How to Handle Anxiety (and other difficult emotions)
(If you haven’t already – click below for your free relaxation MP3 – one of the most calming things you can do.)
We’re often told we should ‘think positively’ and to ‘look on the bright side’. And although I’m a fan of thinking positively (those that follow me on Twitter and Instagram will know I’m no stranger to an inspirational quote!) it’s important that we don’t deny our emotions or try to stuff them down inside while we paper over them with Instaquotes and positive affirmations.
Because emotions need to be felt.
This is so important when we’re working out how to handle anxiety.
If we try to suppress our emotions, they end up surfacing anyway – more anxiety, IBS and eczema are just a few examples of ways that ‘stuffed down’ emotions can end up manifesting in our bodies.
I went to a talk earlier this week by Susan David who was talking about ‘Emotional Agility’.
Emotional agility, she explained, is when our thoughts and emotions are ‘not calling the shots.’
Sounds good to me!
How often do we feel like slaves to our emotions and negative thoughts; being tussled around, controlled and often dragged under by anxious feelings, worries and fears.
One thing she said that really stuck me was that ‘difficult emotions are normal’. They are part of what makes us human. And there is nothing wrong with you for experiencing these emotions.
You’re absolutely are not broken or defective if you’re anxious. You’re a normal human being.
If you’re anything like I was in the past, you’ve likely berated yourself for your feelings; telling yourself you shouldn’t be feeling the way you do.
I feel it’s high time we stopped beating ourselves up over our emotional state; life can be hard enough.
Susan talked about the 4 steps to achieving emotional agility and how to handle anxiety and other tough emotions.
- Show up to your feelings. Have you been telling yourself ‘I shouldn’t be anxious!’ ‘I shouldn’t be worrying all the time!’It’s time to stop arguing with the anxiety and accept it for what it is. A normal human emotion. Work on adopting a compassionate stance towards yourself and your feelings, rather than making yourself feel worse by beating yourself up about it. Accept that your feelings are there and accept yourself for having them. Be there for yourself.
- Notice and label the emotion – Say to yourself ‘I am noticing that I’m feeling nervous and anxious about starting this new job’. You yourself are not the emotions or thoughts, you are the awareness behind them. By noticing the anxiety and labelling it, you start to find yourself being the awareness behind the feeling, rather than you being the feeling itself.
- Remind yourself of your ‘why’. When we remember why we’re doing what we’re doing, it can help to motivate us to handle things. If you have goals and dreams that anxiety is holding you back from, remember why you want those things in the first place; do you want that sense of achievement, do you want to be an inspiration to other people, or to live a life of more freedom? Reminding yourself of your why can help you to feel stronger about moving forward, even if you feel afraid.
- Make Little Changes. Handling difficult emotions like anxiety doesn’t have to mean having a HUGE overhaul in your life – it’s often about making a few ‘tiny tweaks’ that can make all the difference. Perhaps it’s about making more time for you, reaching out to other people for support, getting out for a short walk each day or spending less time on social media, that could really help you to live a calmer life.
One of the most compelling things Susan said in the talk was this:
I think it’s so true. We need to feel the fear and go ahead with life anyway. By doing this, we learn to trust ourselves, and we become courageous and confident.
Do you have any tips on handling difficult emotions? Let us know in the comments.
You can find Susan David’s book, Emotional Agility on Amazon.
If you haven’t already – click below for your free relaxation MP3 – one of the most calming things you can do