Mental Health Series: Dealing with Emotions

Methods for coping with impulsiveness and stressful social situations

Pushing emotions down isn’t healthy, yet in some situations, we have no option except to temporarily delay them until we can properly deal with them. The skills below are only meant to be used in a situation through which you need to cope in order to survive a crisis. This includes impulsive thoughts, or social situations like a class or hanging out with friends where you can’t deal with the emotions or thoughts you’re having in the moment. These skills are very effective for panic attacks, anxiety attacks and impulsivity. There are three acronyms that are successfully used in these distressing moments.
a) Activities: engage in hobbies you enjoy.
b) Contributing: help others, volunteer.
c) Comparisons: be thankful, compare yourself to the old you or people in worse situations (do not confuse this with comparing your life or appearance to someone else; that is not healthy).
d) Emotions: engage in anything that will generate good emotions (TV, music, cute or funny videos).
e) Push away: temporarily pull yourself out of the situation mentally or physically until you can return safely.
f) Thoughts: distract your thoughts with games or other things.
g) Sensations: grounding techniques (focus on five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste).
a) Imagery: imagine yourself dealing successfully with the problem and feeling accomplished when the situation is over (imagine a relaxing and safe scene in your head; imagine pain leaving your body).
b) Meaning: try to find meaning in painful situations. What can you learn from this experience? Find any possible reason to assign your present suffering (find or create purpose, meaning or value in your pain; focus on the silver lining).
c) Prayer: prayer can come in any form that works for you. If you believe in a higher power (including God or the universe), surrender your problems and ask to tolerate the situation a little longer. If you prefer a different form of prayer, go for it.
d) Relaxation: engage in relaxing activities to calm the psychological distress you’re experiencing (deep breathing, yoga, meditation, a bath or a walk).
e) One thing in the moment: stay in the moment by letting go of the past and future. Find one thing to focus on in the moment and devote your entire self to that task or thing. A one-track mind helps the emotions feel less overwhelming.
f) Vacation: most of us cannot leave everything behind and fly to a remote island for a vacation whenever we need a break; however, we can take one in our mind. Imagine you’re somewhere else and create a safe and peaceful location in your mind that you can return to whenever you need to. This can also include a nap or resting, but restrain it to 20 minutes. You can also take short vacations like going to the beach, going to the park or unplugging your phone.
g) Encouragement: this does not have to come from an external source to be effective. Give yourself encouragement by repeating phrases that are meaningful to you, such as, “I’m good enough,” “I’ve got this,” “This too shall pass,” or anything else that you need to hear. Say it out loud if you need to.
a) Temperature: this one may sound strange, but it is very effective. Put your face in a bowl of ice water for 30 seconds. This will release a relaxation chemical in your body.
b) Intense exercise: biking, walking, running, lifting, whatever your preference is.
c) Paced breathing: breathe in for five, out for seven (any other combination of breathing patterns that work for you is encouraged as well).
d) Paired muscle relaxation: tense each muscle group in your body for a few seconds and then release the tension, starting with the toes and working your way up. Focus on the muscles tensing and relaxing.
A lot of these skills you will only be able to do in certain scenarios, and some may work better than others. Try them out, and see what works for you; something will!