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One of my tasks when faced with a distressed person, unsure of how they feel emotionally , is to provide them with an’ emotional menu.’ I ask them to write down the following list of typical unhealthy and healthy negative emotions.

Unhealthy negative emotions may include:

Anxiety

Depression

Hurt

Anger

Shame

Guilt

Frustration

Healthy negative emotions may include:

Concern

Sadness

Remorse

Regret

Disappointment

Annoyance

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I ask them to choose the relevant ones underlying their distress at that moment. This can be a life-changing experience . For the first time in their lives , they identify and name specific emotions relevant to them . They can then focus on their unhealthy negative emotions, which I suggest they list in order of importance. I explain in them that emotions are the signpost to our innere world can greatly assist in explaining our thoughts and behaviours. Learning how to create such a menu is the first step towards acquiring emotional resilience .

The emotional menu exercise

At this stage , I would like to ask , the reader , to carry out the following exercise , where you learn how to create your own emotional menu:

1- For the next four weeks I want you to carry a notebook and whenever something distresses you, write down the triggering event.

2- Then use the menu laid out above as a guide to explore which emotions were triggered . Are you feeling anxious , depressed , hurt, frustrated or simply sad or annoyed?

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3- If several emotions are triggered, list them in order of importance to you, at that moment.

4- Pay special attention to your unhealthy negative emotions.

5- Do not be concerned about how to interpret or manage your emotions . It is just important, at this stage , to identify them.

The more you perform this exercise , the more accurately you will begin to identify your emotions. This is an important first step towards developing emotional resilience . If you can identify your emotional responses to a stressor , then coping with it becomes easier. This exercise will also teach you how often several emotions are triggered by the same stressor. Learning to identify which emotions are involved when you are exposed to difficult situations also remove much of the confusion. You can now identify emotionally why you are so distressed.

The next step on your journey is to explore the body’s internal system, which controls your physical and psychological responses to stress. Understanding its role in emotional resilience is essential.

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