4 strategies for dealing with difficult emotions

Photo by Uday Mittal on Unsplash

The world can be a scary and confusing place. Life can be hard. People can be cruel.

For better or worse, difficult emotions are a part of life. So here are four strategies for dealing with them:

Feel, Don’t Resist, Your Feelings

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: “No feeling is final” and the poet Robert Frost wrote that “the best way out is always through.” Listen to the poets – when it comes to difficult emotions, I think they know what they’re talking about. Even though you don’t like this feeling right now, attempting to shut down, resist, or block it out will only make things worse in the long run. As uncomfortable and annoying as this is, you will be able to process and move forward from your negative feelings if you first allow yourself to feel them. Using a mindfulness practice can help you learn how to be more present with your emotions. And remember: it is physiologically impossible for any feeling to last forever.

Be Kind to Yourself

You are a human being with flaws and failings, but that doesn’t make you bad or unloveable. Talk to and treat yourself the way you would a good friend who is going through a tough time. If you would never call a loved one stupid, don’t do it to yourself. You are probably doing better than you think. And even if you aren’t, you still deserve love, care and respect by virtue of being alive. So pick something something safe that feels comforting you (a hot shower, a walk outside, your favorite TV show) and then go do it. This is your permission to be kind to yourself. Today.

View Feelings As Information, Not Threats

I often tell my clients that feelings are information for you to pay attention to. For example, if you’re tired, it probably means you need rest. If you’re scared, maybe there is a threat in your presence and you need to get to safety. If you’re angry, it might be because a need was not met, a change is needed, or a boundary has been crossed. What might your feelings, as uncomfortable as they are to experience, be trying to tell you about your needs right now? How can you get this need met in a safe, self-compassionate way?

Reach Out for Support

You don’t have to go through this alone. Call up a friend who knows how to listen and share how you’re feeling. Then let them share how they’ve been feeling and practice listening to them. If you don’t have a lot of great listeners in your life, you can call 1-800-273-8255, chat with someone online by clicking here, or text HOME to 741741 to speak with someone who has been trained in the art of listening, available 24/7/365.

What’s your friendship attachment style? Take the quiz and find out!

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This site is for informational purposes only. It isn’t intended to diagnose or treat any mental health problems and is not intended as psychological advice.
© 2022 Gina Davis, PsyD. All rights reserved.

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