Ways To Deal With Negative Emotions
Negative emotions are an unavoidable part of life, and they can be real pain to deal with sometimes. But it's important that we do deal with them, because they can build up inside until they make us blow our tops spectacularly, or even cause physical pain. So here are some ways you can try to deal with your emotions and relieve the stress they cause.
Table of Contents
- Acknowledge that you have them.
- Try to put things into perspective.
- Get to the core of what's bothering you.
- Try out some of these techniques.
- In summary!
Acknowledge that you have them.
Someone might have told you that you don't have the "right" to feel certain types of emotions because the matter is petty or trivial, or because it doesn't impact you directly, or because someone has it worse than you. Or even if someone didn't directly tell you that, you might have picked it up from somewhere and internalized it, and now feel guilty over every "wrong" emotion that you have.
Balderdash. This is emotional policing, plain and simple. You have the right to feel whatever emotions you have at any given moment. What defines your character isn't the emotions that you have, but rather how you act upon them. As long as you aren't acting on your emotions in a way that's inappropriate or abusive, you're fine.
If you still feel as though you have no right to these feelings because somebody out there has it worse than you, stop and ask yourself: "Is repressing these emotions actually going to fix that person's problems?" Of course it's not. The only times you need to worry about putting a lid on your emotions on account of someone who has it worse than you are A: when it somehow helps you actually fix or ease someone's problems, or B: when you're in direct contact with someone who has it worse than you (see also the ring theory of kvetching). And even then, you don't need to hold it back forever - you just need to wait until you're in a more appropriate place to deal with your feelings.
You might also feel that having emotions makes you weak or defective. It doesn't. It makes you human. The true measure of strength isn't the emotions that you have, but rather, how you manage them. Someone who loses all self-control upon becoming angry and acts out with physical or verbal abuse is weak. Someone who keeps enough self-control to deal with these emotions in a way that doesn't hurt anyone else is strong.
Acknowledging your emotions can entail a few things. It can mean stopping and thinking about how you feel and putting a name to those feelings. It can mean thinking about why you feel that way about that. It can mean writing out a list of the things that bother you, no matter how petty or trivial they might seem, and why they bother you. Again - don't feel bad about that last one. Endlessly griping to real people about petty and trivial problems can be a bad thing because it uses up their time and energy, which they may need for taking care of their own lives. But a journal isn't a real person; it doesn't have feelings or needs, so you're not any doing harm. (Some people make a daily habit of this and write their negative thoughts down every morning.)
Try to put things into perspective.
The point of putting things into perspective isn't to make yourself feel bad about your emotions, but rather to take a step back and examine them from a big picture context. Doing this can make you realize that what you're dealing with isn't as big or bad as it might seem right now, which can take the edge off the emotions you're feeling - and put you in a better state to deal with the issue that's making you upset.
To this end, you might ask yourself some questions along the lines of:
- "Okay, I find this really upsetting right now, but is this really going to matter in the next three days/weeks/months/years?"
- "All right, I feel really outraged about this right now, but realistically, how far does this actually impact my ability to live a productive and fulfilling life? How much does this actually harm me personally?"
- "Does this create actual problems for me, or is it more of an inconvenience or annoyance than anything else?"
- "How do I know the impact/fallout is going to be so bad? Why do I think that's how it'll be? Do I have any substantial evidence that it this scenario is really that likely?"
- "Is this really a major disaster, or is it a setback/inconvenience I can overcome/account for without too much trouble?"
- "Do I feel this way because the thing that upsets me is genuinely bad, or is it because I'm disappointed that it's not to my tastes?" (If it's a story or character you're bothered with, Tips To Help People Improve Their Creative Work has some tips to help you tell the difference.)
Of course, some things are indeed be very serious. But the vast majority of things that get under our skins aren't as big as they might seem to be, so putting things into perspective can often be an immense help.
Get to the core of what's bothering you.
This is especially helpful if you want to articulate your feelings, whether to someone else or in a feelings journal. Plus, by identifying the core issue, you can often more easily figure out a workable solution.
As an example of how this can work, let's say someone spends and afternoon reading terrible fanfiction starring terrible OCs. Frustration builds up and at the end of the day this person's ready to write a raving rant about why OCs are terrible.
But rather than doing that, this person might stop, step back, take a few deep breaths, and think. How were the OCs bad? What did they do that was so obnoxious?
Our hypothetical reader might work it out to, "Well, they had completely ridiculous backstories, it made no sense that the canon characters should act the way they did around them, and the constant reminders of how attractive and flawless they were got on my nerves fast."
So the problem isn't the existence of OCs. The problem is absurd character traits, canon characters behaving uncharacteristically, and authors trying too hard in all the wrong ways to make their characters appealing and interesting. From here, the reader might analyze the annoying elements and work out why they're annoying - EG, "this backstory was ridiculous because that's just not how things work in this universe. How they actually work is..."
So rather than writing a rant on why OCs are terrible and should never be used - something which most OC writers will roll their eyes at and ignore - our hypothetical reader might instead write an article explaining the ways they are often terrible and might suggest solutions to writers who are looking to improve.
This principle can be applied to a lot of things in life. If you find yourself facing something you don't like, stop and think about what it is that bothers you about it, and why it's so bothersome to you.
Try out some of these techniques.
Finally, you can try these to reduce your stress. Remember, different people will respond better to different techniques, so try as many of them as you can to see which ones work out the best for you. Also remember that depending on the nature of your stress, some techniques might be less effective - so if one doesn't seem to be working, try another.
Get physical. Go on a walk. Put on some music and dance. Clean up your home or room. Exercise for awhile. (You might try something like this, which is fairly simple and requires no special equipment.)
Breathe it out. Take a deep breath, hold it for several seconds, and then release slowly. Repeat several times.
Write it out. Write about the problem and how you feel about it in a journal. Or write it down on a piece of paper and tuck it away somewhere or destroy it.
Send it away. Put your hands on something (EG, a saucepan, a stone, a stick, the floor, etc.) and imagine your stress flowing out into that object. (It sometimes helps to exhale to give your stress a little "push.") Or visualize your stress going into a ball that flies away somewhere to be neutralized and rendered harmless. Or take a shower and visualize the water washing all of your stress away.
Create something. Make a picture, write a story or poem, go outside and arrange leaves or small rocks into an interesting pattern, whatever. If it's not perfect, remind yourself that's okay - that even if it's not, you've just gotten in some practice that will help make you better.
Destroy something. You could tear up scrap paper, snap dry twigs, rip up worn out clothing, or play a video game where you demolish something.
Watch relaxation videos. Many can be found on YouTube. There are many different kinds of relaxation videos, so if one type doesn't work out for you, try looking into others.
Watch DIY/how-to videos. Many people find these to be extremely relaxing. How-to videos of almost anything you can think of can be found on sites like HowCast and YouTube.
Watch an emotional movie or a horror film. A tear-jerker can be a good way to give yourself some much-needed emotional release. So can a horror movie.
Play. Play a game, or go outside and do something fun, or draw a silly picture.
Try a stuffed animal. Hugging a stuffed animal can help relieve stress - even if you're an adult. You can also talk to your stuffed animals.
Talk to a person. Talking to a friend or counselor can sometimes help, and you may be able to get further useful advice that way. You can get online therapy and counseling at Seven Cups of Tea and BetterHelp. You can also try The Comfort Spot if you're just looking for people to talk to.
Do something kind. Research shows that acts of kindness relieve stress. From small actions such as paying someone a compliment or giving encouragement, to more involved ones like volunteering for charity, there are many ways to show kindness. If you're not sure what you might do, you can go here for ideas!
- Acknowledge your feelings to yourself. Put a name to your feelings. Think about why you feel that way. Write out a list of the things that bother you, no matter how petty or trivial they seem.
- Try to get some perspective. Ask yourself if things are really as bad or impactful as they might feel right now.
- Get to the core of what's bothering you. Ask yourself what exactly bothers you about a certain thing, and why it you feel bothered about it.
- Try out an assortment of techniques to reduce your stress and see what works best for you.
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