There are moments in all our lives where we feel anxious, terrified, confused, stressed, etc... Just last weekend I had a near melt down over driving through the narrow, winding, Colorado mountain roads. I make this same drive every fall with my friends, fiance, or parents to check out the beautiful changing colors and to enjoy the lovely crisp, clean air. Usually a passenger along for the ride, this year I found myself behind the wheel, and it terrified me. In this moment of terror I had a choice to make, I could either recognize how I was feeling and take control, or I could remain frightened and let this uncomfortable emotion control me. Like it or not there are moments in our life, both big and small, where we're going to experience uncomfortable emotions and like it or not we're going to have to deal with these emotions in one way or another. The good news is, with a little prep work we can better equip ourselves with the tools we need to take control of our uncomfortable emotions.
1) Write down what works, what doesn't work, and what might work for you: How do you normally react when faced with uncomfortable emotions? Do you take a couple of deep breaths, go for a walk, cry (not that I ever do this one or anything...), grab the first candy bar in sight, lash out at the first person you see? We all have tools for dealing with our feelings and some are healthier than other. Spend sometime making a list of the tools you currently use, once that's done, spend sometime identifying the tools you want to continue to use and the ones you might be better off without. This is also a good time to identify three or four new tools you'd like to add to your toolbox, meditation anyone?
2) Give it A-Go: Once you've established which tools you feel best fit you, give em a go. It's going to take a little bit of time to figure out which tool fits best which each situation. Maybe try out going for a walk and deep breathing when feeling overwhelmed at work, or try out doing yoga and chatting with a friend after a fight with your significant other. The idea is to try out different tools in different situations to help you identify what works best for you. It's not one size fits all so feel free to be creative and experiment.
3) Articulate what you need from those around you: Sometimes the best thing to do is to reach out to those around us for support and guidance. It can be incredibly valuable to express out loud how we are feeling and what we need. While I was making my scary drive back down the mountain I expressed to my friends how I was feeling, they simply reassured me that we would be fine and that I could drive as quickly as I felt comfortable, there was no rush. Knowing that there are people in our corner can make all the difference in the world.
4) Practice, Practice, Practice: Just like with anything else in order to get into the habit of using your new tools, practice is key. The more you practice implementing your new tools, the easier it will become and before you know it you'll be controlling your uncomfortable emotions instead of letting them control you.