Do you know this feeling? When difficult emotions overwhelm you? You try to ignore them, push them away, force a positive attitude, but they keep coming back – and even become stronger.
Some call them negative emotions because they are uncomfortable, make us uneasy, show us sides of ourselves we’d rather not see. Others pretend it’s just a question of attitude, that you can stop yourself from feeling them by being positive.
But what if you adopted a different approach? What if you realized that these feelings actually have a purpose and can help you grow? What if you could follow a process to accept, process and gain insight into your emotions? Here are 6 steps to follow to help you to handle challenging emotions.
The first step to handle challenging emotions is to simply accept them. It’s crucial to understand that these feelings won’t go away if you ignore them. Quite the opposite, forced positive thinking will only make them come back magnified.
Ditching the feelings of guilt or weakness is an essentiel part of the acceptance process. Realizing that it’s perfectly human to have difficult emotions and that allowing them is proof of emotional intelligence will save you a huge amount of time and energy.
Accepting your emotions is understanding that you cannot control them. You can only control how you respond to them.
Once you’ve accepted that these emotions are natural and can’t be ignored, the next step is to allow yourself to feel them. Find an appropriate location and time, and let the feelings flow. If necessary, cry, scream, kick a pillow, or do whatever will help you exteriorize the feelings that want to emerge (as long as you are not hurting yourself or others, of course).
It’s important that you take your time with this process. Give yourself the room to express your emotions. Depending on how deeply they are anchored and how long you’ve been holding on to them, it might take you some time to face and feel them.
Also, consider communicating your feelings to others. Sharing your inner experiences can be a way to connect deeply and will increase your chances of getting your needs met at the same time. Make sure you trust the person you are opening up to and keep in mind that it’s safer to share these feelings once you had a chance to sit with them by yourself first rather than blurting them out when they are coming up.
When my five-year-old tells me about a situation that upset him and I ask him how he felt, he usually responds: “Not nice.” So I follow up and ask him: “What do you mean? Did it make you angry or sad? Or did you feel disappointed?”
We often underestimate the importance of labeling our emotions. Even as adults, we usually only use a few adjectives to describe our feelings. Not seldom do we fail to recognize that our anger hides others feelings, for instance.
Identifying and naming our emotions in a more nuanced way can help us regulate them better. Here is a non-exhaustive list of emotions so you can give it a try: boredom, content, disdain, eagerness, frustration, hope, loneliness, overwhelm, serenity, proud, self-consciousness.
4. Distance yourself
An effective way of detaching from your emotions consists
We all agree on the fact that some are more challenging and uncomfortable than others. However, it’s crucial to realize that they all play an equally important role as indicators of our wellbeing and can show us the way to happiness and serenity.
When trying to detach from your emotions, it’s also important to allow yourself to tune into these feelings and feel the sensations in our body. Concentrating on your body will prevent you from thinking too much and help you process the emotions without torturing your mind.
Distancing yourself from your emotions is an essential step as you will be able to respond rather than react to them. This way, it will be easier to think long term and take decisions according to your values.
Detaching from your emotions is also a way of questioning and understanding them. Ask yourself where these feelings are coming from. What do your body and soul want to tell you?
Be honest with yourself: Are your reactions appropriate in certain situations? Can you identify any patterns or triggers that make specific feelings arise?
Understanding where these feelings are coming from is one of the most important steps of the process. Finding the root of these challenging emotions will not only give you insight about yourself, but is also a great opportunity to learn, heal and move on.
6. Let go
Accepting emotions and allowing yourself to feel them, doesn’t mean that you are doomed to experience them forever. You might have needed to go through them at some point, but once you have given yourself the room for feel and process them, it’s time to move on.
Ideally, you have now understood where these challenging feelings came from so it’s time to change your approach and apply the lessons learned.
Of course, this doesn’t happen from one day to another. Sometimes, we need to go through this whole process various times before we are ready to move forward. However, every time you face them brings you closer to healing and thriving.
Moreover, as parents it’s particularly important to know how to manage our emotions in a healthy as it’s a way of taking care not only of ourselves but also of the people around us.