Toddler in the Zoom Call: How to Move Forward from Difficult Emotions

Toddler in the Zoom Call: How to Move Forward from Difficult Emotions


What do you do when nothing you’re trying is working?

Do you “double down” and trying to push through, becoming inflexible and stubborn? Wallow in frustration and give up? Become accepting and flow with whatever is happening?

Or maybe it’s a mix, a mindset battle inside of you. On the one hand you might feel like a cranky, overwhelmed toddler. On the other, you want to feel like an artist, scientist, or adventurer, viewing the ever-changing situation like a discovery waiting to happen.

If you can relate, you’re not alone. This is a common situation for me and many of my clients. No matter what our goal is, when things don’t work out the way we expect, it can be difficult to manage our emotions.

The Battle

The other day I had PLANS.
Plans for productivity, plans for my schedule, plans for myself.

I even started working on these plans ahead of time, so that the day would go smoother.

But none of that worked the way I expected, so my plans (and me) were frustrated, and I was stuck in a mindset battle.

One part of me was feeling angry, inconvenienced, and stupid for going through all the effort of planning when it didn’t work out anyway.

Another part of me was struggling to find pockets of gratitude, to appreciate and be flexible in what was actually happening vs what I’d expected, to make the most of the situation I found myself in.

The battle in my head kept flipping back and forth. Sometimes the winner was flexibility and sometimes complaint and stubbornness.

And that’s when I remind myself that it’s about emotional management, not control.

We don’t appreciate or thrive when a manager tries to micro-manage, restrict, or control everything we do to their ideal. But all too often, it’s what we do to our emotions and situations.

Toddler in the Zoom Call: How to Move Forward from Difficult Emotions

We will have a range of emotions in our lifetime (and sometimes all in one moment). That’s human. That’s normal.

It can be helpful to accept that the emotions are present vs ignoring them with “I shouldn’t feel this way.” Think of this like someone acknowledging a toddler or noisy pet who shows up in a Zoom meeting with work colleagues.

Listening and acknowledging emotions don’t necessarily mean that we need to let them all lead at all times, just because they’re there. That would be like letting the toddler make CEO-level decisions just because they’re in the meeting.

But just like that toddler, if we ignore or roughly push aside those emotions, we can also find that it becomes more difficult to focus on the meeting (or whatever) in front of us. It also may lead later to more emotional eruptions or require increasingly more dramatic ways of ignoring them.

A Gentle Alternative

Gentle acceptance, a softer self-kindness and curiosity about what’s happening and what our new options are, can be a more helpful option. It can help us move forward constructively while honoring our emotions and the information they provide.

As I practice this, I find I’m more resilient and flexible, less prone to overwhelm, which makes everything else easier. My clients also say that as they learn to accept and manage their emotions, they experience less emotional eating and more peace overall.

Here’s an invitation to reflect on your approach and practice managing your emotions. Reflect on your responses and the emotions you experience as you read and answer the following questions. Practice self-kindness (it’s generally unhelpful to beat yourself up over emotions related to the answers you give). Then, if you’d like, share your answers with me for a quick follow-up tip.

Questions to reflect and apply:

  • In what ways are you giving your emotional toddler CEO privileges?
  • In what ways are you an over-controlling manager, ignoring helpful information?
  • What might your life look like if you started practicing a different emotional management style?
  • How can you try that out in a small way today?

Read more: Adventure or Anxiety? How an Attitude of Adventure Helps You Fully Enjoy Your Food and Life


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