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5 Steps To Let Your Negative Emotions Out

5 Steps To Let Your Negative Emotions Out

Emotions can be a veritable minefield, they can be our greatest friend or our worst enemy. Some have a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it whilst others like to mark out a comfortable spot in your psyche and settle in for the long haul.

If we are talking about positive emotions such as joy or excitement we tend to welcome them in with open arms and an open ended invite. Yet if these emotions fall on the negative side such as anxiety or anger they are firmly told their name isn’t on the list and they’re not getting in. The problem with this approach is that it’s impossible to shut out negative emotions yet ride off into the sunset with the positive ones, they just cannot be cherry-picked.

These negative nasties are part of our emotional make-up. You can’t outrun then and you can’t hide from them. Instead of being held hostage at their mercy each time they appear perhaps a shift in perspective is needed. In trying to understand their purpose and learn how to release them in a healthy way we can develop a better relationship with them so that they show up as overnight guests instead of moving in for good.

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Changing our emotional behavior is never easy but these 5 steps might help to show how we can learn to release negative emotions in an emotionally safe way:

1. Feel The Feelings

Have you ever noticed how young children deal with their wild array of emotions? They simply abandon whatever they’re in the middle of and let the emotion pass through them. Whilst it might not look like an emotionally mature reaction to sit down in the middle of Target and wail at the top of their lungs this is actually where kids have one over us. They instinctually feel their feelings. The interesting part about this is that it’s usually a very quick process (yet probably feels like a lifetime to most parents).

I’ve yet to meet a 6 year old harboring a year-long grudge over not being allowed a piece of cake. They get upset, stamp their feet and move the hell on. It’s actually how we as humans are designed, yet as we grow older it becomes less socially acceptable to simply stop in the middle of the supermarket and start screaming.

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It is of vital importance to understand that emotions are simply energy. If we refuse to deal with them they go and find a hiding place deep inside our body. Stuffing our feelings down by pretending they don’t exist or lying to ourselves simply prolongs the process. Instead, when you notice a negative emotion coming in try to actually sit with it for a while. No easy feat, it can be incredibly intense initially. Notice which part of your body it’s affecting, name the emotion. In saying out loud “I’m feeling anxious right now’ it can loosen its grip.

Unfortunately negative emotions tend to come with a physical reaction, for example you can literally shake with anger or become nauseous from anxiety. Find a quiet place and let your body do what it needs to do. Cry, scream, or simply curl up in a ball. Chances are that when you allow yourself to really feel the feeling it no longer has the same hold over you. When it comes to emotions the only way round is through.

2. Ritualize Your Mornings

Have you ever gone to bed angry and woken up with that same anger burning a hole in your pillow? Or simply just woken up on the wrong side of the bed, feeling wretched for no apparent reason. The first few moments of the morning can be one of the most powerful, whatever mood we climb out of bed in tends to cling to us all day. That’s why it can be incredibly powerful to have a morning ritual as a means to cleanse the emotional palette. Effective rituals vary but the following can be highly effective:

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Journaling: Putting our thoughts out of our head and onto paper can be incredibly cathartic and stream of consciousness writing can be one of the most powerful ways to journal. Simply write out your thoughts as they stream through you, without review or judgement. Even if you have nothing to say, simply write ‘I have nothing to say’ over and over again until another insight appears or simply until the page is filled. Once you’ve filled your set number of pages, don’t review. This isn’t a diary, it’s a tool to purge negative emotions.

Meditation: Quieting the mind through the breath is quite simply one of the most powerful tools we have to release negative emotion, yet it is no easy endeavor. Find a quiet spot and sit quietly for ten to fifteen minutes, focusing on your breath or on a mantra (I find inhaling ‘Let’ and exhaling ‘Go’ to be simple yet effective). When we create a meditation practice, our monkey mind learns to settle and we become more in tune with ourselves which in turn leads to mindfulness. Being mindful creates more space between our thoughts so that we can actually start to become aware when negative emotions creep in, giving us the opportunity to nip it in the bud before the emotion snowballs and takes over your day or your week.

3. Exorcise Through Exercise

As human beings we are designed to move. Exercise is incredibly good for us not only from a physical perspective but from a mental perspective. The hormones that are released when our hearts are pumping and our bodies moving can quite literally change our mindset. The very act of going for a walk, a run or attacking a set of weights forces the mind to focus on the task at hand. Next time you are enraged by something, instead of reaching for a bag of chips or numbing out in front of the TV, get physical. Even if it means dancing around your room like a maniac to some gangster rap music (a personal favorite of mine), you’ll feel a heck of a lot better and possibly have a laugh at just how ridiculous you look.

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4. Change Your Perspective

There’s a well-known quote which states “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. Put simply, perspective is everything. Next time you find yourself faced with negative emotions, before you leap down the rabbit hole of rationality and start assigning blame or creating a story around the situation, take a deep breath and ask yourself ‘How can I see this situation differently?’. There are quite literally two sides to every story and then there’s the truth. Even if the other person is clearly in the wrong try to see things from their perspective. Perhaps you need to run through steps 1-3 above before you feel ready, but seeing things from a different perspective can invite a sense of compassion.

If you get into a fight with a friend, try to look at the situation anew. She might be going through a tough time and taking it out on you, not fair but understandable. Even if it’s impossible for you to see the situation any differently, understand that harboring negative emotion only damages you. Learn to let it go, you don’t have to forget what happened but you can try to forgive and move on with your life.

5. Compartmentalize

Emotions are somewhat akin to snowballs. The longer they are allowed to roll on, the bigger they become. Next time you find yourself in the midst of a negative emotional state, try compartmentalizing it. You might be annoyed at the fact that your babysitter cancelled on you at the last minute, but projecting your frustrations onto your husband who in turn projects his frustrations onto the kids serves only one purpose. The whole family gets dragged into the boiling cauldron of negative emotion because the situation snowballed. Instead, get really clear on why you are annoyed or anxious and ring fence it. Don’t let your sadness that you didn’t get that job bleed over into an avalanche of awfulness. Deal with it, dust yourself off and move on. Life can be hard and we all run into situations we don’t like, the key is not to let the negative aspects detract from the positive parts of your life.

Featured photo credit: Photo by: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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