Written by Darius B. Dawson.
Unfortunately, avoiding negative emotions is impossible. Our negative emotions serve as indications that situations or thoughts we experience are not ideal. Experiencing negative emotions, like anger and sadness, are not problematic. However, extended periods or increased intensity of these emotional states can pose difficulties for people. For many people suppressing anger, ignoring sadness, or functioning in a level of denial feels like a viable way to navigate through everyday life. Operating in this way seems adaptive if you do not have the tools to express your emotions appropriately or if your environment does not facilitate such expression. Not having adaptive outlets to fuel healthy emotional regulation and expression is what can cause an emotional outburst. Here are some ways to cope negative emotions to fuel positivity:
Understanding your own anger:
- Anger is an emotion that represents other negative, deeply rooted emotions. The problem with anger is that it sometimes feels really good to express. However, what exactly is underneath the surface of your anger? Anger can represent feelings of sadness, helplessness, fear, embarrassment, and shame. These emotions do not feel good to experience and our brain protects us from feeling them through the expression of anger. The next time anger arises ask yourself, “what am I really feeling under the surface of my anger?”
Creating a healthy ritual for emotional coping:
- Healthy emotional coping is necessary to maintain your daily lifestyle and to accomplish future goals. Unfortunately, unhealthy or maladaptive ways to cope with emotions can be difficult to avoid. Substance use, isolation, and binging behaviors are some of the ways people cope with their negative emotions. Exercising, participating in pleasurable activities, and meditating are ways to fuel healthy, adaptive emotional release. These activities are often difficult to stick to and even more difficult to begin. Once you’ve identified an activity you’d like to participate in, begin scheduling it into your schedule ahead of time. Pick a day each week that you’ll sit down to schedule activities for the week. Be strategic with your planning to ensure that you will be able to follow through with your newly planned activities. You are more likely to complete an activity if it is planned ahead of time.
Forming compassion for yourself:
- Instead of harping on the negativity you might be experiencing, try forming a sense of compassion for yourself. You have the ability to control what you think about yourself or other situations. Creating a mantra that you can repeat to yourself in times of negativity can help ease the buildup of any undesirable emotions. We are experiencing our negative emotions for a reason. Give yourself permission to feel what you need to feel and allow yourself to experience emotion. Then, repeat a mantra that focuses on the good and positive aspects of your mind, body, and soul.
Darius is currently a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Psychology at UT Austin. He has an passion for health psychology and psychological conditions associated with medical illness. Darius creates a collaborative relationship to obtain clients’ optimum goals through self-discovery, open conversation, and skill building.