Why Your Emotions are Like a Glitter Jar
Like a glitter jar, your emotions can’t be forced to calm down and settle to the bottom – in this blog, our Senior Facilitator Paul Gapper explains about the importance of ‘thought awareness’ and how to manage feelings of anger, frustration and stress at work.
Whenever I run a course on wellbeing and resilience, I take along a glitter jar. It’s a tool used with children to help them calm down when they are upset. Like a snow globe, it is a jar filled with water and glitter glue and more glitter. It is shaken and then the child watches as the glitter settles.
The reason I use it on courses with adults is that it is a good way of talking about emotions. Somebody sends us a ‘rude’ email. Our internal glitter jar gets shaken up. If we then respond from that disturbed state, the reply is likely to be poorly judged.
In the session, I shake up the jar and challenge the participants to force the glitter to the bottom. Of course, it cannot be done. Yet we think we can force ourselves not to feel stressed or angry: ‘I shouldn’t be stressed!’ ‘Other people seem to cope!’ ‘I’m not annoyed!’ Each statement another shake of the jar.
What’s more, if I go back to the original email when I feel calmer, I find that that wasn’t what they said! My interpretation was clouded by the feeling it provoked.
So, what do we do? Very simply: create the conditions necessary to allow the glitter to settle. Take a breath, stand up, go and talk to someone, create a dummy email and then put off sending it. In the short term it can be the difference between dealing with the original problem and creating a new one. Thinking from the clear water that gradually gathers at the top of the jar often presents a more creative solution.
The importance of ‘thought awareness’
What is interesting, I think, is the extent to which our internal jars can be shaken up by our own thoughts. There is an almost immediate link between our thoughts and our body sensations. When I was in my 20s, I did a lot of shift work. In the few seconds after I had woken, I wouldn’t be sure if that day was an early shift, a late shift or a day off. As my mind switched between the options, I could feel my body tense and relax in response.
One of the nine principles of resilience is ‘thought awareness.’ Just noticing that there is a monologue going on in your head. Thoughts about what is going to happened, what has happened and a commentary on what is happening in front of you.
These thoughts are like passengers at a railway station. You do not ask them to arrive or leave, they seem to do so of their own accord. At times of stress, your mind will be like Euston at commuter time. What do you think would happen if you tried to stop an actual commuter from getting to where they wanted to? Just stood in front of them and put your hands out to block them? There would be a struggle, at the very least. It might be better to find a place on the station where you could watch your passenger/thoughts. Maybe even bring a bit of kindness to them.
On the wellbeing and resilience course we explore ways to deal with thoughts and feelings, as well as practical ways to alleviate stress and work with setbacks and change.
For the moment, let me leave you with this: some of the thoughts that cause us stress are persistent. Like a series of similar-looking passengers who keep using the same station. ‘I’m not good enough,’ ‘I’ll never get finished in time,’ ‘If I don’t get this done, it will be a disaster,’ ‘It needs to be perfect.’
There are a series of helpful tools called Socratic Questions. My favourite is the first one: ‘What advice would I give a friend if they were having this thought?’ We are often much kinder when giving advice to a friend. You might say things like, ‘Of course, you’re good enough,’ ‘You’ve said you wouldn’t get finished in time in the past and you usually do,’ ‘If it doesn’t get done in time, is it really a disaster?’ ‘Good enough is good enough.’
The good news is that, given the chance, we can be our own best friends: give ourselves a break (literally!) when we’re stressed or to look more kindly on ourselves when it is needed.
- Four Ways of Preparing For and Coping With Change, a blog by Billy Burgess
- 321zero: How I Solved my Email Overload and Transformed my Life, a blog by Henry Stewart
- 4 Ways to Improve Your Relationship With Stress, a blog by Billy Burgess
Hi, we are Happy
We are leading a movement to create happy, empowered and productive workplaces.
How can we help you and your team to find joy in at least 80% of your work?
Why choose Happy?
- Award-winning learner-focused approach
- Small class sizes to give personal one-to-one support
- Two years of free support after your course
- Private group options available
- No quibble money-back guarantee on all courses
Trusted Customer4 days ago
The course was great- involved lots of hands on activity and discussion which was engaging. Would be nice to have more visuals (on screen or on paper) as I am a visual learner but that is just a personal preference.
Paul is a Masters qualified trainer with experience in interpersonal skills, work skills and management training. He has worked in the public, private and voluntary sectors for over fifteen years. Paul has a Distinction in the Institute of Personnel Development Training Certificate and the teacher-training certificate for Mindfulness-Based Approaches from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. In 2017, Paul was a Finalist for the Learning Professional of the Year at the 2017 Learning Awards.
Testimonials from happy Customers
Trusted Customer3 days ago
The course was great- involved lots of hands on activity and discussion which was engaging. Would be nice to have more visuals (on screen or on paper) as I am a visual le...
Ursula Clery4 days ago
Really enjoyed the training. Many practical skills I will try on a daily basis
Sally Foster4 days ago
Excellent trainer. No question irrelevant, learnt so much.
Trusted Customer5 days ago
Trusted Customer5 days ago
Good job, thanks.
Trusted Customer5 days ago
Mathew Earles7 days ago
Trusted Customer14 days ago
great. amazing service.
chris smith14 days ago
excellent course tutor delivering content in an accessible and enjoyable way
Tanya Bunney18 days ago
Friendly, knowledgeable trainer who encouraged us to actively learn
Laura Breadon18 days ago
Trainer was clear, patient and attuned to our learning needs. Customised training to our specific work needs. Also made learning fun.
Quyen Banh19 days ago
It is good because the course allows participants to ask questions and requests.