How to confidently cope with negative emotions
We all have our coping mechanisms for dealing with uncomfortable negative emotions. Whether it's food, wine, exercise, anger or sex... that isn't important. It's that thing you turn to when you feel stressed, sad, frightened, anxious, confused or simply bored.
In my case, I would usually reach out to food or wine for imagined support. It used to provide me with a temporary sense of calm. Even if it lasted just for a few short minutes, it was soothing.
I’d hazard a guess that many of you do the same because facing negative feelings is difficult and scary. Using food or alcohol to bottle them up and then simply ignoring them often seems like a much easier solution. However, while it might be easier, it is also short-lived. Emotions are obstinate things - especially if they’re negative. They refuse to stay silent for long.
Even if you turn them away time and time again, they keep on coming back and knocking at your door. That is because all feelings, however uncomfortable or distressing, are messages. Their purpose is to inform you about your thinking at that moment. An uncomfortable feeling just suggests your thinking is 'off' and shouldn't be acted on. However, if you suppress your feelings, all you’re doing is ensuring you stay in uncomfortable thoughts longer than you would have.
We are all human, and we all feel a range of emotions, pleasant and unpleasant. At times we all feel insecure, not good enough, sad, unloved, unworthy... this is a normal part of being human. These are normal, natural emotions. It is okay to feel this way. It is not wrong.
These emotions do not define our worth. We don’t need to suppress or hide or deny them. Instead, we need to recognise these emotions and respectfully acknowledge them. Your feelings come from your thinking and it is okay to let yourself feel them. They are an important part of your very being, so instead of trying to block out every uncomfortable emotion, an alternative is to simply accept and observe your emotions. Observing your emotions simply means allowing them to be, resisting the urge to get rid of the pain and not judging yourself for having these feelings. When you accept a negative emotion, it is usually nowhere near as destructive, uncomfortable or challenging as you may have imagined.
Put simply, it doesn’t feel so bad.
Think of all the uncomfortable emotions that you automatically respond to with your soothing mechanism without even a moment’s consideration. By giving emotions some space to be and exist you allow new thoughts, and therefore new emotions, to take their place. To do this I suggest that, when you feel uncomfortable, you stop for a minute before you turn to food, wine etc for comfort. Observe the feeling, recognise that you don't need to do anything about it and let it go.
You shouldn’t be afraid of your emotions. Trust me, they don’t mean you any harm. They’re simply trying to inform you about your thinking and they can only do that if you listen.
Listening to your emotions will enable you to discover your true, resilient self.
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About Joanne Painter
Jo is the leading UK confidence and career impact coach. She works with women whose mindset and behaviours are holding them back, supporting them to have the skills and strategies to be authentically successful. Jo has coached hundreds of women and organisations to achieve amazing results, through 1-2-1 coaching, workshops and online programmes.