Emotions, as defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), are “conscious mental reactions subjectively experienced as strong feelings that are generally directed towards a specific situation, object, person, etc.” Emotions are a basic part of everyday life and can be both positive or negative, such as fear, happiness, anger, etc. However, while it is normal to have emotions, there are also effective, healthy ways to deal with and express said emotions.

Not dealing with your emotions in a healthy way can prove to be harmful for both you and others around you. I know that when I get sad, I tend to withdraw from others and/or turn to food for comfort. Some other harmful ways that someone may deal with negative emotions are:

  • Destructive or risky behaviors, such as self-harm and use of substances
  • Avoidance of emotions
  • Bullying others
  • Ruminating or dwelling

Luckily, there are healthy, positive ways to cope with negative emotions and emotions, in general. First, it is important to recognize that “negative” or intense emotions are not necessarily a bad thing, nor should you suppress feeling them. For example, fear is labeled as a negative emotion, but is also a common emotion to have and can be particularly useful when encountering dangerous situations. The issue is when these emotions affect your work, relationships with others or how you go about your everyday activities.

Another way to work towards managing your emotions is by identifying them, as well as to acknowledging that you are feeling them. Acknowledging your emotions helps remind you that they are valid and not to ignore or repress them and by doing so can contribute to physical and/or mental health symptoms, such as anxiety, trouble managing stress, and sleep issues.

Along with acknowledging your emotions is the importance of identifying which emotions you are actually feeling. An example of this could be if you message a friend and they don’t respond until a couple of days later. You may have initial feelings of disappointment, worry or confusion and may be tempted, in that moment, to confront them or continue texting until they respond. In this case, after you identify your emotions and reasons behind them, it is helpful to consider explanations on why they haven’t messaged back right away.

Instead of automatically making assumptions, such as “this person is angry with me” or “this person doesn’t want to be friends anymore”, consider alternatives that this person may just be very busy or they viewed the message and meant to respond, but forgot or something came up. Also, there is also the possibility that this person isn’t a big texter and would prefer other methods of communication.

When managing emotions, there are also some techniques that can help, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and also keeping on top of your stress, as too much stress can make it more difficult to manage emotions. If you need to, take a step back and give yourself space, even just for a few minutes. While you don’t want to avoid the situation altogether, taking a break and doing something enjoyable or stress relieving (taking a walk or watching a funny video clip) can be help lift your mood and put you in a better place to deal with the issue at hand.

Last, but not least, if you have tried to manage your emotions, but still feel overwhelmed, you may want to try talking with a mental health professional. This person will help you identify these emotions, especially intense emotions, and teach you coping skills and techniques on how to manage them. Emotions, negative or positive, are normal reactions to have to varying situations, but shouldn’t become so overwhelming or get in the way of everyday activities, relationships, etc. While negative emotions are bound to happen, learning how to manage them in a healthy way can contribute to better emotional resilience and mental health.

Staff Blogger: Mollie Clupper

Mollie Clupper works for MHA as a Communications and Support Specialist. Using her own experiences, she wants to help bring awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, drinking coffee, and spending time with loved ones.