The month of February was spent mostly on a small island off the west coast of Florida. It was an experiment to see what it would be like to have a significant break from the winter blasts we get here in Maryland, and to work remotely at a slower pace. Jim, my beau, was there for the first and fourth week, and we enjoyed the time to kick back and just be together without a lot of work commitments. Friends also joined us for part of our stay, which was such fun. And, I had a blissful ten days to myself…a real luxury. I spent hours each day while alone, walking on the beautiful beach. It was so relaxing to just listen to my body and follow my own rhythm each day. I ate out (a lot), explored the island, met some interesting people, walked for miles, hit the gym, and never missed a sunset on the beach.
One thing I noticed during my month away was that my emotions were much more evident than usual. Maybe it was the cleansing sense you get listening to the surf, and being outside a lot. Perhaps it was because I had time to write more in my journal, or slow down from my usual fast pace. Maybe I just was able to thaw out from the cold. Every sense seemed heightened. I found myself laughing out loud (even and especially when alone), feeling totally peaceful, enveloped in a sense of bliss. There were also times I felt anger, angst or sadness. Generally, I think of myself as a pretty even-keeled person, so the wide and powerful range of emotions was somewhat surprising to me. And so welcome.
In my work with clients, we sometimes talk about emotions and how and when to express them in the workplace. Some of us are just more low-key than others, which is neither good nor bad. In order to get in touch more with my emotions, I find it helpful to create a written continuum of emotions. For example, start with 1 as perfectly calm, even flat…and ranging up to 10 as very emotional…then fill in what each emotion from 1 to 10 looks, feels and sounds like. You can focus on a particular emotional set, such as anger, happiness, anxiety, or joy, etc. The continuum of emotions can be tough to do, yet is a very powerful exercise, for several reasons. It helps to expand our range of emotions by noticing them, even those outside our normal repertoire. It can help us recognize or access emotions that we may not be familiar with or show very often. It helps to label our specific emotions; they are so much more nuanced than a basic mad/sad/glad. And, by becoming more aware of our emotions, we become more aware of an aspect of ourselves that is an important part of who we are, and how we respond to our world. We become more whole.
What is your emotional range? How aware are you of your present emotional state and how to shift that, as appropriate? What do you need in order to create the space and time to notice your emotions and discern what they are telling you? What role do emotions play in your work? I’m always happy to talk with you about emotions in the workplace. Meanwhile, enjoy the coming Spring!
Sharon Keys Seal
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