Turn towards your anxiety and feel better.
Let’s be honest. We don’t often think about turning towards our anxiety. The natural urge when we experience uncomfortable emotions is to turn away from them. We don’t WANT to feel this way, so we try to avoid them.
People often use strategies like ignoring, suppressing emotions, or distraction. Sometimes, they reach for more unhealthy or dangerous ways of avoiding their emotions, like self-harm, alcohol or drugs.
Now, there is nothing wrong with using distraction or ignoring your emotions every now and then. In certain circumstances it may be the best choice you have and it can provide a relief from the way you feel (want to crash in front of Netflix rather than deal with your emotions? Totally understandable at times!).
But when you use suppression or distraction as your ONLY or MAIN strategy, several things can occur:
- Emotions can build up and explode later on
- You don’t ever learn that you CAN cope
- It can may you think a situation or your feelings to be worse than it may be (catastrophising)
- If you’re in situation where you can’t distract, it feels a lot more overwhelming
More: Using mindfulness to cope with uncomfortable emotions.
Instead, turn towards your emotions and become curious and compassionate.
That’s right, I’m asking you to stop avoiding how you feel and actually turn towards your uncomfortable emotions and FEEL them. How to do this? Remember the Two-C’s. Curious and Compassionate.
Be as curious as you can.
Pretend you’re a scientist and you’re discovering something new. Ask yourself:
Whats going on for me right now?
What is that emotion? (LABEL IT)
Where do I feel it in my body? (LABEL IT)
Can I identify any triggers?
Switch judgement into compassion.
Then, once you’ve figured out exactly how you feel, turn any judgemental negative thoughts into compassionate ones. e.g.
“Ok, so that’s what is going on. That’s ok, I can handle this. I’m stronger then I give myself credit for.”
“I’ve been through this before, I can get through this now. Anxiety is tough, but it is an emotion I can handle.”
“This feeling will pass. I’m human and uncomfortable emotions are part of that”
“I give myself permission to feel this way, and I’m proud of myself for that.”
Then, and ONLY then can you move your attention elsewhere.
See the difference? When you experience an uncomfortable emotion, you aren’t jumping straight to avoidance. You are giving yourself space to explore the feeling, give yourself some compassion, and then move on.
It’s not: “OMG I cant handle this, I have to do something else, I have to get my mind off this”
It is: “Wow that emotion is intense. Whats going on? I can get through this. And THEN, I give myself permission to move on to something else.”
Hope that helps! Jess xx