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STRONGER TOGETHER: How improved self-awareness can be life changing

Last updated: 24/05/2022
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"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya focuses on self-awareness and the benefits of improving emotional literacy.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

‘How are you?’ -  It’s a question engrained in social greetings, but how often are do we check-in with ourselves? And how sincere is the response?

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Good, bad, happy, sad, angry, tired: these are responses that may roll off the tongue without too much reflection. But there’s believed to be 27 distinct emotional experiences and feelings aren’t isolated – they’re complex and intertwined.  

By expanding our emotional vocabulary, it can become easier identifying and describing what’s happening, how we feel and how to make a change, should we need to, ultimately improving our self-awareness.

The Feelings Wheel provides a great starting point for increasing emotional literacy. The Wheel demonstrates the broad language which can be used to capture human emotions beyond terms like happy, sad, bad, disgust, angry, surprised, and fearful.

It extends vocabulary from ‘bad’ to indifference, pressure, overwhelmed, or unfocused.

To effectively calm yourself down, or change your emotional state, it can be empowering to be aware of your current emotions and notice what is actually going on. This comes from a level of self-awareness which is not always instinctive.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take notice of what’s driving that feeling, you may realise you’re tired or busy and it’s only temporary, not forever.

For some people this is easy, they know how to self-regulate and refocus. But for those unfamiliar, keep a tool like the Feelings Wheel handy (Google to find free version online).

The Feelings Wheel will support you to bring awareness to the feeling and the confidence to be able to articulate what is going on for you in that moment. This insight, this pause to take notice and articulate how you’re feeling, creates space for growth, insight and the freedom to decide what to do next.

It’s also helpful when communicating with others; whether it’s with your partner when you feel frustrated or a work colleague if you’re under pressure.

Pausing, and taking a breath to increase your self-awareness in that moment can be awkward. But using this time to check in with ourselves before reacting can be life changing.

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