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How To Handle Negative Emotions

How To Handle Negative Emotions

Emotions can make you feel like you’re on a roller coaster sometimes. In the course of one day you can experience a range of emotions – happiness, sadness, anger, excitement, nervousness, confusion, anxiety – you name it, you can feel it. The negative emotions are undoubtedly the hardest to deal with, but they are just as much a part of life as the positive ones. So, we must learn to take the bad with the good, and cope with it all so we can be our happiest selves.

If you’re experiencing a negative emotion right now, here are 8 steps you can take to handle it:

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1. Recognize and name the emotion.

The first step to handling an emotion is recognizing it. Everybody has their own unique ability to express their emotions, but this step is not about expressing it to anyone, it is just about recognition. Name the emotion in your own head. I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m really happy right now. Be a dispassionate observer, looking at yourself from outside the situation and making an assessment.

2. Notice how the emotion is affecting your behavior.

Stop to notice how the emotion is affecting your behavior. For example, if you’re angry, you might be talking loudly, quickly, or using profanities. You may stand with your arms or legs crossed. If you’re feeling sad, you may be listening to sad music, crying, or lying in bed. It’s the same with positive emotions. If you’re feeling excited, you may be singing or dancing, talking loudly, or smiling. Recognizing how your emotion is affecting your behavior is super important.

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3. Tell yourself the emotion won’t last forever.

Emotions don’t typically stick around. (Of course, if you are experiencing an extended period of sadness, you may want to talk to a professional.) That’s why it can feel like we are on emotional roller coasters sometimes. We’re good, we’re bad, we’re good again, we’re bad again. If you’re feeling something negative, make sure to keep in mind that it won’t last forever, just like physical pain. Eventually, a broken bone will heal, and the same goes for emotions. Maybe you’re feeling unsettled today. Tomorrow, you’ll likely feel different. Unfortunately, this step is also true for positive emotions. You don’t need to remind yourself of that every day, but it’s probably helpful to keep in the back of your mind.

4. Figure out what is causing the emotion.

Once you’ve recognized and named the emotion, noticed how it’s affecting your behavior, and told yourself it won’t last forever, the next step is to determine where the emotion came from. Don’t blame yourself or anyone for the emotion; just try to identify its root. Maybe you got a nasty email from your ex-boyfriend. Maybe your supervisor said something snarky about your work. Maybe it’s something more subtle, like spilling coffee on your new coat. Or maybe it’s something huge, like the death of a friend or family member. Whatever it is, try to identify it. If it is more than one thing, that’s okay. Find all the potential causes of the emotion.

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5. Accept the emotion.

What’s this step? Acceptance. This emotion is what you feel right now. It just is – like it, love it, or hate it. This is what you’ve got. You can’t change it. You have to live with it, so you may as well accept it. It doesn’t define you and it’s going away soon anyway, but, for the moment, just accept it for what it is. Tell yourself that you are feeling whatever you are supposed to be feeling. Even if it’s not the best feeling. That will definitely help.

6. Remind yourself that the emotion will pass.

After accepting the emotion, remind yourself one more time that it will pass. Don’t ever forget this step! In fact, slip this step in between the other steps as many times as you need. This is key. If you’re feeling unhappy right this second, it does not mean you are going to feel unhappy for the rest of your life!

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7. Snap back into the present moment.

Now that you’ve recognized and named the emotion, noticed how it’s affecting your behavior, told yourself it won’t last forever, figured out what is causing the emotion, accepted it, and reminded yourself one more time that it will pass, it’s time to get back to whatever you were doing. If you need a quick break first, take it – go for a walk; do some pushups or jumping jacks; call a friend or a family member if you have the time. Do whatever you need to do to bring yourself back to the present moment. Your emotion is just a feeling. It does not define who you are. Bring yourself back to your present moment, to your here and now.

8. Learn from the emotion.

If the emotion you experienced was negative, there might be a reason for it. It could be a red flag for something that is causing uneasiness within you. Of course, the opposite is also true. It might just have been a completely normal and healthy negative emotion. Take the steps you need to take to handle the emotion and move on, but don’t just ignore it. File it away in your brain so that you can retrieve any useful information about it for your future self.

There! Now you can handle any negative emotion that comes at you – sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety. You are a superhero. You can do anything. You have power. You have control of your life. You make decisions for yourself. You determine what you need. You are your best friend.

Featured photo credit: Mag Nimous via flickr.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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