Cope like an Expert
Updated: Jun 15, 2020
Anger, Sadness, Fear, Oh My!
Feelings can be so inconvenient. Don’t they realize that we have things to get done? Well, after much research and life experience, I bring you the conclusion that feelings aren’t going anywhere. Since that’s the case, I thought I’d teach you a tip on how to get through the day without emotions running the show.
After being a therapist for nearly 10 years, seeing lots of stress, fears, and tears, I have come up with a motto that I am a big believer in. Allow me to share it with you…
Feel. Breathe. Do something else. Repeat.
I know, I know, this is the hard part. “But, Brittani, I thought that you were going to teach how to make the feelings go away!?”. Sorry, but it turns out, it just doesn’t work like that. Emotions are there for a reason, they are a type of compass for us, they tell us helpful things if we listen. Imagine if we had no feelings… if we had no guilt, no remorse, no happiness, no grief, no anxiety, no fear. It may sound good at the surface as each of these can feel overwhelming, but we need them.
Guilt: We need guilt to inform us of what we don’t want to repeat, what our moral compass is.
Remorse: We need remorse to help us empathize with someone who we may have hurt so we know that we need to repair that relationship and not go around hurting other people’s feelings without caring.
Happiness: We need happiness to bring joy to our lives and to learn what we like, what motivates us, what fills us up.
Grief: We need grief in order to process loss so that we can honor what happened and work toward building the new version of life ahead of us rather than stuffing it away and getting stuck in what we wish life was still like, even if it’s no longer possible.
Anxiety: We need anxiety to give us a little bit of a push at times, to help us plan/prepare, to pay attention, to warn us of something.
Fear: I don’t need to explain what would happen if we had no fear at all.
The point is, even if it can suck to feel, we need to or else it will get buried down into a pressure cooker within us and pop out when we don’t want it to. We need to feel to release some ‘steam’ to give it attention, because trust me, it’s not going away just because we ignore it.
It’s better to feel the amount we are feeling in the moment rather than stuffing it away and then having to feel allllll of the feels at once when the pressure cooker lid pops. We can just learn how to feel in doses to make it feel approachable, more doable, less overwhelming.
This one may sound cliché but it’s actually pretty darn useful. Just a brief in and out will do, nothing fancy. A trick to make it the most useful is to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system which tells your body that’s ok to calm down now. The breaths help to transition your mind and body from feeling to the next step.
Phew! You felt feelings, good job! You survived. Check. Now let yourself take a break from all of the feels. A key to managing your emotions is learning how to not get stuck or sucked into them. To feel what you need to feel then move on to something else. The feeling may be bigger than the time you’re dedicating to it right now and that’s ok, you will be allowing yourself to feel again later (that’ll come in the next step) but for now…. we practice learning how to detach from the thought tornado. Do something else now, distract yourself.
Leave the room that you’re in, get a new change of scenery to tell your brain that you’re switching gears and to get those visual triggers away from your sight. Stepping outside would be ideal
Count backwards from 107 by 3’s
Name the NFL teams from the East to West coast
Name all of the colors that you see in front of you
Take some cool pictures
Sing all of the lyrics to a song you think you know well
Fix the thing that needs fixing
Read the letters of some sort of text backwards (seriously, try it)
Squeeze an ice cube if you must (it helps to jolt you out of it)
Name the characters of each family from Game of Thrones
Move your body- work out, take a walk, stretch, shake it off (there’s research to the literal shake it off recommendation, try it.)
Organize your purse, bookshelf, utensil drawer
Listen to music (even make a playlist for different moods!)
Google “grounding exercises”
Google something that interests you (recipes, cute puppies, cars)
Read a few quotes
Put some of your ideas in the comments!
That’s right, eventually we have to feel again. We’re breaking it into doses here, manageable doses. The more you repeat this cycle, the more your brain gains confidence in your ability to experience emotions and, therefore, the less scary they will be when they come on. Anxiety may still suck to feel but maybe it won’t feel terrifying. We have to keep grieving our losses, feel our sadness, honor our feelings. That’s healthy. That’s strength.
For more tips on getting through emotions as they come up try my 10 second tip or my guide to detaching from your phone for a moment here. If you suspect that trauma may be the root to these emotions and that flashbacks may be at play here you may want to check out The Secret to Getting Over it (Trauma that is) and I encourage you to consider to explore my page to see if we may be a good fit.