How do you deal with negative emotions?
If your plan is to ignore them until they go away, it’s a bad idea. Because they won’t.
All they do is sit in your subconscious and rot until either they explode on whoever happens to be around – another bad idea – or they take it out on your body.
Why stuffing your emotions is bad for you
Some of those health consequences include:
- Greater incidence of asthma
- Higher blood pressure
- Lower resistance to infectious disease
- Increased allergic reactions
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs or both
- Overeating and weight gain
- Higher cholesterol levels
- Systemic inflammation, which is connected to heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s
- Acceleration of aging (just what we need, yes?)
Other physical reactions include headaches, stomach and digestive issues such as ulcers, fatigue, depression, low back pain, neck pain and arthritis. Sudden emotional shocks can even cause heart attacks in healthy people. Notably, most of those were women.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 90% of doctors’ visits are linked to stress and the negative feelings that stress engenders.
When it comes to emotions, it’s “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
The very thing that can make women sick is also what makes them so great in business and in the professions.
Because they have high levels of emotional intelligence – or EQ – they can pick up on the feelings of others, manage people better and help build respect, trust and rapport. It gives them a collaborative approach to business dealings, instead of the traditional “my way or the highway,” top-down method of management. Their EQ also allows them to look at situations as “us vs. the problem” as opposed to “us vs. them.”
Not only that, but their EQ gives them powerful motivation because they can more easily connect their goals to the feelings they will have when they reach them. These same emotions have taken many a woman to the brink of tears (or even over the edge) in stressful personal and professional situations due to stress or sheer, towering rage.
No woman wants that. So they decide, somewhere along the way, that the only way they can be successful is by suppressing their feelings. And many of us have gotten so good at stuffing them is that we have become hard – and hard to get along with. Otherwise known as “bitchy.”
How to make your emotions work for you
How do you make your emotions work for you instead of against you? Is it even possible? Yes. Here’s how to do it.
- Identify what you’re feeling. Before you can do anything about your emotions, you have to know what they are. Sounds bizarre, but many women have done such a great job of pushing down all their negative emotions that they aren’t really sure what they’re feeling anymore.
A few ideas: Unhappy, pissed off, annoyed, vengeful, abused, anxious, cruel, defeated, broken down, envious, disgusted and so on. Still having trouble figuring it out? Click here to get this list of negative emotions. Don’t judge; just identify.
- Feel it. I don’t care that you don’t “want” to feel that way. You do feel that way and ignoring those feelings doesn’t make them go away. The sooner you let yourself experience them, the better off you will be. And the sooner they will go away.
- Say it out loud. And in front of a mirror is even better: “I am angry. I am dissatisfied. I am sad. I am confused. I am paranoid.” Whatever you’re feeling, give voice to it. If you need to scream, shout, throw things, pound on tables – go ahead. Get it out of your system.
Note to readers who are still in their child-bearing years or going through menopause – it gets easier once you’re not held hostage by your hormones. When you are in the throes of a hormonal meltdown, understand that it, too, shall pass. That will relieve some of the negative feelings you’re experiencing. And if 25% of your life is totally out of control due to your menstrual cycle, please see your doc. Something ain’t right.
- Purge it. This is almost a natural byproduct of the scream-shout-pound-on-tables deal. It helps get it out of your system. If that makes you roll your eyes, think about the times you’ve thrown yourself a real pity party, sobbing your eyes out and giving it a good, long boo-hoo-hoo. Felt like crap when you did it, sure, but when it was over, there was a huge sense of relief.
- Release it. Once you’ve purged, go back to your mirror and say to yourself, out loud: “I release envy from my life. I release anger. I release shame.” Whatever you need to let go of, say it out loud. Someone is listening: You. By the way, I did that with an ex-husband who, 18 years after our split, still regularly haunted my dreams. It worked like a charm for me – no more dreams.
- Replace it. Negative feelings are toxic – to your body, heart, mind and soul. The sooner you can focus on positive feelings, the better off you will be. Count your blessings: “I am strong. I am worthy. I am smart. I am responsible.” If the best you can do is state “I woke up this morning,” that’s a good start.
All well and good, you say. What if I’m at work and someone has hurt my feelings and I want to either to kick the desk or sob my eyes out? How do I deal with my negative emotions? Here are some tips to help.
- Focus on your intake and outflow of breath. Count each one. Notice how it expands and deflates your rib cage. Imagine pure, cleansing oxygen reaching every part of your body and how each exhale releases toxins. See how deep breathing helps regulate your heart rate and soothes your nerves.
- Alternative 1: Keep quiet. If you feel that anything that might come out of your mouth would be damning or tear-stained blubbering, stay silent or use filler words like “uh-huh,” “I see” and so on. That way the other person knows you’re not sleeping with your eyes open. But whatever you do, don’t nod. Men see nodding as agreement and if you’re getting your ass handed to you for no reason whatsoever, the last thing you want to do is look like you’re agreeing.
- Alternative 2: Ask questions. This, of course, depends on the situation, but you might ask something like, “How did you arrive at that conclusion? What makes you think that way? What do you think the solution is? How do you think we should move forward? What did I do wrong and how can I fix it?” By asking for objective data and clear feedback, you’ll take the focus – yours and his – off how you feel.
- Avoid “why” questions. Even in the most neutral circumstances, questions that start with “why” can sound like accusations. Maybe they deserve to be, but that’s not helpful. You want to keep a handle on your emotions, not throw gas on the embers.
- Go to your happy place. Your boss (or client) is chewing you up one side and down another, justified or not. There isn’t a single thing you can do about it until it’s over, at which time you can do the scream-shout-pound-on-tables business mentioned earlier. Until then, imagine yourself in your favorite place, surrounded by your favorite people/things, eating your favorite foods and let him rant.
- You are in charge of you. If the other person is a bully, there is nothing he would like better than to get a rise out of you. Don’t give him the satisfaction. Often that internalized “I’ll show you!” attitude can prevent an emotional outburst.
Do you have any special tips or hints that can help women manage their negative emotions? I’d love to hear. Please share in the comments.