Simple strategies for managing your emotions in stressful times

The worst thing you can do when you feel anxious or angry is to turn those emotions outward. Here's what to do to dial it back—forever.

Knowing strategies for managing your emotions in stressful times really boils down to not necessarily how good you are at controlling the outside world—which is a bit of a challenge—but how good you are at controlling your emotional world.

Let’s appreciate we’re not generally taught anything about this. You have to do self-education to learn what I’m talking about, and yes, I think it’s crazy this isn’t taught in schools—but that’s a topic for another day.

Understanding it’s normal and not ‘weak’ to feel angry, sad, joyful, frustrated is the first part of how to manage our stuff inside. Because when we have more certainty and control inside we’ll also have more outside.

When I was younger, I used to beat up on myself when weird things made me emotional. It was a bit embarrassing, because of course when a lot of us were growing up we were taught really crazy and horribly negative ideas around emotions.

We learned things like only women feel emotions, men don’t—which is nuts—‘you’re too sensitive’ and ‘move on’ and ‘get on with it’.

So first we need to get rid of this old information which destroys our ability to feel peace and certainty, and look at facts.


You are an emotional being (which is probably why you're interested in knowing strategies for managing your emotions in stressful times.) It’s healthy and powerful to be in touch with emotions, even though everyone feels them at different levels at different times.

People sometimes disconnect with their emotions as a result of going through major events and it’s key to work on removing the shame around that and reconnect with the upside—feeling stuff means you’re alive.


We want to move into a space with our emotions where we stop pushing them away and let them just exist inside our bodies.

One of the interesting things about emotions is they come and go without warning. You might be walking down the street, smell something that takes you somewhere, hear a line in a song that triggers a memory, and, bang, up pops emotions you didn’t plan for.

Emotions come up with no notice, then they go away—if you let them.

One of the things we can become really great at is trapping emotions inside our body. If you repress an emotion, you keep it somewhere inside and it hangs around.

If sadness come up and you fight it by saying: "I’m not a sad person, I hate this’ it will stay with you longer than if you say, ‘Okay, I’m sad, I’m going to let myself feel lit".

Emotions are designed to be felt, to pass through us, then let go.

This is a key to building emotional resilience. When there's crazy stuff happening and we can handle it without becoming overly sensitive if someone doesn’t like our shoes.

Most of us are like this until we start getting some education and doing some work and learning to embrace what we’re feeling. Then the sensitivity goes away and is replaced by empowerment and confidence and guess, what, we’re still in touch with our emotions.


Emotions are simply bits of energy moving through the body. We don’t need to get so wrapped up with what they mean all the time. Don’t get me wrong, emotions are like your body sending you a text so it’s always good to check out whether it’s powerful information or just spam, but then you get acknowledge and move on.

If you feel nervous or sad or anxious about something, that’s fine. But don’t get yourself in knots wondering what it’s all about. Don’t make int into a big deal.

Feel it, allow it to move through the body, let it go.

But don’t think your goal here is to feel nothing. It’s to embrace emotions and learn how to feel them, then learn how to handle them. Then we can handle any emotional disturbance.

It’s a journey to get there. A practice. One that leads to deep inner certainty.

Matt Lavars is one of Australia's leading coaches, trainers and speakers, and head facilitator at The Coaching Institute. In between mentoring thousands of coaches and leaders all around Australasia and helping others build incredible culture, Matt is passionate about fitness and music. His healthy office lunches whipped up in five minutes are the stuff of legend.

Matt Lavars
Dream TeamThe Coaching Institute