Developing Meta-Emotions for Well-being
Learning new techniques to support emotional balance, and recognising the importance of prioritising your own positive mental and physical resilience to put yourself in a position to help others around you.
Six weeks ago I wrote a short article for Let’s Reset with my top 5 well-being tips for getting through the early stages of the UK-wide Covid-19 lockdown. I have spent the last few weeks practising and developing these, and watching many of Let’s Reset’s interviews; from Mindfulness practices with TJ Power, Corporate resilience and responsibility with GM of Benefit Cosmetics, Sarah Harbon, and Positive Psychology expert Josie Jacobs. One noticeable advantage I have experienced is the additional guilt-free time for learning - dedicating an hour to mindfully listen to a whole podcast, or getting to the end of a book uninterrupted.
Let’s Reset Co-Founder Jaz Thompson recently interviewed myself and my sister Rosy (my flatmate/lockdown partner and Co-Founder of HIRE-A-DANCER.COM) and it got us talking about everything from business development in creative industries to our personal reactions to Covid-19. I feel like I had a head start on many people in the Western world, having spent 2016 working in seriously financially deprived Psychiatric Hospitals Sri Lanka, hiking in Nepal, travelling through Myanmar and then the majority of the last 3 years living in India. I came back to the UK for a fortnight after 12 months in Asia, and the contrast was overwhelming. I remember the first time I went to a shopping centre in London, where the sensory stimulation almost provoked a panic attack. (Let this be a reminder about gradually re-emerging from lockdown and not rushing back to pre-isolation disillusionment).
Adjusting to Asia felt easy in comparison, even though I had never been to most of the countries before. I spent a lot of my time living a much simpler life, and have spent stretches of 9 months+ without hot water (also without access to toilet paper, a ‘western’ bathroom, and running water except from a stream for weeks at a time), certainly not seeing a supermarket, often not meeting another person who spoke fluent english, and definitely never having a TV. When many people think of travellers they imagine someone constantly on the move, and yes, I did have months where my head found a different pillow in a different village every single night. However, I have also spent at least half of each of the last 4 years staying in one location, never travelling more than 15km and only by foot or motorbike, and seeing the same, intimate group of people everyday. I chose this lifestyle for a long time, so I have found that isolation rather suits me in this way. In our interview, Jaz asked if I had any tips for people struggling with lockdown, but the answer is that it’s so completely individual, dependent on your lifestyle choices and personality. I have learnt to relish my own company with the help of self-awareness techniques such as the ‘RULER’ acronym ( see below!) and enjoy simple, local travel, while for many people they would usually choose to physically interact with others, often outside of the home.
Many of us have had the opportunity for learning and development, and I have been unbelievably fortunate to have an endlessly enthusiastic extended family who have diligently logged into zoom every morning at 8:15am for our weekday catch up and Yoga practise. I have developed my teaching style (I really am missing physical student adjustments), and my own practise, alongside many others who have never been to a Yoga class before. The community that has been created in the last few months is totally unique, and while of course being physically distanced, it has certainly not felt this way socially. We have had many discussions about the merits and reasons for Yoga specifically, and how our seemingly ego-centric practise can possibly help others, particularly during this pandemic.
The esteemed Professor and public speaker Brene Brown recently spoke to Dr Marc Brackett during a podcast relating to the latter’s book ‘Permission to feel’. They discussed the term ‘meta-emotions’; the need, particularly for adults, to spend time learning to recognise their own emotions, before being able to deal with them. The importance of this cannot ever be undermined, and I urge you to spend 50 minutes listening to their insightful discussion. Dr Brackett has spent more than 25 years studying human emotions, and has rolled out his 5 step plan to over 2000 schools in the USA, to improve Emotional Intelligence among young people. The 5 steps he suggests to develop ‘meta-emotions’ and thus improved Emotional Intelligence are explained using the RULER acronym:
R - Recognising emotions in oneself and others
U - Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions
L - Labelling emotions accurately
E - Expressing emotions appropriately
R - Regulating emotions effectively
He spoke of occasions where CEO’s of corporate businesses encouraged him to run workshops for their staff, but refused to join in themselves - with the opinion that they had nothing to gain from the experience, and their employees should simply learn to deal with them as they’re head of the business! If said CEO has suffered personal difficulties, perhaps they then become angry easily towards their employees. These employees may then become frustrated, which is likely to affect their work, and may also affect their home life, which could also affect their partner, their partner’s work, and so you see how this cycle goes on. The importance of having an awareness of our own emotions and possessing the tools to process significant life events without projecting this onto others, is, in my opinion, a crucial part of positive community development.
This podcast has been able to explain in a much more succinct way, my opinions on the importance of teaching, but most importantly, the benefits of practising Yoga regularly. If we are able to process our own emotions and support our own physical and mental health, i.e. by dedicating a regular Yoga/exercise/meditation practise time, then we will be much more robust to help others. It is absolutely not to say that Yoga is the only form of personal development, for some individuals it definitely is not - however the crucial message here is to find something that works for you. Ensure you pro-actively schedule ‘me-time’, for relaxation, exercise, learning or talking with others; strengthening ourselves and recognising the importance of our own needs, enabling more energy and aptitude to support the individuals and community around you, in whatever form that takes.
Keep talking, keep listening, allow yourself space, and don’t be afraid to reach out whenever you need it.