Emotion is simply mental energy in motion; it’s a physiological storm of some sort occurring inside your body. When we experience strong emotions, especially negative ones, it can be tempting to squash them down, ignore them or medicate them away with prescription drugs or a
glass of wine — or three.
But actually, the best approach is to stay with the emotion and allow the storm to pass or move through your system. It may not always be pleasant, but if we stay with it, it naturally peters out and we emerge with a sense of achievement of having made it through. There is an adage in personal development: “The only way out is through” –and that’s good advice when it comes to our emotional flexibility. The only way out of sadness is to pass through it. Let yourself experience it and, once you do, it will ease and you can move on. The same is true for anxiety and stress. Depression, however, can be more complex.
Below are some tips and strategies that may help you to manage these negative emotions constructively, so you can get back in the present stream of life.
- Give yourself a deadline! I find giving myself a sadness time limit very helpful. Try it. Next time you are sad, acknowledge that you’re feeling sad and give yourself permission to feel that way for a specific length of time — perhaps thirty minutes, an hour or even for the day if you are really struggling with a particular situation. After that, you need towillyourself back into action. This allows you to acknowledge your emotions and feel them properly, but stops the sadness from gathering momentum and keeping you stuck in that sad place.
- Get into healthy physiological habits too. One of the easiest and quickest ways to alter how you feel is to move your body. Go for a walk, ideally into a local park or on a nature trail. Physical movement, especially if you have to exert yourself a little, will change the chemicals circulating in your body. That can lift mood.
- Move it! Just as you exercise your body you must learn to manage and exercise your brain. Becoming mentally resilient and being able to question your “stories” and beliefs will help reduce the noise and drama.
- Meditation will bring you back into the present — the here and now — and allow you to connect to yourself. Even ten minutes a day can help keep you grounded. Being in the moment, living life as it happens, is a much healthier place to be. Thinking about or reliving the past, or even imagining the future, is never helpful.
- Think about what you are putting in your body. The food you eat has a profound impact on how you feel. To function properly and at your best you need a certain amount of macro nutrients, such as protein and carbohydrates, but you also require a whole suite of micronutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals. A lack of zinc, for example, can cause anxiety, and a lack of magnesium can cause sleep problems and insomnia. Consider getting tested to see if you are deficient in any micronutrients and make the appropriate alterations to your diet, or consider taking quality supplements to rectify the imbalance. Those micronutrients are best found in healthy fresh fruits and vegetables — not processed food. Cut back on your sugar intake and avoid foods with low or little nutritional value.
The Spin / Release Technique
Here is a very simple techniqueyou can use in times of anxiety, stress or sadness. It might seem a bit weird but it can be very helpful, by releasing the pent-up emotions whizzing around your body.
- Identify an unpleasant thought, feeling, emotion or physical symptom you might be experiencing.
- Notice the physical sensations and/or visual images associated with the problem or issue, and determine where you feel it in your body when you think about it.
- Pull the problem/issue away from you with your hand, as though you were pulling it out of your body, and visualise it in your hand or fist out in front of you. It can be in the form of an image or symbol.
- With your hand or fist, start moving it in the way you feel it might be spinning — clockwise or counterclockwise.
If it appears motionless then ask yourself, if it wasspinning, which direction would it be spinning in?
- With your hand or fist replicate the spinning physically and slow down the spin until you reach a halt. Then reverse the direction of the spin, and get it going faster and faster until you are ready to release it and throw it away.
- After you have thrown away the unwanted image/feeling/emotion you may visualise a new healing image, symbol or gift that might appear in front of you.
- Identify the positive message from the gift, feeling or image, and how it is meaningful to you.
- Bring the gift back into your body and notice all your new feelings and understandings.
(Are you ready to shed those negative emotions? check out Paula Meir’s book, Your Life, Your Way: A Practical Guide To Getting Your S**t Together) it includes many more strategies to help you move forward.)