In the last article, I explained that feelings are your signposts to what is happening in your life. We explored the seven main negative emotions which, when ignored can cause them to become stronger, as though they are shouting to be heard. When you listen to what your feelings are telling you and respond appropriately, you are on your way to feeling a lot better about yourself, gaining perspective on a situation and having a healthier relationship with yourself and others. Yet, we tend to suppress, repress and distract, often with what I call “too-muching” behaviours like eating more, drinking more, smoking more, spending more time on social media or buying something else you don’t need.
However, these just cause the feelings to become more powerful as they fight for acknowledgement. Failing to do so can lead to health problems, depression, relationship problems and more. So, once you have acknowledged the feeling, what should you do about it? This article offers some constructive ways of dealing with negative feelings.
There are three main ways to provide a healthy response to negative feelings:
1. Meet the Need
- Identify the feeling
- Identify the cause of the feeling (the unfulfilled need, want or desire)
- Meet the need (an action that fulfils the need, want or desire in a healthy way)
Some people find it difficult to identify their feelings. If this is true for you, I would recommend a process of elimination. For example, using the list used in my last article, Jane might conclude “It isn’t sadness, it isn’t boredom or anger. Oh, it feels like stress. I am feeling overwhelmed with all I have to do before the end of the day.” If you would like a longer list of feelings, do feel free to contact me and I can send you a list.
Identifying the cause of the feeling may need some quiet reflection. There are so many variables, some of which you might discount because your conscious mind may tell you “it’s only such and such” or that you “should be able to deal with it”. But it really is important to look at the cause regardless of whether you think it is reasonable. If you feel your reaction is bigger than the perceived cause, it may be because of a build up of similar experiences that weren’t dealt with at the time. So, to build on the example with Jane in the last paragraph, she may say “I have no idea how I’m going to get through my normal jobs today. Now my boss wants a report by 5, I have to check on my mum on the way home, pick up her prescription on the way and then I promised we would go out to celebrate our anniversary. I just can’t do it all.”
Meeting the need can be done in any number of ways which I could not cover in this article. Creativity is important here because you probably have a set way of responding to situations. In Jane’s example, she is probably used to saying ‘yes’ to everyone. But what options does she really have? Again, there are many variables, but here is an example. In recognising that there is only so much time available, she could prioritise, decide what she needs to say no to, what she needs to say yes to and what can wait. For example, her work situation may be eased by asking her boss which of all the current priorities she should focus on right now as there is not enough time to finish everything by 5. This requires calm assertiveness and creates important boundaries. Someone else may be able to pick up the prescription for her mum, or use a delivery service. She could ask her partner to delay dinner by an hour so he has her undivided attention. If you are a person who says yes to everything, this may be a tricky one to solve but, if you don’t, you will pay the price in the long term.
2. Practice Emotional Freedom Technique
This is a wonderful technique that helps you to manage your emotions constructively. For a demonstration on how to do this, check out my YouTube Channel or contact me, Tricia Woolfrey on 0345 130 0854 for 1:1 coaching on how to do it. It processes your emotions rather than suppress them. It’s easy to learn and easy to do too.
3. Have Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Doing something positive can help you change state naturally. Try the following ideas:
- Do some exercise – a great way to relieve stress and help you feel in control (be careful that you do not use this simply as a distractor)
- Keep a journal – writing down your feelings can be very cathartic
- Declutter your home/desk – clutter is a way of hanging onto negative emotion so decluttering can be very therapeutic
- Practice mindfulness – this eases the clutter of your mind so you feel more resourceful in times of pressure. Call me if you would like to learn how to do this. Otherwise there are books and apps you might want to try. It is simple to do, but not necessarily easy.
- Start doing self-hypnosis – an excellent way of maintaining a positive outlook, feeling relaxed and reprogramming your mind (see the book An Inside Job ™)
- Call or see a friend – maybe someone you haven’t talked to in a while
- Do something kind for someone – there is no better way of instantly feeling good
Isn’t Happiness the Answer?
Yes. And no. The problem is that most people try to distract from negative emotions by doing things which make them feel good in the moment. This of course is a good thing, but not if it stops you facing up to life and growing from challenges. Short bursts of pleasure raise serotonin – the feel good chemical – and it can become addictive. Especially when you have challenges. But if you don’t deal with these challenges proactively, problems simply build up and you need to distract more and more, never quite feeling fulfilled from all the fun you are having. True happiness comes from a different place which I will write about in a future article.
Not only that, but you need light and shade in your life. As I write this, we just had the hottest day of the year. We have been yearning for sunshine for months and here it is. And what is everyone hoping for? A little shade and some rain for the garden. (Today we have rain and shade so balance is restored!) If we didn’t feel sad sometimes, would it be possible to feel true happiness? If we don’t get irritated sometimes, how will we know when things are going well? We are supposed to feel our emotions. Who wants to live in the land of Stepford? It is the contrast which helps us enjoy life more.
When Self-Help isn’t Enough
If you feel stuck, or your feelings are overwhelming, often it is helpful to work with someone who is skilled at helping others. Working with clients, I help steer you through the complexity of your emotions and your past so that you can enjoy more of your present. Do feel free to call me on 0345 130 0854 if you would like to explore this a little further, without any obligation. Or get in touch here.