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Keys to Handling Unhealthy Emotions

Everyone experiences emotions as a part of daily life. Some emotions are easier to handle, like happiness and love. On the other hand, emotions like fear, anger, or sadness can be more difficult to manage.

Emotions, in and of themselves aren’t healthy or unhealthy. Emotions serve as an indicator of something that is going on internally or mentally. Learning to assess “good” and “bad” emotions is important for personal growth. Both of them, good and bad emotions, can get you in trouble if unchecked. Too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing!  Developing the skills to access, monitor, and control your emotions are paramount, and are especially necessary for those emotions that are not comfortable for you to address. 

Strategies to handle or control emotions which cause you distress:

Identify the Emotion: First, identify the type of emotion you are feeling. At times, recognizing and labeling your emotions can be very difficult. The intensity of your emotions will vary but there are only four basic categories – anxiety, sadness, anger, and happiness.  Identifying the emotion or feeling can help to reduce its power or intensity.  Also, the recognition of its source – real or imagined, can also help to reduce its intensity.  

Use a Coping Strategy: Adopt a coping strategy to deal with difficult emotions. A common strategy often used is “controlled deep breathing”. Practicing deep breathing reduces stress by infusing more oxygen to the brain and calming your mind through its focus on your physical activity of breathing and not the situation causing you stress. It also sends a message to the brain and your body to calm down and relax.  

Use Self-Soothing: Self-soothing allows you to refocus your mind on something else aside from what is causing you stress and control your mood. Strategies include soothing music, visual images, stretching, and resetting your five senses.  The “five senses” technique begins with sitting in a comfortable position and focusing on your breathing. Next, isolate each of your five senses and spend one minute focusing on the specific sensations of each one. 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: You can also try Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) which involves tensing and relaxing the muscle groups.  You begin with the toes and isolate the muscle groups in your body all the way up to your head or vice versa (head to toes).  One of the benefits of progressive muscle relaxation will be your increased awareness of your body’s reaction to stress, i.e., muscle tension. 

Prayer:  Personally, this is the first thing I do! Prayer is one of many types of meditation methods you can follow.  The aim of prayer is to communicate with God, a Higher Power, that will calm your mind and body (reduce stress) as well as give you a more positive outlook. Praying also helps you create positive emotions and enhances personal satisfaction, health, and happiness.  Scripture says to “cast our cares on God because He cares for us.” (1 Peter 5:7). When casting your cares, you are getting rid of every negative thought and worry.  Write your negative emotion, i.e., anxiety, and its source (real or imagined) on a piece of paper.  The physical act of ripping up the paper and throwing it away symbolizes “casting your cares”.  Replace your cares or worries by now writing positive thoughts about the situation.  Read these positive thoughts as often as necessary until you visually see yourself in the improved situation. Finally, as you pray, be thankful and focus on the good things in your life    

Developing a strategy to recognize, label, confront and be in control of your emotions is vital to your physical and mental health. Avoiding your emotions, or letting them run unchecked should not be a consideration. 

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Mental Health, Personal Growth

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