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How to deal with negative emotions

Emotions are a powerful thing. They play a significant role in everything we do. And, unfortunately, there’s no off switch. What if those emotions are negative? And what if you’re at work when you start to feel angry, anxious, sad or frustrated? We need to find a way to take control, so we can still focus and get things done in this ever-changing, often stressful, world of work.

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We operate a very community-led culture at Pfizer. We’re supportive. We’re collaborative. In our quest to create breakthroughs that change patients’ lives, we encourage each other to think big and take risks. Because we care about what we do, sometimes emotions can run high. The important thing is how we respond when that happens. We have a culture that understands it’s ok to express yourself. It’s ok to fail. But sometimes we need to look deeper. When an emotion is allowed to take over, we have to consider why.

Very often, it’s because we’ve been ‘triggered.’ Triggers are situations or moments that retrigger an emotional reaction to a past traumatic event. When we react, it’s not necessarily in response to the current state of play, but a past situation. You relive it. Even if you don’t remember the detail or consider it traumatic. It could be something that happened as a baby, or during those dreaded years as a teenager. Whatever the case, it’s had an effect. The triggering is real and it needs to be understood. Here’s a four-point guide to help you:

1. First of all, know that you’re in control. Take responsibility for the trigger – it’s your way of reacting. You might feel helpless, but it’s actually your body and mind’s way of protecting you. Once you accept ownership of this, it’s much easier to manage.

2. Recognize when you have been triggered. It may cause you to really internalize your reaction, or you may feel it physically, but recognize it for what it is.

3. Identify what triggered you. Once you’re able to put your finger on it, it becomes much easier to deal with. Even though the situation is highly emotional, you can start to apply logic.

4. Decide what you want to do, and make it happen. Take time to work through the emotion. Go over the thoughts in your head or, better yet, talk them over with someone. That might mean labeling the trigger and recognizing it, so you can take control and move on.

It’s important to remember that emotions are not a sign of weakness. They are, in fact, a way of making us stronger. Emotions engage us with the surrounding world and attempt to protect us from future trauma. So, get to know them. It could be the most positive thing you ever do!

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