If you were to conduct a survey about teaching a course on managing emotions at your workplace, there would be overwhelming support from your managers and staff for it. Many people know the dangers of carrying an emotional burden but not many know how to manage or reduce it.

You must start reducing the amount of emotional burden you are carrying if you want to improve your well-being.

Emotional burdens

Research has shown that the most significant emotional burdens a person carries are (1) anger and frustration, (2) sadness and grief, and (3) shame and guilt.

Each one of these is highly stressful and can be very detrimental to your health and well-being.

When you think of someone with high emotional stress, you often think of that person as “crazy” or “out of control” and probably “losing it.” Chronic stress, on the other hand, is far more subtle and is frequently brought on by yourself.

Let’s look at these emotional burdens so that you can identify them and how you can reduce them.

1. Anger and frustration

Your anger or frustration is usually the result of someone else wronging you. Most likely, they don’t even know it. Even if they are aware of it, they are unlikely to apologize.

You are now angry with them and have not forgiven them. This emotion eats away at you, and you can feel the vitality seeping from your body daily. Sooner or later, you’ll have to forgive them. Do you have the necessary tools to remove this emotional burden?

2. Sadness and grief

When you are experiencing the loss of a loved one, your sadness or grief is usually a healthy emotion. The stronger the relationship with the loved one, the more painful the emotion.

The pain of losing a loved one can be unbearable. It also increases your chances of developing depression. Can you overcome this emotional burden?

3. Shame and guilt

The shame or guilt you experience is the result of someone instilling in your thoughts of you are “less than others.” They will tell you “You should have done this…” or “You shouldn’t have done that…”

The result is that you will feel guilty or shameful about what you did or did not do, that you were expected to do. The weight of this emotion is toxic. Every day you feel smaller, like another cut that stunts your growth and well-being. You need to stop feeling shameful or guilty as this emotional burden is bad for your brain and leads to long-term mental health difficulties (Cherry, et al.).

In some schools, students who are involved with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco are shamed publicly. Some are even told to leave the school. This form of “disintegrative shaming” is used to shame them into abstinence whereas prevention and intervention may be a better way to help them (Brown, et al.).

How to remove these emotional burdens

Each of the emotions listed above (anger and frustration, sadness and grief, shame and guilt) is common and may be appropriate for short periods. They are definitely inappropriate for long periods.

Let’s start with some strategies you can use right away to reduce or remove these emotional burdens and improve your well-being.

Emotional burden be grateful

1. Be grateful for what you have

Many people consider sadness or grief to be a universal “bad” feeling. Yet, you are the one who put a value (good or bad) on that experience. In other words, it is you that declare whatever happened as “good” or “bad”.

The strategy for dealing with sadness or grief is gratitude.

Concentrate on what you have rather than on what you wish you had. Prolonged sadness or grief can be harmful to your health. So, you may have to construct your life around something joyous instead of something sad.

Try this: Every day, tell yourself three good things that you have or have done recently. Do a daily gratitude writing intervention. Research has shown that keeping a gratitude journal has higher and longer-lasting effects on your brain (Kini, et al.). This practice has done wonders for many people with sadness or grief.

Here’s a YouTube video of psychologist Martin Seligman talking about the “Three Good Things”.

2. Forgive those who hurt you

The anger or frustration you feel is because you were wronged by someone else. To remove anger or frustration, you will have to forgive them. A lack of forgiveness can lead to more rumination, which will make you more tired than you should be.

The strategy to deal with frustration or anger is forgiveness.

You have to forgive everyone who has ever hurt you and has not apologized or shown remorse. These people who hurt you unknowingly need your forgiveness, not your anger.

Learn how to deal with your anger because angry people tend to hurt other people, including their colleagues, their spouse, and their children (Wood).

When you forgive someone that hurt you, notice that act of forgiveness has profound consequences both at the intrapersonal and interpersonal levels. This will affect your prosocial behavior toward people and situations (Karremans and Lange).

Unforgiveness is like carrying a heavy load, one that you bring with you to work every day. Aren’t you exhausted enough at work without adding this emotional burden?

Several studies have found that forgiving reduces the physical weight of life (Exline et al.). Indeed, your forgiveness can increase the availability of cognitive resources, which can be used to deal with physical problems at the workplace or in the classroom (Farrow, et al.).

Other studies have shown that forgiveness can help you overcome the negative effects of conflict (Zheng, et al.).

For more information on forgiveness, see our post on “Emotional Baggage”.

3. Share your feelings

The shame or guilt you experience is the result of someone telling you about something you did or did not do that you were supposed to do. You feel guilty and this harms your emotional health and well-being.

The strategy to deal with shame or guilt is to share your feelings.

Share your feelings with a close friend who accepts you and will not judge or condemn you. Shame cannot exist once it is vented or aired out.

Ask yourself how you might be able to respond differently the next time a similar situation turns up. Following that, you must forgive yourself for whatever perceived wrongs you did.

So, don’t keep the shame or guilt bottled up. Find someone you trust and get it off your chest.

Conclusion

All of these feelings are difficult to deal with. Everyone suffers from emotional troubles. The question is how well you can accept your flaws and what type of healing will put you on the path to love, joy, and well-being.

Know that you are not flawless. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake or have a bad day. Make up an excuse for not being able to “do” a specific item or process on any given day.

All these emotional burdens are counterproductive feelings. Forgive yourself and renew your commitment to do something good or positive every day.

Check out our workshop on “Managing Emotions”.


References

  • Brown, J. H. & Clarey, A. M. “The Social Psychology of Disintegrative Shaming in Education.” Journal of Drug Education, vol. 42, 2012, pp. 229-53.
  • Cherry, M. G., Taylor, P. J., Brown, S. L, et al. “Guilt, Shame and Expressed Emotion in Carers of People with Long-Term Mental Health difficulties: A Systematic Review.” Psychiatry Research, vol. 249, 2017, pp. 139-151.
  • Exline, J. J., Worthington, E. L. Jr, Hill, P., et al. “Forgiveness and Justice: A Research Agenda for Social and Personality {sychology.” Personality and Social Psychology Review, vol. 7, 2003, pp. 337–348.
  • Farrow, T. F., Zheng, Y., Wilkinson, I. D., et al. “Investigating the Functional Anatomy of Empathy and Forgiveness.” Neuroreport, vol. 12, 2001, pp. 2433-8.
  • Karremans, J. C. & Van Lange, P. A. M. “Forgiveness in Interpersonal Relationships: Its Malleability and Powerful Consequences.” European Review of Social Psychology, vol. 19, 2008, pp. 202–241.
  • Kini P., Wong, J., McInnis, S, et al. “The Effects of Gratitude Expression on Neural Activity.” Neuroimage, vol. 128, 2016, pp. 1-10.
  • Jensen, E. “How Much Weight Do You Carry Each Day?” Adapted with permission.
  • Wood C. W. Hurt People Hurt People. Maitland, Xulon Press, 2008.
  • Zheng, X., Fehr, R., Tai, K., et al. “The Unburdening Effects of Forgiveness: Effects on Slant Perception and Jumping Height.” Social Psychological and Personality Science, vol. 6, no. 4, 2014.