How to Deal With Negative Emotions and Stress
This is a common problem for many people: just how are we supposed to deal with negative emotions that keep coming up when we’re stressed or hurt? Should we stuff our anger and frustration away and pretend it doesn’t exist, so we can minimize the fallout from these emotions? Or should we risk making things worse by saying or doing the wrong thing? As it turns out, “stuffing emotions” is definitely not the healthiest option and there are easy techniques that anyone can use.1
If you’ve wondered what to do with these feelings, however, you are not alone in struggling with negative emotions. Many people have the same question about stress and coping. When they feel overcome with negative emotions like hurt, frustration or anger, they know they shouldn’t pretend they feel nothing, but they also don’t want to dwell on negative feelings and ruminate. But while most of us have heard that these are not healthy strategies for stress relief, what other options are there?
Choosing to Deal With Negative Emotions
Ignoring feelings (like “stuffing your anger”) is not the healthiest way to deal with them. Generally speaking, that does not make them go away but can cause them to come out in different ways.2 That’s because your emotions act as signals to you that what you are doing in your life is or isn’t working.
Feeling angry or frustrated can be a signal that something needs to change. If you don’t change the situations or thought patterns that are causing these uncomfortable emotions, you will continue to be triggered by them.
Also, while you are not dealing with the emotions you are feeling, they can cause problems with your physical and emotional health.1
Rumination, or the tendency to dwell on anger, resentment and other uncomfortable feelings, however, brings health consequences as well.3 So it’s important to listen to your emotions and then take steps to let them go.
Understand Your Emotions
Look within and try to pinpoint the situations that are creating the stress and negative emotions in your life.
- Negative emotions can come from a triggering event: an overwhelming workload, for example.
- Negative emotions are also the result of our thoughts surrounding an event; the way we interpret what happened can alter how we experience the event and whether or not it causes stress.
The key job of your emotions is to get you to see the problem, so you can make necessary changes.
Change What You Can
Take what you’ve learned from my first recommendation and put it into practice. Cut down on your stress triggers and you’ll find yourself feeling negative emotions less frequently.
This could include:
- Cutting down on job stress.
- Learning the practices of assertive communication (so you don’t feel trampled by people).
- Changing negative thought patterns through a process known as cognitive restructuring.4
Find an Outlet
Making changes in your life can cut down on negative emotions, but it won’t eliminate your stress triggers entirely. As you make changes in your life to bring about less frustration, you will also need to find healthful outlets for dealing with these emotions.
- Regular exercise can provide an emotional lift as well as an outlet for negative emotions.5
- Meditation can help you find some inner “space” to work with, so your emotions don’t feel so overwhelming.6
- Finding opportunities for having fun and getting more laughter in your life can also change your perspective and relieve stress.
Find a few of these outlets, and you’ll feel less overwhelmed when negative emotions do arise.
You will also want to practice healthy options for ongoing stress reduction. Give them a try and you’ll feel less stressed.