Elena Makarova, MFT Psychotherapy in Palo Alto, South Bay and Mid-Peninsula
I have found that many of my patients benefit from using the following seven tips to cope with difficult emotions and situations. When you are feeling overwhelmed or just wish to keep at bay the accumulation of emotional stress, you, too, may find these tips helpful. However, many of these tips take time to learn to use effectively and their effectiveness will be somewhat dependent on the degree of your self-knowledge and psychological well-being.
Warmly,
Elena Makarova

Seven Tips for Coping with Difficult Feelings

1. PROCESS
Set up some time to reflect on what happened, process your situation, and determine how it is impacting you currently. With time, you will be able to step back and gain some perspective. You will also regain your composure and level-headedness that will allow you to focus on what can be learned from the situation so that the next time it occurs, you will be able to apply this knowledge and save yourself additional heartache.

2. REMEMBER
Remember that difficult feelings are a part of everybody's life. At times we all feel upset, discouraged, overwhelmed or overly tired, or closed off from the world. Remind yourself that you cannot control everything and life often takes unexpected turns. Try to be compassionate with yourself and remember you are not alone in dealing with stress.

3. RELATE
Effective thinking and emotional processing often works best with two people. Connect with a friend or a confidant, a relative, or someone you know who is a good listener and is apt to understand your situation. You may also want to contact someone who has been in the same experience as you or even participate in an online group that has been set up around a particular issue. Feeling understood can help enormously with how you feel.

4. DIALOG
Be aware of your inner critic and try to be objective about what it's saying about you. If you feel your inner critic is being too harsh and makes inferences that are catastrophic (assuming that the worst will happen: "I'll never be able to manage that...") and polarized (seeing things in only two categories, such as: good/bad, right/wrong), engage in the inner dialog with it and bring in some counterarguments. Use these steps:
  • First, identify the unpleasant critical thoughts about yourself, the world, and the future;
  • Second, test the accuracy of these unpleasant thoughts or judgments by enlisting rational facts;
  • Third, challenge and modify the unpleasant thoughts using the evidence of rational facts.
5. DIFFERENTIATE
Differentiate between your needs and the needs of other people. Are you allowing others to dictate what you do at the expense of your own needs? If yes, then you need to rehearse the following self-statements in order to increase your awareness of your own needs and wishes: "I need ...", or "I would like to ...". Devise a plan on how you might try to gently inform others about your needs, opinions, or reactions. And vice versa: Consider whether another person's needs might require more understanding and listening on your part. If this is the case, try to show that person an understanding.

6. CARE
Take inventory with yourself about what activities always make you feel more happy about who you are. This could be something as seemingly insignificant as taking a walk and being in nature, meditating, cooking, bathing, reading a favorite book or watching a movie, or calling a relative. At times, when you are feeling overwhelmed, make a pact with yourself to do one of these activities. You will surely feel better for doing it.

7. SUPPORT
Take care to support yourself physiologically. Make sure you get some exercise, be in natural light and fresh air, eat nourishing meals that will help sustain your mental energy during the day and provide key nutrients for the brain (to learn about key nutrients for brain development click here). Feeling bad often triggers negative feelings and thoughts about one's body. Supporting your body might give you an additional way to cope.

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