Nobody is an expert at handling uncomfortable and difficult emotions. No matter your background, socioeconomic status, gender, age, or surroundings — we all experience times where we feel bad.
If you’re a human, you’ll go through overwhelm, anger, sadness, impatience, comparison, and pain: It’s simply a part of life.
Life coach and author Christine Hassler wrote about what to do when we encounter tough emotions, and I have to agree wholeheartedly with her approach. Her advice is to “understand that your emotions are incredibly valuable. They deserve your compassion, your attention, and your patience.” Yes, even the emotions that bring discomfort!
So often in our modern age, it can be easy to avoid difficult emotions by ignoring them, repressing them, judging them, or numbing them. Whether you bat them away by powering through difficult times and staying busy or take away the pain with social media, alcohol, food, drugs, or counterproductive relationships — the options for getting trying feelings out of the way are almost limitless. But that doesn’t mean this is the best way to handle them.
Learning to deal with and express emotions productively
The most constructive way to deal with emotions head-on is by expressing them.
Talking through pain or anger is just one way to express yourself. It can be completely transformative to share your emotions with a trusted friend or mental health professional.
We’ve all heard the phrase “getting it off your chest,” and you will literally feel lighter if you opt to share what you’re going through in a real, authentic, vulnerable way. However, talking through problematic emotions can also lead you down a path of over-analyzing, which is why I think it’s important to recognize that conversation is not the ONLY way to express your emotions.
Hassler says our emotions are energy in motion. Don’t you love that? So, when you’re dealing with bad energy, think of ways you can physically express it. Maybe it’s exercising — go for a challenging hike, take a kickboxing class, or pump some iron to work through your feelings.
You can also express them through creativity: writing, drawing, painting, poetry, cooking, or some other creative outlet. By getting that emotion out into a sweat session or creative channel, you’re finding constructive ways to acknowledge whatever emotions have bubbled up.
Respond to emotions when they come calling: Be mindful
The first steps to dealing with emotions in a healthy way are recognizing them and expressing them. After you’ve worked through them in your favorite form of expression, it’s time to respond.
What is this emotion really asking of you?
If you’re angry at someone, do you need to have a conversation about boundaries or intentions? If you’re sad, maybe you need to just give yourself some time, patience, and self-love to heal. If you’re judging everyone around you, it could be because you’re your own harshest and cruelest judge. Find the things you love about yourself, and give yourself grace for all the rest.
Responding to emotions calls for taking action and igniting an often-necessary change. Instead of over-analyzing the cause of the emotion until you’re blue in the face, ask yourself what you can do to make it even a small bit better. What do you have power over in the situation? Find that, address it, and take back your emotional wellbeing.