Ways to Cope When Emotions Try to Take Over
We can't always control the external situation, but we can always work on controlling our response to whatever the situation is. We cannot control when traumatic responses are triggered in our body, but we can learn healthy coping skills to down-regulate the feelings when we feel flooded.
Sometimes it's best to just step out of the toxic situation. But we all know that's not always possible. Sometimes we need to find a way to muscle through it in the moment in the safest, way possible. Sometimes, actually often times, we just need to allow ourselves to feel the shitty emotions by recognizing them for what they are and letting them pass.
Emotional awareness allows us to recognize when we are stressed out and when we are out of balance internally, which can easily manifest externally, creating an even bigger frustration. Once we are aware of our emotions, we can then address them.
Emotions are not bad. And it's not healthy to ignore them, because ignoring and suppressing negative emotions, also numbs and suppresses positive emotions. Ask me how I know...
So by not processing our feelings, by not allowing ourselves to feel, we are wounding ourselves even further. Which means it's important to find a way to process what's going on in our body so that we can be healthy and fully present. And capable of being with our emotions and embracing them, rather than them controlling us.
When you catch yourself going into "fight, flight, or freeze," that's a sign that something internally is begging for your attention.
According to Dr. Jeanne Segal, "Emotions are meant to be resources, not obstacles."
Our emotions act as a guide. Are you happy? Great! Embrace it fully! Are you frustrated? Ok, what can you do about it? What is your body telling you you are needing? Are you broken-hearted? Why? And how can you love yourself to heal that? Again, what do you need? Do you wish you didn't exist because the pain is so great? Where's that pain coming from? Feel it. Ask questions. Dive into it. Explore it. Ask your body what it needs to heal and feel safe.
Am I good at all that? Heck no. I'm learning as I go, and I have definitely not arrived. But what I have learned is baby steps in the right direction is what creates growth and progress. Sometimes I fall. Sometimes I feel like I take GIANT steps backward. But the more I keep moving forward and trying to make progress. The shorter the time periods in the dark are.
So what are some coping skills we can use to practice when we are experiencing emotions that are valid but feel beyond our control and painful?
To start off with, do anything that involves loving yourself.
When you are hurting...don't feed yourself hate. Don't tell yourself anything that you wouldn't tell your best friend if they're hurting. For example, if your best friend is in intense emotional pain and wishes they didn't exist...you wouldn't tell them, "you suck and nothing will ever work for you - you should just die." And so we shouldn't allow our inner voice to feed us those messages either.
Instead of trying to ignore, push away, or suppress our uncomfortable emotions, we can be with them and master them. We can "tame" them. Like riding a bull, or competing in a wrestling match, or running a race, or imagine competing in whatever activity gives you the most energy and drive to dominate...We can develop the capacity and ability to dominate and regulate our emotions with practice.
The more we practice, the more skilled we get at overcoming obstacles as they come at us from every random angle. The more we practice emotional regulation and being present, the stronger we become.
So, when these obstacles, or strong emotions come, which they will. What is in your tool box to help you calm down in the moment? How can you love yourself?
I've compiled a list of healthy ways to cope with stress. Some can be done in the moment, others we have to be able to get away. But the more we practice self-care, and genuinely loving yourself, the stronger your coping muscles will become, enhancing our ability to down-regulate the intensity of our emotions when life throws shit at us...
A few ideas that you can do no matter where you are:
* Take deep breaths in through your nose. Hold it for a few seconds. Let it out.
* Let your mind go completely blank - try to reset.
* Imagine yourself in nothingness - now create what you want in that nothingness.
* Get present. Feel the place your sitting or standing in, feel how you're grounded where you're at... and look around the room. List, in detail, 5 things that you can see (include their texture, color, and any other descriptive words you want). List 4 things you can feel (like what do the clothes feel like on your body...what does your skin feel like...is there air movement in the room...are you hot/cold...what does the texture of the chair your sitting in feel like...what do different textures around you feel like...are your clothes rough, silky, soft, itchy...). List 3 things you can hear (birds chirping, somebody walking around, wind blowing, ac running, water running, washing machine, your own breathing, typing, kids playing...). List 2 things you can smell (the scent of the room, your clothing, your dog, mowed grass, rain...whatever is actually present wherever you are at). LIst 1 thing you can taste at the moment (what did you eat last...can you still taste it? Can you taste gum? Do you need to brush your teeth? LOL).
Other coping ideas:
* Get a massage.
* Take a bubble bath...or soak in epsom salt. I love the sports epsom salts with menthol in them! :)
* Paint your nails.
* Go to YouTube and learn how to tap pressure points (EFT - Emotional Freedom Technique)...or here's another link - ( https://eft.mercola.com/ )
* Listen to calming music - I love guitar music - it's very calming to me...I just learned how effective this can be the other day!:)
* Aromas...light your favorite candle or spray your favorite scent/body spray. I love peppermint. And when I spray it it makes me happy and energized.
* Scream into a pillow as long and as loud as you can
* Punch a punching bag
* Lift heavy weights
* Do push ups
* Meditating/mindfulness (unlimited resources on youtube!)
* Go outside and breathe deep, taking in the fresh air, and walk barefoot in the dirt.
* Write somebody an encouraging letter or text them
* Snuggle a pet
* Clean or organize something
* Talk to yourself as if you were your own transformation coach
* Drink some water
* Watch some funny short videos...like search youtube for funny animals or gymnastic fails...etc.
* Imagine a time or place (real or not) that makes you feel happy and euphoric and allow yourself to go there.
* Go for a motorcycle ride, swim, boat ride, walk...just move and be active :).
Coping skills are not limited to this list. We can use anything we can do to get ourselves to shift, and not stay stuck ruminating on the story behind the negative emotion. Hold the story loosely. Realize it's our perception of the event that hurts (that doesn't make the offender right!)...And help your body feel better by showing yourself love.
It's good to have a variety of coping skills because the same ones will not always work. Sometimes we have to dig around in our tool box looking for what works in that specific moment. And get curious. What works? What doesn't? Why do you think that is? It's unique to you. There are no wrong answers. Just keep swimming...
The coping skill we choose is also going to vary depending on the emotion we are dealing with. For example, if we're down and feeling depressed and lethargic...choosing a coping skill that brings energy is more likely to help you snap out of it. If we're feeling anxious and up-regulated, we're not gonna want to go listen to intense rock music, or go to a wild party, but we will most likely want to find something that can bring a calmness back to our nervous system.
What are your favorite coping skills? What skills have worked for you? What skills do you want to try?