KATIE JOHNSON
UX DESIGNER
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Thinking

Emotional Health and Creative Work

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I have never been much of a morning person. I’m often rushed while catching my bus, beating traffic to get to work in time to do my best work. If I’m honest, my mornings are very much, by default, filled with anxiety.

My ability to create quiet, centering time for myself in the mornings has wavered over the years. Morning anxiety is still something I’m learning to work with.

What if I could feel more happiness or excitement upon waking up and heading into work most days? This is achievable by getting smarter about emotions and what they are trying to say.

There is good news! It is possible to recognize and channel how we are feeling in any moment. It may sound like the stuff of preschoolers, but having a more robust vocabulary and understanding of the purpose of each emotion can help immensely.  Understanding the value that each emotion gives enables us to leverage a much broader range of our intelligence. For this work, I recommend Karla McLaren’s book The Language of Emotions, What Your Feelings are Trying to Tell You.


Recognizing emotions in their subtle states can be helpful - especially with the socially less acceptable ones (ahem, anger, sadness, fear). When we feel an emotion, every one of us has three options;

  1. We can suppress it. Excellent for when the other two options aren’t available to us (helps us save face, protect ourselves, etc),

  2. We can express it (good for when being vulnerable to ourselves or others is safe), or

  3. We can channel it.

Channeling requires translating a feeling into an action that increases our sense of overall wellbeing.  You could also call this listening to your body and feeling connected to your body. Channeling involves acknowledging a feeling by:

  1. Naming what emotion(s) are there,

  2. Identifying its location within  your body,

  3. Gauging its intensity on a scale from 1-10, and

  4. Asking what triggered the emotion to arise, and

  5. Asking the question specific to each emotion (fear: what action should I take to feel safe? sadness: what must be released?, anger: what must be protected or restored?)

Karla McLaren’s Language of Emotion cards can be a helpful tool for helping support this type of emotional literacy. They are available here for $11 + shipping.

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Often, emotions have something valuable to tell us about what’s needed for us in a situation. Listening to our emotions keeps us aligned with what’s important to us or our values. Remaining connected to one’s values and emotions is fuel for the engine of good creative work.

Remaining connected to one’s values and emotions is fuel for the engine of good creative work.

In any leading organization, people in creative roles have the opportunity to regularly evolve their work practices, how they define what they are working on and their impact on the results of their work. A team who can skillfully channel their deeper emotional intelligence into this process will be able to achieve their organization’s purpose much more effectively.

A team who can skillfully channel their deeper emotional intelligence will be able to achieve their organization’s purpose much more effectively.

Once we understand our emotions, communicating around them is another hugely important skill. Non-violent communication can provide a toolset for important conversations that would otherwise seem challenging, offensive or scary. Emotions can help us determine which conversations are most important to have.

Katie Johnson