5 Steps to Mindfully Deal With Difficult Emotions

We’re with you; it’s all a lot. Here are steps to help you process your feelings in a healthy way.

By: Chelsea Frank

With COVID-19, racial injustice, protests, job losses, and general uncertainty about the future, it’s totally reasonable that you might just be feeling stressed to your limits.

Dealing with your emotions is important. After all, studies show that avoiding negative emotions can lead to negative outcomes. “How people engage with their emotions is a critical factor in how they adjust to negative experiences,” the study finds. Accepting your distressing emotions and dealing with them head-on can help in your overall well-being.

Here are 5 tips to help you mindfully deal with emotions in these difficult times!

#1 Make Sure You are Getting Quality Sleep

First and foremost, you have to take care of the essentials. Studies show that even slight sleep deprivation can negatively impact your overall mood, including increased anxiety, sadness, anger, stress, and exhaustion. 

The Sleep Foundation suggests adults ages 18-64 get 7-9 hours of sleep per night to be healthy. In order to ensure the best quality of sleep, here are a few tips:

  • Avoid screens and electronics for at least 30 minutes before bed, as the blue light emanating from the screen can activate the brain and disrupt your sleep cycle.
  • Keep your bedroom temperature cool – between 60-67 degrees
  • Have a nightly calming ritual that relaxes you before bed. This can include reading, journaling, taking a warm bath, or drinking a decaffeinated cup of tea.
  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning. This will get your body into a rhythm.
  • Avoid napping during the day.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or other stimulants. 

#2 Journal Your Thoughts and Feelings

Research shows that journaling can help you not only identify your feelings, but manage them. Here are some of the emotional benefits of journaling:

  • Anxiety management
  • Stress reduction
  • Coping with depression
  • Journaling can help you better understand triggers, fears, concerns, and problems
  • Journaling can help you practice positive self-talk and recognize when you begin participating in negative self-talk.

If you’re not sure where to start, simply begin writing down how you are feeling and see where it takes you. You could also write about your fears, your hopes for the future, or ways you want to get more involved in social action.

#3 Take Action

With so much negativity on the internet and news, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, or even hopeless at times. Once you’ve acknowledged the feelings, focus on ways to take real, effective action. Finding meaningful ways to contribute may help alleviate some of those helpless feelings and even leave you feeling empowered. Here are some ideas:

#4 Set Social Media Boundaries 

With so much divisiveness and uncertainty in the news today, it’s crucial to find the proper balance between staying informed and overwhelming yourself. While it’s important to know what’s happening, flooding yourself with upsetting media can have a seriously negative impact on your mental health in particular, social media). You might want to ask yourself, “how useful can I be in effecting real, systemic change if I’m too overwhelmed with difficult emotions to be helpful?” 

Try labeling a few times a day to check your outlets for updates and make sure you set time restrictions. For example, you could say, “I’m going to spend 10 minutes on social media at 11:00 AM, and 10 minutes on social media at 8:00 PM.” You can also apply this to news coverage and other sources of information. Find a time limit that works for you, just make sure you are strict with your boundaries!

#5 Get Moving

We know how important exercise is for overall health and well-being, but in times of heightened tension, exercise is crucial. The benefits of regular exercise include reducing stress and fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and improving your sleep (which we know also helps keep you sane). You don’t even need to do more than a 10 minute brisk walk to start feeling the positive effects of exercise on anxiety and mood! 

Here are some socially distant ways to exercise that are sure to give you a powerful mood boost.

  • Go for a run. Running allows your body to release endocannabinoids into the bloodstream, promoting short-term effects like reduced anxiety and feelings of calm. 
  • Try Yoga. According to the Mayo Clinic, yoga is especially great for stress management and reducing anxiety. Breathwork in yoga is also beneficial for quieting the mind, which can be helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  • Hike in a beautiful, serene location. Studies show that being in nature can boost your mood, relieve stress, and lower your risk of depression. 
  • Do something you enjoy. While all exercise is going to be helpful to relieve stress and anxiety, partaking in exercises that you truly enjoy and that make you happy is your best bet. Try a dance cardio class, a sweat-filled HIIT class, or a fun barre class.

Try spending a few moments today identifying the good, like witnessing a moment of change or having an open, educational conversation with a family member or friend. These smaller acts of love are important to focus on, and there’s plenty, if you just keep looking!