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Dealing With Emotions: Your Guide to Healthy Coping

We all become victims of our emotions at one point or another. Whether we are struggling with a breakup or had a rough day at work, we need coping mechanisms to get us through. When we can intelligently and thoughtfully handle our emotions, it makes us more productive. We are better able to conquer stressful situations and even improve our health.

However, not all coping skills work the same. Sometimes we may opt for solutions that supply us with quick relief that lead to much larger problems later. It is crucial that we rid ourselves of emotional distress through these healthy coping skills we establish.

We know it can be difficult, and that is why we created this guide to help. Let’s get started!

Identify Emotions

The best way to help us make sense of what we are feeling is to put a name on it. Saying to yourself “I’m feeling very stressed” or “I’m overwhelmed right now” can be the clarity you need to move forward. 

There have been a variety of studies on the power of labeling emotions, so taking a moment to identify your emotions could help you feel better more quickly.

We suggest keeping a journal to help you make sense of your feelings and keep track of them. Talking to someone and labeling your emotions with someone else is also a great way to cope.

If you want to dive deeper, try asking yourself the following questions:

1. What is happening to my body?

Bring your awareness to your body and identify what physical things you are feeling. Are you short of breath? Do you have a headache? When you notice these things, it becomes easier to take care of yourself.

2. Who is here?

The idea of ‘who’ helps you separate your emotions from yourself. This is another way of labeling your emotions and taking the intensity out of the experience.

3. Where can this emotion be held?

The best piece of advice we can offer: walk away. If you see the narcissist is angry, do not engage. Physically distance yourself from this person if possible. Here are 5 other helpful ways to avoid the rage.

4. Why is this emotion coming up now?

Did someone cut you off in traffic on your way to work? Did it start raining and you forgot your umbrella? Whatever the situation, identify the source, recognize the feeling and let it go. Often these sharp emotions are the result of our primitive ‘fight or flight’ instinct, so acknowledge that and keep pushing through the day.

5. When should I take action?

You cannot properly ask this question without first knowing how to understand your emotions. Once you have, you will be able to take action and deal with them appropriately. Think about if something warrants seeking out an apology or forgiving and forgetting. Whatever it may be, you will be able to take the best course of action when you can properly identify your emotions.

Coping Skills

After you know what you are dealing with, you can more easily apply coping skills to correctly deal with your emotions.

Emotion-Focused Coping

Regardless of how you are feeling, emotion-focused coping skills can help you deal with your emotions in a healthy way. These coping strategies focus on soothing, distracting, and helping you tolerate distress.

Sometimes facing your emotions is the best way to cope. For instance, if you recently suffered a loss and feel sad. You need time to grieve to move on healthily. Other times, you may need coping skills to change your mood. Here are some examples:

  • Clean the house,
  • Draw,
  • Exercise,
  • Write a gratitude list,
  • Call a loved one,
  • Meditate,
  • Take a bath,
  • Read a book,
  • Go outside for a walk,
  • Play with a pet.

Problem-Focused Coping

Solving a problem-head on is another great way to manage stress and cope. Changing your behavior toward a situation or creating a plan of action are very helpful.

Problem-focused coping can involve more drastic measures like cutting someone out of your life or changing jobs. Here are a few examples:

  • Create a to-do list,
  • Set healthy boundaries,
  • Ask for professional or personal support,
  • Leave situations that cause you distress,
  • Emphasize problem-solving,
  • Manage your time better.

There is no ‘how to’ list when it comes to coping. Try a few of these skills out and see what works best for you. It may take some time to find the right combination, but it is worth it.

Unhealthy Coping Strategies To Avoid

Some strategies may seem like easy solutions, but that does not make them healthy. These often create bigger, more serious problems in your life. Here are a few unhealthy coping skills you should be aware of:

● Alcohol and drugs. We all know drugs and alcohol have the ability to temporarily numb us, but this does not fix our issues. These substances often add new problems to our lives and make us feel worse. Although it may sound like a good idea, avoid over drinking or using drugs to cope.

● Sleeping too much. Sleep is another temporary escape. It may seem like a good way to avoid problems but when you wake up, they will still be there.

● Overeating. Many people use food to cope. The term ‘eat your feelings’ came from somewhere. However, this leads to a very unhealthy relationship with food that can result in binge or restrictive eating.

● Avoiding things. If done incorrectly, even the healthiest of coping strategies can be unhealthy. Do not avoid spending time with your friends because you are stressed about your work life. This leads to you becoming isolated and creates more anxiety than it fixes. It will not solve the problem, just mask it.

● Overspending. Retail therapy may be a way to feel better for some people, but this can become unhealthy. When you spend more than you can afford, that adds extra stress and anxiety to your life, and who needs that?

● Venting. It is one thing to talk about your problems with friends to receive feedback and possible solutions. It is another to repeatedly vent about how hard your life is and end up stuck. Again, this does not break the cycle, but rather keeps you stuck in the same place.

When To Talk To A Therapist

When your emotions begin to feel like they are taking over, it is time to seek professional help. Long-term emotional dysregulation and mood swings are linked to several mental health conditions (Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder). It is important to receive a diagnosis and work through these underlying conditions if they are present.

A therapist is very helpful in offering support so you can:

  • Address your concerns,
  • Explore what contributes to your dysregulated emotions,
  • Learn how to regulate your emotions,
  • Practice reframing feelings of distress.

If left untreated, these emotions could lead to more unhealthy coping mechanisms like suicide or self-harm. If you have the urge to self-harm or are having suicidal thoughts, please get help right away.

If you are looking to start working with a therapist, try Mental Treat. Our intelligent platform is the best way to filter through professionals to find someone who meets all of your needs. Simply click here to start your journey to better mental health.

A Word From Mental Treat

Remember, not every coping strategy is right for every person. Journaling might work well for a friend, but you may find that your head gets clearer after a walk. Whatever strategy it is, it is crucial you develop your own tool kit and ways of coping.

When it comes to coping skills, it is important to have many tools and resources. You may find that engaging in exercise is helpful when you are frustrated, but does not improve sadness. That is okay! It is a learning process. The more aware you are of the options available, the easier it will be. Take care, and be well!

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