There’s a New Friend on the Block: Uncomfortable Emotions

Negative emotions are often uncomfortable to navigate, and it is an automatic human response to try and push them away or distract ourselves to avoid the discomfort. However, fighting negative emotions almost always backfires, intensifying them as a result. Counterintuitively, the answer actually lies in befriending the negative emotions that arise, and cultivating space for them so that they ultimately have less power over you.

Research has found that befriending our emotions, particularly the uncomfortable ones, is an essential part of supporting our mental health and wellbeing. However, that is easier said than done. Keep reading to learn how to incorporate three important strategies into your life to adopt this outlook:

  1. Greet your emotions by their names and notice where you feel them in your body. Are you feeling concerned? Unstable? Angry? Disappointed? Simply label the emotions and recognize their existence. By inviting ourselves to allow the feeling to exist, regardless of what it is, we grant ourselves a bit of space to respond rather than react. Additionally, try to remind yourself that ALL emotions are okay - and over time you will realize they feel less overwhelming and actually have less of a pull on us.
  2. Thank your emotions for stopping by. It can be helpful to articulate internally, “Hi anxiety! I see you’re here to keep me safe.” or “Hi grief - it makes sense that you are here today”. Remember that intense emotions tend to operate in waves, oftentimes manifesting with intensity and then subsiding. However, they will only increase in intensity if we push them away.
  3. Learn from the emotions, and then move forward by setting a boundary. Being willing to learn from our uncomfortable emotions doesn’t mean you have to follow their directives. However, we can request healthy space and then act on what we have learned. For instance, you can say, “I see you, anger, and I know you plan to stay for a while. However, I need to go call a friend and then am going for a walk. No more time for you today but thanks for stopping by!” Set boundaries with yourself once you’ve given these emotions the permission, time, and space to settle.

You will likely be surprised by how effective these strategies are at reducing the intensity of uncomfortable emotions. It is important to note that it will take time to implement these strategies into your life and that the process likely won’t be linear, but with enough time and intention, you will certainly see tangible results. 

Above all, it is critical to highlight that as parents, we take on the role of the “teacher” to guide and support our children in learning various life skills - one of which is emotional regulation. If we aren’t yet comfortable navigating our own range of human emotions, it will ultimately be difficult for our children to learn healthy and effective ways of regulating their own feelings. It is thus all the more important for us to work on applying the above strategies in our own lives in order to serve as a mirror for our little ones to learn from. 

Besides setting a helpful, real-life example for our children on how to address uncomfortable emotions in a healthy way, our Behind the Anger card game addresses this topic by providing an educational, effective, hands-on tool specifically designed for kids to learn about this skillset. In a playful manner, the game teaches kids about how powerful it can be to identify the range of emotions that hide behind anger, get familiar with them, and learn about ways to deal with them. This kid-friendly and accessible card game is universally loved, and results in massive learning and growth opportunities for children. For more information on this helpful tool, click the link above and read more!