How to Deal Productively with the “Seasons of Emotions”
Posted December 11, 2019 Uncategorized by Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, Ph.D.
Two decades ago when I was a young business consultant just starting out, it took me a few years to notice the natural ebbs and flows of the work: January through June were “prime time” with intense client work; July and August were lighter, with clients away enjoying summer vacations; September through the first half of December was again a heavy work time; and in the end of December, things quieted down again as people turned their attention away from work toward family and holidays.
While these seasons still hold true in my work today, as I get older, it’s become clear to me that there are seasons for more than just workflow and the weather.
I’ve noticed that our emotions have seasons too.
For example, it took me a few years of parenting to realize that there are two months of the year when my friends and I, as well as our children (and maybe the teachers, too?) seem to get a little more nervous than usual: September and June. It’s as if a cloud descends on my town, showering everyone with just a bit more anxiety than usual.
In September, parents worry about everything from logistics (needing to schedule new types of childcare; figuring out which school supplies need to be bought) to relationships (will my child have friends in her class? Will my child have good teachers?). As the worry cloud descends, parents seem to act like raindrops, bouncing off the ground onto each other. As we experience our own anxieties, when we meet and talk, we transfer our anxieties from one person to the next. (It may also be true that we help each other deal productively with our emotions; see below for more ideas on how to do this!)
This Season’s Emotional Cadence
As the month of December is upon us, I’ve noticed that, at least in the US, the four weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day have their own emotional cadence at work and at home.
It’s often a mad rush to the finish line at work while people try to finish up projects before the holidays. And it can be a frantic time at home, as people shop ‘til they drop, plan to host complicated gatherings, and prepare for long-awaited trips to locations far away.
Toward the end of the month, things get quieter and more relaxed in the office, as many people leave for time away with family and friends. While vacation weeks can be a time of ease and joy for many people, they can also present their own special variety of stress when tensions arise in anticipation of, and during, family gatherings.
No matter how you spend your time, December can be a time of excitement…and anxiety. This is true even if you’re not the one directly experiencing these emotions. When others around you are feeling anxious, their emotions can rub off on you.
How can you deal productively with the seasons of emotions?
1. Knowledge is power. Just knowing that emotions come and go in seasonal shifts can be helpful. What are the seasons of emotions that surround you? Are there times of the year when people tend to be happier or more nervous in your line of work? How about in your family, community or neighborhood?
2. Notice your own responses. Once you’ve observed the seasons of emotions in your life, ask yourself how you tend to deal with them. Do you get swept up in the emotional swirl, just like everyone else around you? Or do you tend to be the voice of reason when everyone else gets frantic? What practices, if any, do you already have to deal with the anxiety that others may be experiencing at certain times of the year? What practices do you have to prevent your own anxieties from upsetting other people?
3. Develop a vision, and a plan for action. Ask yourself how you would ideally like to deal with the emotional season that is upon us. What practices can you put in place so you stay calm and centered, even when others may not be? For example, can you make a habit of observing the people around you once per day—what are they concerned about this season?
What are the seasons of emotions in your line of work? In your community?
How would you like to deal with them?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ve been overwhelmed by the amazing responses I’ve gotten from so many people via email. I’d love to continue the conversation in one place…Please share your thoughts with me in the comments below and I absolutely promise to respond.
I truly look forward to hearing from you!