff) and realised something important – in this very moment, I had a choice.
In Pharmacy, we are constantly met with situations that create negative emotions. You feel disrespected, a miscommunication lands you in the firing line of a patient, you wear the brunt of a staff member’s poor attitude or your plans seem to pale into insignificance because someone else has a priority. These are crappy situations and you have a right to feel angry, sad, frustrated, resentful or any negative emotion. But, you too have a choice.
Learning how to enact this choice is one of the most critical skills you can learn today, tomorrow or this year.
Before you leave, having a choice does not mean forced positivity, bottling emotions or ‘battling on’. The choice I am talking about is choosing how we feel in an emotionally intelligent way. When you can do this, it is truly life-changing.
This is how to do it… (the crash course version)
1. Acknowledge the Emotions: We’re Only Human
First, it’s essential to recognize that being human means embracing a spectrum of emotions. We can’t always control external events, but we can control how we respond to them. Frustration, disappointment, and even anger are equally natural reactions as feeling happy, excited, or valued. The first step in managing any emotion is to understand them. This is as important for positive emotions because how can we regenerate the same emotions if we don’t learn what caused them in the first place? In the case of negative emotions, we need to explore what caused them to see how we can influence them.
In my case, I chose not to fight my feelings but sat down and thought about why they had appeared. What I found was that I was frustrated, sad and angry because I had less time at my destination, I now had to miss some business meetings and it was ruining my perfect plan for productivity. By understanding where my emotions were coming from, I then could begin to explore what I could do and what I had to let go.
2. Shifting Perspectives: What Can You Control?
The biggest energy zapper is spending time thinking about things you cannot control. It’s a spiral with no outcome. Once I knew what I wanted from the day, productivity, connection and the experience of a new destination, I began to think about what I could still achieve and what was out of my control. While the flight delay stole some hours, it couldn’t steal my entire day. I redefined productivity; my laptop and a few pots of tea put productivity back on track. The cancelled meeting got shifted, now virtual but not completely lost. Plus, I took the opportunity to lean into connection and call some people who I had been meaning to catch up with. As for exploring my destination, I could still do that, though I had to reshuffle my schedule and my time would be reduced.
Shifting the needle on fulfilling what I truly wanted would have been impossible to do without having dived beyond the initial emotions. You can’t make yourself calm, connected, productive or happy just by flicking a switch. It takes effort to identify what need has been challenged and if you can meet these needs in another way.
This takes practice to do quickly but the more you practice the better you will be at being able to do it on the go. In the meantime, if it’s a bigger problem or the emotions seem more challenging to manage, taking time at the end of the day or when you have time is important to ensure these negative emotions don’t continue to run life.
3. Take the Reins: Choose Your Emotional Path
Believe it or not, we have a choice in how we feel. No one tells you you need to feel angry or happy from a conversation, you do that to yourself. Emotions are an inside job! Once you realise that, it’s liberating. Thankfully, you can also feel positive and negative emotions at once!
As I mentioned up the top, my emotions were HUGE (yes, I may have almost cried) but by making a choice to address the emotions. I chose to be disappointed yet motivated, frustrated but proud of my emotional resilience, and calm because I was able to adapt. This is emotional intelligence at work. This skill of being able to shift from unproductive states to being productive is a game-changer.
Once you identify what you want (for example, to feel respected, productive, content, and happy) you can choose what you can do to get there. This is not a passive process, you need to take some action. The more you rely on someone else to make the change for you the less likely it is to occur. Remember, choosing emotions is an inside job. There is no knight (or manager) coming to save you.
4. The Journey Ahead: Mastering Emotional Resilience
Looking back, I realise that learning to manage my emotions in an emotionally intelligent way has been the cornerstone of my personal and professional growth. It’s a skill I wish I had embraced earlier in my career. Toxic or forced positivity doesn’t work. It makes people suppress emotions. That is not healthy! Emotion stuffing leads to burnout and also impacts our ability to show empathy, be present, inspiring and resilient. This means, that your capacity to manage your own emotions influences others. This is how EI works, it ripples.
My mission is to share this knowledge with as many Pharmacists as possible. That’s why our upcoming early career pharmacist leadership development program will focus on this vital aspect of self-mastery. It’s more than just a skill; it’s a superpower that can elevate not just our careers, but our entire lives.
A Tool to Get You Started
If you’re ready to take charge of your emotions we are offering you a free tool to download. This tool also serves as a poster that is a daily guide to managing emotions in the moment effectively. Complete the form below to download your tool.