Think positive! Every cloud has a silver lining! Choose happiness!
Just kidding! 🙂
You’ll never hear me say those types of things. I think negative feelings – sadness, disappointment, worry, fear, anger – are a part of life.
I think they are also a key to change. When something is constantly making you feel bad, it’s a sign that change is in order.
Too much feeling bad can lead to stress and it can take a toll on your body. Sometimes – often actually – your mind and body need to take breaks.
Easier said than done. It would be pretty cool if we could just snap our fingers, choose happy, and, poof, have the negative feelings disappear once and for all. But it’s a little more complicated than that most of the time.
So in this post I thought I’d share my go-to list of things to try whenever I’ve been wallowing in bad feelings for too long and I just need a break. None of the things in my list work every single time for every feeling, but all of them have given me relief at one time or another. It’s sort of a tool kit to draw from when you need it. If one tool doesn’t work, you try another until you find one that does work.
1. Give it time
For one special kind of bad feeling, there is nothing to do but to wait it out. When you have lost someone… When your heart has been ripped out of your chest, tossed on the floor, and stomped on until it shatters into a million pieces, there is nothing you can do but sit cross-legged amongst the pieces of your broken heart, set your face in your hands, and cry.
But with time, your heart will heal. The rebuilding – the putting together of all those little pieces – will take a long time and it will never be the same heart it was before. It will never be a perfect, innocent, gleaming heart again. The pieces will not fit together quite right. The stitches will be visible. Some of the pieces will be lost forever.
But with time, your heart will learn to beat again. It will learn to feel happiness again.
So if you have lost someone, you just have to wait and trust that the morning will come when you wake again, not with dread, but looking forward to the day ahead.
2. Feel the feeling
Some feelings will lose their power faster if you give in to them completely. If you feel the feeling. If – instead of fighting the feeling and trying to shove it out of your consciousness – you give into it. If you give the feeling your full attention and let yourself fully feel it in your body, the feeling will burn for a few short moments and then die down.
Here are two different ways to go about this:
Give it your full attention.
Give your full attention to the feelings in your body and note in your mind how you are feeling. This works particularly well when my body starts going into fight or flight, which happens to me at least a few times every day. It starts with the sinking feeling in my stomach. Instead of fighting it, I try to stop what I’m doing, note that my body is likely overreacting once again, and focus on just feeling the feeling and taking deep breaths. Depending on the trigger, this is sometimes all it takes to stop the fight or flight reaction from progressing any further.
Write it all down.
Write down all your thoughts and feelings about whatever it is you are going through. I find that this works particularly well for anger. It’s like the anger leaves my body through my fingers and is captured in the words on the computer screen. Which is a better place for the anger to be than bugging me in my mind. 🙂
Sometimes bad feelings are caused by a particular trigger – perhaps a certain person, perhaps a certain situation. And if a person or a situation is causing more bad feelings than good, it might be time to just say good-bye.
In some cases, this is as simple as making the decision that enough is enough. In other cases, it can be more complicated – say the person is a close relative or the situation is your job. But even in these more complicated situations, you can start making a long-term escape plan.
4. Sweat it away
I didn’t list these tools in order of effectiveness, but if I had, this one probably would have claimed the number one spot. It’s very rare for me to encounter a bad feeling that is so severe that it isn’t relieved at least some by a good sweaty exercise session. Here’s why I think exercise is so effective at squelching bad feelings:
- It kills physical anxiety symptoms and calms your body down.
- Assuming you work out in solitude, it gives your mind uninterrupted time to process things and come up with solutions to your problems.
When you’ve been way down lost in the darkness and you are just mentally exhausted from the journey, a good first step in finding your way into the light again is distraction. When you just need to give your mind a break and you are too tired for any of the other tools on this list, a good book, movie, or TV show can be a savior. Some people may say it’s not a productive use of time, but I think it’s an awesome way to give your mind a break when it needs it.
Another way to get a break from bad feelings is to replace them with good ones. Do something that makes you feel good. Keep your mind occupied with something that excites you.
It can be hard to think of good things when you are down in the dumps, so prepare by making a list when you are feeling better. This is where hobbies and passions come in. If you don’t have them yet, spend some time looking, which can be a fun process in and of itself.
7. Make a plan
If your bad feelings are caused by a particular problem, making an action plan might alleviate your pain. Look for potential solutions by brainstorming, doing research, or talking to someone. Pick a solution and make a plan for implementing it. Even if the problem can’t be resolved overnight, having an action plan is guaranteed to make you feel more hopeful.
What do you think about these seven tools? Do you have anything to add to my list? I would love to hear from you in the comments below. 🙂
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