By Jackie James

Emotions are funny; one minute you’re happy and the next minute you’re scared. Have you ever tried to understand your emotions, and why it is so easy to go from one feeling to another? Knowing what makes you mad, sad, happy, irritated, frightened, and every other emotion is called emotional awareness. Knowing how to handle those emotions—and how to diffuse them, if necessary—is emotional intelligence. It is important to understand your emotions, what causes them, how to handle your reactions, and even read other peoples’ emotions to fully know yourself and to show empathy for others.

Having a grasp on your emotions gives you the tools to deal with any situation. If you recognize that you’re starting to feel angry, instead of lashing out or reacting, you can find a way to diffuse those feelings and deal with them constructively. Knowing how to read others’ feelings can give you an opportunity to communicate with them effectively. Recognizing your emotions and the emotions of others will help you make better choices, like how to handle a panic attack, how to comfort an upset friend, or how to avoid a volatile situation.

Teenagers can’t always understand and properly express their feelings, and that can lead to trying to “block out” the feelings. This leads to turning to drugs, alcohol, violence, eating disorders and other ways to deal with the onslaught of emotions. If you can dissect why you feel a certain way, you can avoid negative choices and instead, find a positive way to approach these feelings. It’s not easy, and it does not happen overnight, but if you can master your emotions and your reactions to those emotions, you are better equipped to deal with anything life throws your way.

Emotional awareness is more than just understanding your “good” and “bad” emotions; there are actually many levels to emotional awareness. You can feel physical changes in your body when you experience certain feelings—like a rapid heartbeat when you’re scared, or a headache when you’re dealing with stress. Reading your emotions helps you to recognize a feeling as good or bad and then make choices to gravitate towards the ones that make you happy and avoid the ones that make you feel bad. Understanding others’ emotions gives you the ability to understand that not everyone experiences the same emotions that you do in the same circumstances, and you are able to “read” their emotions to help relate to them.

So how can you “get in touch with your inner feelings”? Practices like meditation, yoga, and journaling can all help you to live in the moment. Take the time to listen to your body and mind about how you truly feel about a situation and your reaction to that feeling. For example, it’s okay to feel anger; it’s not okay to physically hurt someone because you are mad. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A counselor at school, a therapist, or a trusted adult can assist you with navigating your innermost feelings and thoughts without judgment. Taking the time to know yourself can lead to a lifetime of emotional awareness.