I am the Queen of being hard on myself; I’ll be the first to admit it, and I’m sure we’re all guilty of this at one point or another. In a previous post I discussed my struggles with staying positive and adjusting destructive thought-patterns. Well, recently I had a ‘relapse’ with my negative thinking and it’s reminded me that our minds are truly a work in progress. After much contemplation I would like to offer you my five tips for working through negative and/or overwhelming emotions.

*Please note that I am (in no way) an expert in this field and that the advice that I’m offering comes from my own experiences; it is to be used at your own discretion.

Sit:
Go to that place where you unwind or start the day and just sit there, listen to your breathing and to your heartbeat, be still. I know this can be hard to do, especially with our busy lives, our many responsibilities and the noise of the day. But I feel that it’s important to make time for this and to really feel what’s going on within you. Allowing yourself to be still with your thoughts can be a very liberating and informative experience.

Acknowledge:
I’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now and in it he talks about ‘The State of Presence’ and asks his readers to try an experiment; I’d like to offer this to you as well. He asks his readers to close their eyes and to say to themselves “I wonder what my next thought is going to be,” then to sit and wait. My interpretation of this experiment is to be present — not only in the moment — but also to be able to identify where our minds go once the ‘mental noise returns’ to us. It is here where we have the opportunity to be honest and to acknowledge the first place our minds/hearts go during those moments of emotional madness. I really believe in this tool and feel that it offers great insight into our wellbeing; it highlights those spots that might need a bit of adjusting or self-care.

Breathe:
THE most important of the five, but I’ve placed it third for a reason. Don’t forget to breathe. When our minds are stressed, it takes a toll on our bodies as well, so give yourself some oxygen-love. As mentioned in ‘Sit with your thoughts,’ it’s important to feel through your emotions first, then once you’ve acknowledged what it is you’re feeling, it’s time to then breathe it out. During a particularly hard time, a friend of mine said “just breathe and let it flow through you, everything will be all right,” and it’s unbelievable how right she was.

‘Five Words’:
Now that you’ve done most of the work, it’s time to put things into perspective. In my personal life I’ve adapted the ‘five words’ rule; if I can’t explain my emotion in five words (or less), I haven’t processed it long enough. In other words, it’s still too complicated and I need to dig deeper. This is not to say that I want to downplay your feelings, rather to know them so well that they take as little room as possible.

Be Gentle:
Lastly, I feel that being gentle will add that final touch in working through anything. Too often I have found myself almost punishing my brain for having these negative thoughts, criticizing myself by thinking ‘you should know better’; well what good does that do? Ultimately it just leads to more negativity and creates a vicious cycle; it’s counterproductive and we all deserve a break from time-to-time.

I’m sure many of you are thinking that this is common sense, and I couldn’t agree more. You’d be surprised how often I tried to spruce this up with fancy psychology lingo; but really it’s not necessary. I believe in these five steps because they’re so simple yet they’re incredibly effective; they keep us accountable for our thoughts and honest with ourselves!

About

Ashley Martin is a social justice and mental health advocate living with MS. Ashley has found an outlet to help others and by writing about her experiences both here and for the MS Society of Canada. Follower her journey on HMC's Supportive Minds Blog, and follow Ashley on Twitter.

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