Programme: Handling Emotions

2. Learn to anticipate your emotions

In the previous card, you took on the challenge of learning how to recognise your emotions. Asking yourself questions such as “What is actually going on when I experience fear, anger, jealousy or envy?” can help you to get to know yourself better.


This can sometimes be a confrontational process. It is absolutely normal to experience these emotions. But how we express our emotions is something we can make choices about, and some of these choices will be more useful than others. Our emotions are automatic - we often have no choice about what we feel. But we do have a choice when it comes to how we react to emotions. For example, you may feel angry about something but you may choose not to express your anger at that moment. You can also focus on identifying the triggers that bring on certain emotions or the patterns that you may recognise in your reactions. By becoming aware of this and identifying a more desirable reaction, you can anticipate that emotion and react differently to it when it comes up again. What are your triggers? How would you like to change so that you can prevent escalation in future? Practise with the exercises below.

Advice/tips:

  • The way we handle emotions has a strong  influence on our happiness, our quality of life and our health. It is a challenging and difficult issue to address, but in the long term it will bring about some positive rewards.
  • Strong emotions can sometimes block logical thought. When we are experiencing intense sadness, for example, we may feel that it is impossible to find a solution for a problem, but once our emotions have settled down, we feel more optimistic. For this reason, it is a good idea to avoid taking important decisions when we are feeling highly emotional - it is better to wait until we feel calm. 
  • Sometimes, a better approach can be to ensure that things do not escalate too much in the first place. For example, if you are having a discussion with someone and you know that you will become irritated if the discussion goes on too long, you have a choice: continue with the discussion and risk an escalation, or ‘take a break’ - give your emotions a chance to calm down, and finish your discussion later on when you feel calm. Or perhaps you know that you feel uncomfortable in crowded shops? In that case, can you plan to visit the supermarket at a quiet moment of the day? Or could you order your groceries online and have them delivered? How can you anticipate your triggers?


Reflect & connect

Answer these questions and share your answers with your online psychologist, your partner and/or a friend:

Awareness (part two). Use the saucepan analogy to answer the following questions:

- What was my emotion?
- What did I feel in my body?
- How strongly did I experience this emotion? (How fiercely was my pan boiling on a scale of one to five?)
- How did I react to my emotion? Did I accept it or reject it?
- What was my trigger?
- What can I do? How can I anticipate things to prevent them or to make sure that they do not escalate?
- How can other people help me? Do I need help? The OpenUp psychologists are here to help you!

Anticipation. If you focus on what you are feeling, what do you notice? Do you recognise triggers for certain emotions? Your triggers could be specific situations, things other people say, other people’s reaction to something or even a specific smell. What makes your saucepan boil over? Is there a recognisable pattern? Bearing this in mind, what are the steps you can take to prevent escalation in the future?

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