We all experience difficult feelings. Everyone feels sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, and fear during their lives. Sometimes people may feel depressed and overwhelmed by their feelings. And most people know the unhealthy options to deal with difficult feelings like overeating, avoidance, denial, and substance abuse.
You may have chosen unhealthy options in the past. But unhealthy ways to deal with difficult feelings can hurt you and cause you to hurt others emotionally or physically. These options don’t solve the problem and may even make you feel worse.
There are healthy options available to deal with difficult feelings. Most importantly, know that you are not alone. Psychologists, scientists, and researchers that study human emotions as well as people who use healthy options to deal with difficult feeling offer good advice and useful tips to help you feel and do better.
In the Moment
When a difficult feeling emerges, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. The human brain processes problems as threats, and we have an ancient, pre-programmed fight or flight response to threats. Often, we get angry and lash out or try to get away from the problem. When we don’t know what to do, we might freeze and be unsure of what to do or say. Using healthy options to deal with difficult feelings starts with a plan to help yourself in the moment.
When faced with a problem, you do have time to think. Pausing allows you to sort through your possible responses and chose a healthy one. Some people count to ten before they respond to someone to get past their initial feeling of anger or fear. Other options include taking a deep breath before responding or saying, “Give me a moment.”
Know What You Are Feeling
With your pause, you can take time to identify and acknowledge what you are feeling. Your next step is to think, so you need to know first how you are reacting. It’s normal to have difficult feelings, but your reaction may not be healthy if you don’t acknowledge what you are feeling.
Now that you have a moment and understand what you are feeling, what can you do to change it or improve your situation? Do you want to respond in anger? Are you ready to face your fear of saying or doing the wrong thing? Your first reaction, based on the fight or flight response, may not be your best option to solve the problem long-term.
Whatever reaction you decided would be best, now is the time to do it. Because you know how you feel and are ready to assert yourself to solve the problem, your reaction is healthier than making a choice based on denial, anger, or anxiety.
To avoid unhealthy options, you need to have healthy ones instead. There are many healthy options that you can choose after the first moment has passed, and you are still dealing with your difficult feelings.
Worrying, overeating, relieving the moment over and over, dwelling on your problem, and withdrawing from others are unhealthy ways to deal with your difficult feelings. In place of unhealthy options, you can use one of these healthy options.
- Play with an animal
- Reorganize your room
- Eat a healthy snack
- Drink a glass of water
- Draw how you’re feeling
- Make a gratitude list
- Let yourself cry
- Rip paper into small pieces
- Make a list of solutions to problems
- Make a list of your strengths. There are plenty of things about you that are awesome, no matter how down you are feeling at the moment
- Do something nice for someone you know
- Learn something new
- Create – try a craft project, color, paint, or draw.
- Write – you could write a story, a poem, or an entry in a journal
- Get a plant and start a garden
- Go for a walk
- Read a book
- Listen to music, a podcast, or an audiobook
Having difficult feelings happens in life. There are lots of healthy options to deal with your difficult feelings instead of harmful ways that could hurt you or others.