The following tools help lessen the intensity of feelings of anger, anxiety or sadness. By pausing to pay attention, we can access the inner wisdom that we might have lost sight of temporarily.
Begin by recognizing that this intense feeling is a way to get your attention, so that you can attend to whatever the underlying need is. Just as the discomfort of a headache is telling us that we need more hydration or more rest, intense feelings are trying to tell us that we need something. In both cases, our systems are working properly to get our attention in order to protect us from further suffering.
In the case of worry, fear, or anxiety, sometimes we misread the messages. Our system is trying to get us to attend to what’s at the base of our worry (a need for security, confidence, etc.); it’s not telling us to avoid the object of our fear or to believe the fear. Our intuition will always alert us when there is a real threat. It’s important to distinguish between the fear that comes from intuition (which is never wrong) and anxiety resulting from thoughts and beliefs. Anxiety is trying to get us to change our approach to the issue and get us to take action and empower ourselves.
Suggested use for this list:
Jot down your 5 favorites to use next time you’re feeling intense feelings. Save the tools that are effective and replace the ones that aren’t.
- Simply observe what is happening in the moment, without trying to fix, evaluate or judge what’s going on. Just pay attention to it.
- Pause to give yourself gentle compassion and a good dose of acceptance.
- Take 6 slow, deep diaphragmatic breaths. As you breathe in slowly and gently, imagine breathing in low in your torso, your lungs expanding downward, deep into your abdomen, gently massaging your organs as you bring fresh oxygen in. Let it out even more slowly. *
- Walk right into whatever you’re avoiding. Face it and believe in yourself, building confidence by reminding yourself of specific capabilities (in any area!).
- Notice where in your body you are sensing this intense feeling.
- Close your eyes and breathe into the area for a long while.
- Imagine what message your body is trying to tell you.
- Give yourself empathy:
- Pause to connect with and listen to what’s going on.
- Identify the feelings you are having, both physically and emotionally.
- Then ask yourself what you are needing in this moment and in your life.
- What specific action steps can you take to address the need(s)?
- Distance yourself from the feeling, to give yourself a chance to broaden your narrow perspective:
- Say, “I am feeling______”
- “I’m noticing that I’m feeling_______ “
- “I’m noticing that a part of me is feeling ________”
- “I’m noticing that a few seconds ago, I was noticing that a part of me was feeling______”
- You can even walk into another room and look toward where you had been sitting and recall what you were feeling like when you were there.
- Say, “There’s a story in my head right now. The story is __________.” Now try to repeat the story, using objective and factual language, like you are watching it on a video, without any opinions or interpretations or analysis. Acknowledge that it’s actually your perception and interpretation of these events/actions that are causing you to react in a certain way. Most likely, there are several interpretations of this. Try a few more perceptions, maybe by imagining how different people you know might react, just so your mind can stretch.
- Emotions actually remain in our bloodstream for only seconds at a time-90 seconds at the most. If the emotion is continuing, maybe you’re fueling it with thoughts. Pause to look at the thoughts. How are you benefitting from continuing to believe this? Holding on to the thoughts and beliefs could be a strategy to meet a need. What is the underlying need? What other strategies could you try to meet the need(s)?
- Call or visit a friend or family member. Ask them to just hold space for you to talk. While you talk, once you get the story out, get in touch with and express what you are feeling. Then try to pinpoint what you could be needing. The listener is simply listening fully and holding an empathic presence, for ten or twenty minutes-or however long it takes for you to feel the relief and shift of connecting with your experience. How often can you say that you’ve just been listened to? It’s transformative.
- Try humor:
Photo: Twitter / Karen Zack / @teenybiscuit