2.1.1 Some practical tips

This section includes:

  • Practical tips
  • Useful web links.

You should allow yourself 10 minutes to complete this section.

“… but the first step for me is awareness and knowing what feelings and emotions are.”

(Solicitor, Republic of Ireland)

Some practical ways you can develop your skills in identifying different emotions include:

Building in a pause. If you think you are experiencing a particular emotion, don’t push it to one side. Instead, spend a moment to try and work out why you are experiencing it and what might lie underneath it. This does get easier with practice!
Reflecting after the event. If you experience a strong emotional reaction don’t just forget about it. Make a mental (or even written) note of it and set aside a few moments in the following 24 hours to think about what influenced it.
Developing your terminology. Spend some time learning more about different emotions, so you have the vocabulary to identify what you are experiencing more easily. A good starting point is the Greater Good Magazine published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley which contains a lot of information on different emotions (and other related topics, including a quiz on emotional intelligence.
Getting input from others. Talk to people who know you well, such as family, friends or even a close colleague. Often they will have a different insight into which emotions you are experiencing and why.
Sleep on your feelings: Sleep helps us learn and process our learning. If you are unsure what you are feeling, come back to the situation after a day (and a night’s sleep!) and see if that helps you process what emotions you might have experienced.

It may be that becoming more aware of your feelings makes you realise that you have been suppressing some uncomfortable, even distressing, emotions. This might particularly be the case if, for example, you are involved in a difficult or harrowing matter (which can lead to your experiencing vicarious/secondary trauma) or your work-life balance has been slipping.

"… I was in my 20s, you know, and dealing with rape, sexual abuse of children, quite a lot of unsavoury topics, and didn’t know anything about anything, just suddenly had to do court work. I was so busy trying to sort out the court procedure and what form do you fill out and everything, and the actual issues that I was dealing with, no-one ever to this day ever spoke to me about them, you know. I just heard it from the client or read statements and then had to go into court and speak about it."

(Solicitor, Scotland)

"What I would say though is that having been aware of and worked on various corporate deals and transactions, you can get a situation whereby the deal has to be done no matter what. And you do get people staying until two, three o’clock in the morning, completely nothing else around them matters, all they’re working on is their work. And that’s when I think potentially there’s a real risk of stuff like mental health issues or people who aren’t quite coping with that kind of pressure going unnoticed."

(Solicitor, Wales)

Often, identifying and reflecting on these can make them more manageable and easier to regulate. It may also make you aware that they are providing valuable indications that you need to reassess parts of your workload and/or your approach to it. However, if you feel like these emotions are becoming unbearable (sometimes called distress intolerance) there is detailed guidance [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] to help you work through this.

Don’t let things get overwhelming

2.1 Identifying and understanding different emotions

2.2 Incorporating and regulating different emotions