Many of us have been on an emotional rollercoaster over the past few weeks.
Making it through these unprecedented times will be difficult, however, there is some amazing content being created to help support us all. In this blog, we present 6 strategies to help us deal with this emotional turmoil, based on the study of the science of emotion regulation.
1. CHANGING HOW WE THINK WE FEEL
One of the best ways to change our feelings is to change the way we think about a situation. This is called ‘cognitive reappraisal’, and can involve looking for a silver lining — like being able to spend more time with loved ones or taking a new perspective on the current situation — like seeing it as a global challenge that humans are coming together to address.
2. RELIEVING THE PRESSURE
In societies like Australia, people tend to value feeling happy and try to avoid feeling sad. This can lead to pressure to feel and act a certain way, which can have a harmful impact on our emotional lives.
The key to feeling better may be to not worry about how we should be feeling, and instead try to accept our feelings as a normal and understandable reaction to our current situation. The ability to non-judgementally notice and experience our emotions without actively trying to change them is an important component of mindfulness practice.
3. DREAM TO STREAM
Right now, you might also want to distract yourself from the world for a while with some quality Netflix time. The good news is that researchers have found distraction is an effective way of managing your emotions in the short term, particularly when your feelings are very intense. Of course, we can’t always distract ourselves from everything on our plates, so this strategy shouldn’t be our only go-to.
4. SAY IT LOUD, SAY IT PROUD
Another way to deal with our emotions is to turn to others for social support. The act of sharing our emotions with others — the good and the bad — makes us feel that we’re not alone and can help relieve an emotional burden.
When it comes to emotions, it’s often better to reveal than to conceal, but it’s important to choose a supportive confidant to share your emotions with. Don’t be afraid to ask clearly for the type of support you need or want, whether it’s practical (like helping with the shopping) or emotional (like validating your feelings); letting other people know what you need will give them a better chance to support you.
5. PUT A LABEL ON IT
In describing your emotions, try to be specific about what emotions you’re feeling, rather than simply saying you feel bad in general. For example, when thinking about how you currently feel, you may realise it’s anxiety and not anger you are experiencing, or sadness rather than frustration. Research found that people who labelled their emotions in these specific ways were better able to manage their negative emotions.
6. DEALING WITH FEELING
This is an emotional time, and it’s okay to feel upset, scared or frustrated. There are many ways of managing our emotions, and it’s important to find the way that works best for you personally. If you are wondering whether you might need a bit more support, speak with your GP and reach out for professional support.
Regardless of how you choose to deal with difficult feelings, it might be helpful to be flexible in your use of emotion regulation strategies. People who have more tools in their emotional toolkit fare better than those who adopt a one-size-fits-all approach.
Practicing reappraisal, acceptance, distraction, social sharing and labelling may all help level out the peaks and troughs of that emotional rollercoaster, or at least flatten the curve.
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Written by Dr Katharine Greenaway, Dr Peter Koval and Dr Elise Kalokerinos