Even with the best intentions, many of us believe that our emotions are out of our control, that they happen spontaneously, and that we handle them in a multitude of ways. But in fact, there are four basic ways in which people deal with emotion. Do you recognize any of these? Once you identify your primary strategy for dealing with emotions, you can shift to an approach that truly works for you.
The first defense against negative emotions is avoidance. We all want to avoid difficult or painful emotions. As a result, we tend to avoid any situation that could lead to the emotions we fear, or worse, try not to feel any emotions at all. While avoiding negative situations may protect us in the short term, it also keeps us from feeling the very emotions — connection, energy, excitement — that we desire most.
The second defense against stress is outright denial. When you experience an emotion and try to deny what you’re feeling, your emotions will simply intensify. The pressure will build and what you are trying to ignore will resurface – potentially at an inconvenient time.
The worst addiction facing people today is not drugs, it’s not alcohol, it’s problems. Often, after moving past avoidance and denial, we decide to stop fighting our painful emotions and decide to fully indulge in them. Rather than learn what our feelings are trying to tell us, we get our fix of significance by making our problem worse that everyone else’s. It becomes a “badge of courage,” and we begin to compete with others, saying, “You think you’ve got it bad? Let me tell you how bad I’ve got it!” Do yourself a favor and get your need for significance met for doing something positive rather than for your problems.
Learning and Using
Truth: Problems are gifts. Our biggest problem is we think we shouldn’t have problems. Albert Einstein put it this way, “Crisis is the greatest blessing for people and nations, because crisis brings on progress…He who blames his own failures and difficulties to crisis, rapes his own talent and gives more importance to problems than to solutions.” Leaders use their pain. Find a way to use stress and pain to serve you.
Is stress making you sick?
Stress isn’t just unpleasant mentally and emotionally — it also has the power to make your body sick. Stress weakens your immune systems, making it harder to fight off common cold viruses and other germs. Stress has also been shown to raise blood pressure by temporarily constricting blood vessels and speeding up heart rate. Coronary heart disease is also more common in those suffering from chronic stress.
Stress can prompt emotional eating and make it harder to resist other cravings for unhealthy foods. There is little wonder, then, that stress is also connected to weight gain; however, what may be news to you is the fact that the high cortisol levels linked to stress encourage fat storage, particularly in the lower abdomen area. This, in turn, increases insulin resistance in the body, which can lead to changes in blood sugar. Other symptoms may include heartburn, IBS, diarrhea and stomach cramping. For pregnant women, severe stress may affect the fetus’ brain development and increase chances of premature labor.
Chronic stress isn’t good for your brain, either. Stress causes tension headaches and sometimes even migraines. It reduces spatial memory, which helps you remember locations and relate objects, as well as impacts your ability to form new memories and regulate emotions and self-control. Acute stress has been shown to cause three different kinds of hair loss as well as premature aging.
How do you handle stress?
You can learn how to effectively handle stress and make yourself a better person. One way to do this is to find activities you enjoy, such as ways to strengthen your body, find a role model or help someone in need to put your life in perspective.
Feed your mind something good every day. Don’t let the weeds grow; cultivate great thoughts and sow the seeds of knowledge for tomorrow.
Strengthen your body. Fear, stagnation, rage, numbness, sadness: these are all emotional states that affect one’s physical well-being, and you need to be ready to grapple with and overcome these emotions. Science has shown us that when you participate in physical activities, you activate your body chemistry and unite your mind and body so they can work together effectively.
Find a mission greater than yourself. We all benefit by aspiring to something greater, something that is more than either our pain or even our joy. Get inspired by being part of something big.
Find a role model. This makes what you are hoping is possible real for you. Are you hoping to become a successful entrepreneur? Find a role model who did that. You need to feel how real that goal is, how attainable it is and how others achieved their success while overcoming challenges.
You can also find someone who is in need and help them. There are countless ways to offer help, such as volunteering at a local homeless shelter or food bank or offering your services in underserved classrooms. The process of volunteering teaches you how to put your own life into perspective and reminds you that you are connected to everyone else. Your ability to give to others and help no matter how many mistakes you’ve made or losses you’ve suffered will inspire you to try again and move on.