40 Different Strategies to help you cope with difficult emotions
In previous articles I first introduced the benefits in trying to find strategies to cope with your emotions instead of continuing with ways that are harmful to you. I also did an article providing some easy ways of monitoring how you are feeling. The idea is that once you know how you are feeling, you would have more of an idea of what to do next, of what you need and how to respond.
This article will give you brief ideas on how to cope with and manage difficult emotions and feelings. Most of these are easy to do and you can start them straight away. They are also mainly free if finances are an issue.
As said before, these strategies are just meant to be used in the short term. Just to help you while you are getting the longer term help so you don’t need to always try to manage those difficult emotions all the time.
1.Breathing technique – Count your breaths. Sit in a comfortable chair, put one hand on your belly, and take slow, long breaths. Imagine breathing into your stomach instead of your lungs. Feel your belly expands like a balloon with each inhalation. Start counting your breaths. When you inevitably start thinking about whatever it is that’s causing you pain, return your focus to counting.
2. Candles – Burn scented candles or incense in your room or house. Find a scent that’s pleasing to you.
3. Coffee – nice coffee at an independently run coffee shop that has more of a family atmosphere and the staff are friendly
4. Colouring – or use a coloring book – there are plenty of adult colouring books around.
5. Connect with others – Call up someone you know and offer to take them out to lunch. Go outside and give money to the first needy person you see. If you can plan ahead for moments like these when you’re overwhelmed with pain, call your local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or volunteer organization. Plan to participate in activities that help other people. Join a local political activities group, environmental group, or other organization, and get involved helping other people.
6. Cook a simple meal – Plan and prepare meals – cooking a great meal for those you love or even yourself is a good idea. Also, it doesn’t matter if you have to buy it ready-made.
7. Creative visualisation – If you are thinking about distressing thoughts in the past where you were hurt. Imagine either yourself as an adult doing or saying what you would like said done to that person. What ever it is, this is what you are visualising, and you are not hurting anyone.
8. Creative visualisation – Imagine something or someone is protecting you. It could be an invisible forcefield, a superhero, a brick wall, or you have a shield. Whatever it is, nothing or no one can get past that protection
9. Cry – You might be afraid that you will never stop but the truth is, it will make you feel better.
10. Do simple tasks around the house (vacuuming, laundry, dishes). Don’t over do it though. Keep it simple
11. Encouraging words – Keep a copy of your favorite prayer or favorite saying with you. Then, when you feel distressed, pull it out and read it to yourself. Imagine the words calming and soothing you. Use imagery (such as a white light coming down from heaven or the universe) that soothes you as you read the words.
12. Find some peace – Go somewhere you find peaceful and just sit, watch and look at what you can see
13. Gratitude – Write down five things in your day or your life that you are grateful for. It could be anything big or small. Try to do this daily preferably just before you are going to bed so that you can end the day on a more positive note.
14. Grounding technique – Count or subtract by increments of seven. For example, start with one hundred and subtract seven. Now take that answer and subtract seven more. Keep going. This activity will really distract you from your emotions because it requires extra attention and concentration.
15. Images – find images that you find relaxing and soothing. Collate them all in a nice scrapbook.
16. Images – Go through Pinterest, magazines and books to cut out pictures that you like. Make a collage of them to hang on your wall or keep some of them with you in your handbag or wallet to look at when you’re away from home.
17. Instead of hurting yourself – hold an ice cube in one hand and squeeze it. The sensation from the cold ice is numbing and very distracting.
18. Instead of hurting yourself – Snap a rubber band on your wrist each time you feel like hurting yourself. This is very painful, but it causes inless permanent damage than cutting, burning, or mutilating yourself.
19. Instead of hurting yourself, you could also – Write on yourself with a red felt-tip marker instead of cutting. Draw exactly where you would cut. Use red paint or nail polish to make it look like you’re bleeding. Then draw stitches with a black marker. If you need to make it even more distracting, squeeze an ice cube in your other hand at the same time.
20. List – Ten things you would like to do over the next five years if you had the opportunity
21. List – Ten things you’re good at or that you like about yourself when you’re feeling good, and keep it with you to read when you’re feeling upset.
22. Listen – To a recording of nature sounds, such as birds and other wildlife. You can often Get these on YouTube.
23. Listen – To audiobooks or YouTube recordings. You don’t even have to pay attention to the story line. Sometimes just listening to the sound of someone talking can be very relaxing. Again, keep some of these recordings with you in your car or loaded in your portable stereo.
24. Massage – Get a massage this could be just a hand massage when you are getting your nails done, your head and shoulders or back if you are not comfortable doing a full body massage
25. Move your body but be gentle with yourself i.e. stretch or yoga, tai chi, pilates
26. Music – Listen to a favorite piece of music that helps you to feel the opposite of what you are feeling. If you feeling sad, find something happy and joyful; angry – find something empowerful that would make you feel valuable and worthwhile; anxious – a song or music like mozart that is peaceful and calming
27. Nature – Spend time in nature or go for a walk in your area
28. Nice smells – Cut out perfumed cards from magazines and carry them with you in your handbag
29. Pet Therapy – pet’s are so therapeutic. Why not borrow a friend’s dog and take it to the park? Or Give your pet a bath. You could even go outside and watch the birds and other animals.
30. Read – An funny, uplifting or inspiring book or magazine.
31. Remind yourself – that this pain is temporary and that it will pass.
32. Smell – Put a couple of drops of the scent of an essential oil you find soothing on a tissue. Relaxing ones including Lavender, bergamot or sweet orange
33. Throw something – Throw foam balls, rolled-up socks, or pillows against the wall as hard as you can.
34. Vent your emotions by – Screaming as loud as you can into a pillow or scream some place where you won’t draw the attention of other people, like at a loud concert or in your car.
35. Watch some T.V. – Not just any program. Try and find something that is calming and relaxing. Nothing with drama, tension, or about what’s happening in the world that is upsetting. Even if you are not that keen on the program, just by listening to someone’s enthusiasm or soothing voice will help.
36. Write – a loving letter to yourself when you’re feeling good and keep it with you to read when you’re feeling upset.
37. Write – Write a poem, story, movie, or play about your life or someone else’s life.
38. Write a letter – You will not send to the person or people that have hurt you saying exactly what you would like to say to them.
39. Write a safety plan – When you are feeling OK write down some ideas of what can help you during dark times. This could be what helped you in the past, a reminder of what doesn’t help you and how it affects you.
40. Create your Distraction plan Choose the ones you want to try to use the next time you’re in a situation that’s causing you pain and discomfort. These chosen skills will make up your distraction plan.
Also remember, these are the first steps you will use in your plan to distract, relax, and cope. When you’re finished, write them down again on your phone or a 3 x 5 inch note card or a sticky note to carry around with you in your wallet or purse.
Then the next time you’re in a distressing situation, you can pull out the list to remind yourself of your distraction plan
I am a Therapist based in Sutton Coldfield, UK also available online.
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