How Can You Start Taming Your Emotions

We experience emotions every day. But what we are not so good at is perceiving them, understanding them and managing them.

It is important to recognise what actual emotion you are experiencing. Remember emotions contain information about what you and others are feeling. But what is so very important to recognise is that emotions are just data – they are not inherently good or bad – they are just information.

But this incoming information needs to be correctly identified and then correctly labelled so that we can then manage the emotion accordingly. In this way we can integrate our emotions and our thinking.

In other words – “If we name it we can tame it”.

We need to have the ability to understand the causes and complexity of emotions and figure out why we feel a certain way and how these feelings change over time. If you understand emotions, you can predict how an idea will be taken, how others might react to you, etc

Most of us are aware that there are 6 Primary Emotions:

·       Happy

·       Sad

·       Fear

·       Anger

·       Surprise

·       Disgust

We recognise that the definition of a primary emotion is that it is universal across cultures and it has survival value. Consider:

Sadness – we lose something of value

Fear – possible threat either physical or psychosocial

Happiness – we gain something of value

Anger – we are blocked from getting something: something or someone is getting in our way.

Disgust – our rules are violated: something or someone is offensive to us.


These 5 basic emotions however, lead us to experience significant different “intensities” of the individual emotion. Just consider the emotion of anger. Do we really use only one word to describe this emotion? Or do we use a number of different words to describe how we feel when something is blocking us from getting what we want?

Consider this list of words to describe anger.

·       Upset

·       Annoyed

·       Furious

·       Irritable

·       Enraged

·       Angry

·       Frustrated

·       Mad

Now if I asked you to, could you put them in order from highest intensity to lowest intensity. Go on…. Give it a go.

We need to recognise that we will all have our own semantic meaning of the words. But the key is to explore the meanings and gain understanding that there are different levels to the emotions we feel.

So instead of always saying – “That just makes me furious!” in response to anything that makes you feel angry – Could we in fact chose different word to describe our anger based on the different contexts we experience. By doing so, could we increase our emotional vocabulary and then derive strategies to actually manage the intensity of the emotion we are experiencing?


Want more information on understanding and managing your emotions and those of others? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting.

What Is Your Mental Toughness Mantra and Why Do You Need One?

Just love this post by fellow Mental Toughness Practitioner, Paul Lyons – take a look.

A negative mind will never give you a positive life.

If your inner voice is too loud, negative and objectionable you have to keep telling yourself that you are good enough. That you can do it. That your fear is illogical.

This is where a mantra, a war cry, can really help you to reinforce your resolve and restore your belief. Repeating positive, yet realistic affirmations is one of the most productive ways that you can keep building your mental muscle and drown out the negative thoughts that can hold you back.

The research shows that repeating a mantra to yourself over and over can make you feel calmer, healthier and happier.

Los Angeles based neuroscientist, writer and coach Alexander Korb explains that silently repeating a single word or mantra “will lead to a widespread reduction in the default mode network of the brain which is responsible for self-judgment and self-reflection. Within the brain are neurons and the more any two neurons communicate then the stronger their connection becomes.”

This is beneficial so long as you are thinking positive thoughts which is why mantras are so important. They can create and strengthen new neural pathways that are positive and not toxic which can make your brain much calmer and happier.

The word mantra which is derived from Sanskrit, the liturgical language of Hinduism and Buddhism, means repetitive prayers or hymns. Modern mantras are a prayer of sorts which are invoked during times of stress and doubt exacerbated by the presence of an often critical inner voice.

There is no right or wrong on choosing your mantra but ideally they will be short enough to remember and positive but not unrealistically so. They also need to inspire you or calm you when you repeat it . Here are a few to choose from or inspire you to find your mantra.

Thirty Mantras To Help You Become Mentally Stronger

  • I have what I need to get through this

  • You win some you learn some

  • Expect nothing and appreciate everything

  • Be a warrior, not a worrier

  • Don’t say maybe if I want to say no

  • Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today

  • Every day is a second chance

  • Give up the good and go for the great

  • Choose purpose over perfect

  • Never give up

  • I am the change

  • Find a way or make one

  • Everything I need is within me

  • Feel the fear and do it anyway

  • I can and I will

  • Feelings are not facts

  • I write my destiny

  • Don't stress about things I can’t control or change

  • Positive mind positive life

  • Inhale the future, exhale the past

  • In me I trust

  • Just ride this wave

  • Life is short. Smile while I still have teeth

  • When it rains look for rainbows. When it’s dark look for stars

  • Ultimately I can only control myself

  • The less I respond to negative people, the more peaceful my life will become

  • Stay humble. Work hard. Be kind

  • Yesterday is not today

  • Die with memories not dreams

  • What consumes my mind, controls my life

Want to enhance and develop your Mental Toughness to manage challenges? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting

Do You Choose Busy or Does Busy Choose You?

Just loved this article in GLWS recently and had to share. I see so many leaders working long hours and regularly having trouble managing their personal wellbeing. So how can we maximise our productivity and consider how we use our time?

 That leaders work long hours is one thing, but whether this is by necessity or choice is another.

 Overly full schedules during conventional business hours combined with the home-based ‘second shift’ in the evening is the norm for many.

 But is this level of effort really necessary, or is it simply expected?

 What does the answer imply for the notion of ‘free time’?

 Is time pressure an illusion?

Accurate answers to these vexed questions would help us locate the nexus between personal and employer accountabilities for effective workload management. If you are working long hours is it because you choose to, or because it’s the only way to get through it all and you would defy anyone to say otherwise?

Is the harried schedule a representation of the flaws in organisational and job design, or is it reflective of the flaws in personal efficiency?

The lines between work and ‘free’ time are increasingly blurred, especially for those near or at the top of organisations.

It might help to get some clarity around what we mean by ‘free’ time:

1.  It’s how much residual or discretionary time remains after attending to everything considered to be essential to get by.

2.  It’s what’s left over minus the minimum requirement at or for work (paid labour), the minimum allowance for what you need at or for home (for unpaid domestic chores, responsibilities and activities) and the minimum needed for your essential personal care (sleeping, eating, grooming and exercising).

Free’ time facts

When we talk about being time-poor, what we implicitly understand is that time is bounded by upper and lower limits.

No matter how brilliant, no-one can ever spend more or less than 24 hours in a day on anything. No-one can ever fill more or less than 168 hours in a week. Therein lies the rub – we need to make choices about our allocations. And some people are much better at this than others!

From research it is seen that:

1.  83% of people in senior roles report that they are racing against the clock on most days.

2.  Few have enough time left for themselves on any regular basis (37%), or for exercise (42%) or even adequate sleep (52%) – the concept of ‘me time’ seems to be disappearing fast.

3.  But despite this, more than 60% say they are usually or always happy with how much time they spend working and less than 15% report high levels of dissatisfaction.

 Weird right? So, what’s going on?

 The time-choice paradox

Your take on this will depend on whether you’re a glass half full or a glass half empty person  – but I’d say one reasonable hypothesis about this picture is that the majority of leaders are ostensibly fine with the long hours that have become a feature of most senior roles today.

Being busy in Australian culture is still a virtue; whilst people may say they’re slammed for time, it’s not something that they usually register as distressing (at least not at any conscious level).

Are we to deduce that the majority of those in mid-to-late career senior roles are sadomasochists, happily choosing to sacrifice their personal time, sleep and exercise?!  

 ‘Free time’ – an extinct concept?

The notion of ‘free’ time is one of the central constructs of wellbeing, but it’s becoming increasingly quaint (or tainted?). And we’re calling this out as a problem.

Notwithstanding that people sometimes do work tasks for pleasure as well as for long-term utility and return (‘my effort this year will pay off next year’), there is a documented positive relationship between engaging in leisure / personal activities (sport, physical activity, socialising) and improved quality of life and life satisfaction.

 Challenging beliefs and mindsets

In questioning your status quo, how much should you challenge the oft quoted rationales? …. ‘I’m busy’, ‘I’m overworked’, ‘I don’t have time to get to the gym’, ‘I have to check my emails last thing at night’, ‘I can’t take a day off to see my parents’, ‘I do a second shift later in the evening once the kids are in bed’

If you are a ‘stressed-out’ leader, it’s probably a bit judgemental or assumptive to suggest you only have yourself to blame.

But is it true?

·          ‘No! You don’t have to log-in or check emails just before bed’

·          ‘No! You don’t have to return that client’s call within 10 minutes’

·          ‘No! You don’t have to make that report the best one you’ve ever written’

Or do you?

 What if the bedtime email checking, the super-swift client responsiveness and the perfect report really are what is expected to be successful at (or even keep) a job these days?

That’s the question.

It is certainly possible. But, 99% of the time you’d have to really doubt whether that is actually the case factually and objectively.

 When we tune into the stories we tell ourselves – and when we respond out of habit – the hours and effort invested become what we believe is truly necessary. What we ‘should’, ‘must’ and ‘have’ to do characterises a perfectionistic way of thinking and is indicative of beliefs that put pressure not only on our schedule but also on our stress levels.

Data suggests those who are most overwhelmed – those who have least free time – largely do it to themselves and are largely unaware of how much personal choice exists in relation to their schedules and sense of pressure. (Goodin et al, 2005)

 Resourcing implications and choices for leaders

The benefit of understanding these dynamics is significant: it would warrant more emphatic guidance being provided to individual leaders (in coaching, mentoring, feedback and performance reviews) as well as help to better inform organisational interventions (D&I, team, leadership and workplace policies) designed to enhance leaders’ performance, efficiency and sustainability.

The crux lies in identifying the boundary between what (strictly speaking) ‘needs’ to be done versus what we choose to do with the hours in each day.

It’s a question of how much “resources autonomy” we have – that’s how much control or freedom of choice we have over what we do with our time and energies.

There are a minority of people who proactively manage their roles, lives and self-care in a different way, who are among the organised elite. They don’t check emails late at night, they prioritise sleep, exercise, have personal time and family time alongside their paid work commitments and they are not succumbing to the curse of being pulled in multiple different directions.

These individuals should become the focus of our attention – how do they do it? One strategy might be to get precise about how we spend time.

 Calculate your discretionary ‘free’ time

The experience of time pressure is created by the conjunction of the three broad time categories: paid, unpaid and personal responsibilities.

 Discretionary time is a residual notion – it’s what’s left over after attending to our minimum commitments in each of these categories.

 If you’d like to help protect the endangered species of ‘free’ time, here’s a formula for you to play with:

Discretionary time per day = 24 hours minus (hours of necessary paid activities) minus (hours of necessary unpaid domestic activities) minus (hours necessary for personal care).

(Remember, by ‘necessary’, we mean obligatory in order to maintain minimum acceptable workplace, family, social and personal standards.)

 The amount of discretionary time actually available to people varies considerably according to their life circumstances.

Our micro-circumstances at work and home affect our free time – if you are ill you will need to spend more time on personal care, or if your partner is away you will need to do some unpaid labour to keep the home running smoothly, for example. But the real kicker is what’s happening at the macro level – the social norms indexing what is deemed ‘necessary’ and what is deemed sustainable.

Time pressure is not an illusion if you actually are doing these things in everyday life; what is illusory is the sense that you are ‘forced’ and have no choice but to do all these things. The illusion is in its psychologised interpretation – the objective facts giving rise to the subjective interpretation of being under time pressure.

 A sample discretionary time formula:

Paid essential labour: 8 hours work time + 1 hour commute/travelling

Unpaid essential roles and responsibilities: 2 hours 45 minutes, comprising:

·          20 minutes grocery shopping

·          45 minutes childcare

·          25 minutes meal preparation

·          25 minutes housework (pets, laundry, cleaning, laundry)

·          20 minutes household administration (bills, schools)

·          30 minutes family/personal relationships focus

Essential personal care: 9 hours 45 minutes, comprising:

·          7 hours sleep

·          45 minutes eating/drinking

·          1 hour personal grooming/hygiene

·          1 hour exercise

Total minimum time commitment: 21 hours and 30 minutes

Discretionary time: 2.5 hours


Now ask yourself…

With two or three hours’ discretionary time where you have free choice, where do you most want or need to invest your time?


Think about the return on effort if you ‘spend’ all of your discretionary time topping up your paid labour OR your non-paid roles and responsibilities OR your personal care OR a combination of these.

 What do you default to – and how might this be different?

 What habits and mindsets have become stuck, and where would you (or your colleagues, clients, family and friends) benefit from some rewiring?

Do we choose busy, or does busy choose us?


Want to manage your discretionary time and reset some personal expectations? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting.


Can Workplace Adjustments Make A Difference To mental Health In The Workplace?

I have recently been providing several organisations with training to support both staff and leaders manage mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

I am often asked what workplace adjustments can be made to enhance opportunities to promote mental health. I therefore really enjoyed reading this article by Emma Mamo.

Workplace adjustments for mental health are often quite small, simple, practical and cost-effective changes. They could include everything from offering rooms for quiet work, to starting a buddy system. Often the change isn’t physical, but about attitude, expectation or communication.

At an organisational level, it is important to have clear policies in place that detail what workplace adjustments are available and provide advice to line managers on how to support employees who are experiencing poor mental health especially if they need to take time off. Support measures are crucial for employees and can help to reduce the length of mental health related absence. Offering a phased return to work can be helpful too. Some organisations have policies on leave of absence and extra leave to enable staff who are experiencing a personal crisis to take some time away from work. A short period of unpaid leave can be effective in supporting people experiencing poor mental health triggered by a life event such as bereavement or relationship breakdown.

Because poor mental health is likely to be a hidden disability and many people are reluctant to disclose a mental health problem, it is good practice for an employer to make adjustments for someone experiencing poor mental health even if they do not necessarily have a disability under the Equality Act. The Equality Act’s definition of a disability refers to ‘long-term’, meaning 12 months or more – because many mental health problems can fluctuate, the law doesn’t adequately protect some people who may still need appropriate support and adjustments at work.

While voluntary and agreed adjustments are supportive, it’s important that people are not treated differently or asked to do things that others are not required to, by keeping extra detailed time sheets for example. Being micro-managed or made to account for all of your time can be counter-productive and damage self-esteem. It may also be discriminatory. Ensure there are regular ongoing opportunities to monitor and review what’s going well and what’s not working, to make sure the support and adjustments are helping and to tweak these if they aren’t quite right.

Below are some types of adjustments that may help to support employees to manage their mental health at work. They are not prescriptive but examples of what many employees have found useful. This list could act as a prompt for line managers and employees exploring symptoms and support needs together. However, it is important to always be guided by what the person experiencing poor mental health says will help them as it can be quite individual. The goal is to give control rather than take it away.

•        Flexible working or changes to start and finish times

•        Time off for appointments, at short notice if needed

•        Working from home

•        Relaxing absence rules for those with disability-related absence

•        Phased return to work – reduced hours gradually building back up

•        Changes to role (temporary or permanent)

•        Temporary reallocation of some tasks

•        Redeployment to a more suitable role

•        Change of workspace – quieter, less busy, dividing screens

•        Quiet rooms so people can take some time out

•        Lightbox or seat with more natural light

•        Equal amount of break time, but in shorter, more frequent chunks

•        Extra training or coaching (during work hours)

•        Increased supervision or support with managing workload

•        Mentor or buddy systems (formal or informal)

•        Mediation if there are difficulties between colleagues

Want more information on promoting and managing mental health and wellbeing in the workplace? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting.