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Can emotional expression increase efficiency at work?

Author: Dr Rajat Thukral

Where do these ’emotions’ come from? 

After a scathing evaluation from your boss, have you ever observed how weary the body feels or noticed that after missing the deadline on a work assignment, you reach home and yell at your domestic help? Our everyday life is fraught with multiple stressors, emanating at the workplace or personal front.

Either your relationship with your colleague is combative, or your personal relationship is on the verge of ending, or one could be just facing some health concerns. These stressful experiences impact the way we feel and think.

We always live in ebbs and flows of emotional waves, urging us to react or respond to a situation, irrespective of whether space or the relationship allows the emotional expression. 

Denial of emotions at the workplace:

The cultural taboos on the expression of emotions influence how an individual or a family system or an organisation, will accept or reject emotional behaviour. Some feelings, especially those associated with negative experiences, are suppressed as they threaten the status quo, either the functioning of an individual or the system in which the individual resides.

An employee cannot express one’s anger at one’s boss, or one cannot express sadness at the workplace, and many such implicit beliefs govern our behaviours. Our workplaces are primarily reserved for productivity and service. Most organisations are in a denial of personal struggles of their employees, be it around a loss of a loved one, grappling the challenges of parenthood, or just needing to take a mental health day off.

“The recent growth in automatisation of job tasks has ironically intensified pressure on the employees to labour like a machine, devoid of emotions and aches in their bodies.”

And then this happened… 

A few months ago, I advised a client to take a break from her work, as the long working hours, coupled with a negative work environment could trigger a mental health crisis for her. She disregarded the suggestion because her work ethic demanded that she continues to push through the work stress and somehow adjust to a super-human level of functioning. Within three months of this conversation, her health deteriorated, and her anxiety and depression peaked. 

“A work culture that dismisses personal care time for employees will push employees to deny their own emotional and physical self-care.”

Denial of emotions at the individual level:

At an individual level, people deny feeling their emotions because the experience of feeling itself is uncomfortable within our bodies, as there is usually an accompanying sub-conscious physical sensation with each emotion. Be it queasiness in the stomach or tightness in the chest, its painful and we resist to become aware, while we are bombarded continuously with persistent, repetitive thoughts in our heads.

One experiences anxiety, when one realises that the task at hand demands more time or effort than one can afford, or one may feel sadness when one misses an opportunity or a project.

However, these subtle sensations and emotions continue to exist and live in our body, irrespective of our awareness. The purpose of emotions is to bring awareness, some information or guidance about what’s happening in our environment, relationships, and within one’s own body.

If one doesn’t listen or witness these emotions, then one is likely to suppress and repress them, which over time can cause mental health or physical health issues. Paying attention to the emotional mind is as essential as it is to develop the rational parts of the brain to perform cognitive tasks.

“The thinking mind cannot even function to its highest capacity unless one has learned to manage the emotional mind.” 

Connecting the dots… 

Learn to balance reasonable and emotional mind -A dialectical relation between the reasonable and the emotional mind helps in creating a balanced perspective and living. There are two significant parts of our brain – emotional and rational brain. The rational part helps us to think, rationalise, analyse, and objectively perceive the problem and to draw conclusions. The emotional part offers us inner knowledge, empathy, ability to make complex decisions, especially when the rational mind cannot figure it out.

We need to balance both parts of our mind to stay in our wisdom to achieve optimal functioning and well-being. One can achieve more clarity in thinking when one has released intense emotions and grounded oneself in the centre to observe how the rational and the emotional mind are processing information, and hence develop an intuitive sense of an appropriate way to respond to a given stressful situation.

Learn to pay attention to your feelings and sensations within your body to access your inner knowing, which can provide clues to the direction in your life. Express these thoughts and emotions in safe spaces where you release emotional tensions and allow yourself to come back to homeostasis.

Many technology companies with unrealistic work demands have started to offer play areas, sleeping pods, expression boards, and personal rooms to employees to support their emotional and physical needs. We need more corporations to follow the lead of companies like Google, which can at least offer an extensive array of activities for its employees to rest and play.

Time to change the corporate workplace. Human-centred is the way to be. 

Workplaces need more mental health safe rooms filled with notepads, colouring books, punching bag, clay, fidgets, stress balls, mindful music, and exercise equipment that can help the employees to release intense emotions. The word emotion in Latin means “to move”. As we move and stretch our body, our emotions can unleash their grip on us and help us to stay clear-headed. The rational part of the brain works faster if the emotional brain is calm. We need to de-stigmatise the expression of emotions. Otherwise, we will never be able to abate the epidemic of depression in our present world.

This article is written by our awesome expert Dr Rajat Thukral, Clinical Psychologist. Follow her on LinkedIn to learn more.

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