Tag Archives: Handling Emotions

Pull Yourself Out of the Blues

If you’re feeling down, what can you do? Let’s examine the story from Saying Goodbye to Lousy Moods for some insight.

 Since Theo hates loud bars and doesn’t know his co-workers that well, he’s never gone out for happy hour on Fridays. But he’d like to socialize more so he decides one night to join them.

This is not looking good. The last thing he needs when he’s already feeling awkward is to plop himself down in his own personal nightmare. But he’s ignoring his own good judgment. Bad move.

Making friends naturally through projects makes sense, though. Volunteer work is ideal. Gatherings centered around hobbies and interests – photography, books, softball – would also introduce him to people like himself. If self-help or spirituality interests him, he might explore a community committed to his same world view.

 Everyone leans across the table toward each other while he sits up straight with a tight smile and fiddles with his napkin. No one notices he isn’t talking. Just as well: they’re arguing politics and their god-awful views are appalling. His face gets twitchy.

How awful. He might as well head home and resolve to find a social activity that suits him. And he should tell himself it’s not weird to dislike loud bars.

All Theo really wanted to do tonight was read his mystery novel. He creeps out, goes home and turns on some jazz and tries to read. But sixty percent of him is reading and forty percent is back at the bar, feeling stupid.

Since he can’t concentrate on his book, he might take this time to practice mindfulness. Yoga is good: since he’s preoccupied, focusing on movement and physical sensations will refresh his mind.

Is he piling on self-defeating messages? Telling himself he’s a dud and no one likes him? That he’s too serious? Author Byron Katie suggests identifying these thoughts and asking “Is this true? Is this really true?”

What else might explain this wretched evening?

  • His co-workers don’t dislike him, they just don’t know him.
  • He most certainly is not boring. He loves jazz, good mysteries, meaningful conversation.
  • He’s an introvert. They’re extroverts. Introverts are lovely people, thoughtful and sensitive to the subtle beauties of life.

(The next morning he feels depressed.) Normally he would go do his Saturday volunteer work, but instead he sits down with his mystery again. He mopes.

He’s got to put down that book. The book is his enemy right now. The book is not his friend. Even though he feels he just can’t, he must get dressed, leave the house, follow his normal routine and get around people.

If Theo decides to find some social activities that fit his personality, if he works with his thinking and gets moving, he’ll feel much better by the afternoon. Think about your own version of his story. What puts you at risk for bad moods? What new activities and interests can bring more joy? Do you have habits that drain energy and beliefs that make you feel bad? Perhaps you might take a few minutes to write about turning your own bad moods around and making changes that can even prevent them from taking root.

Readers: What changes might bring more joy to your life?

Busting Out of the Depths of Blah

How can you free yourself from a dark mood?

In “Saying Goodbye to Lousy Moods” we imagined that one Friday night you suffered through a miserable Happy Hour and by Saturday morning you were in a funk. But then you started to see you were caught in an illusion. You remembered you have the power to lift yourself out.

Next step: productive action. Accomplishing something reinforces your sense of worth. It gets you out of your head and into your life. Doing a bit of housework, putting on music and dancing, or walking your dog can all shift your mood.

If at all possible, leave the house after that. Walking alone might send you back to ruminating, so if you want some exercise, you might lift weights at the gym instead.

But what if you’re working or caring for children and you can’t leave? Focus your full concentration on your task, which is a form of meditation. You might use a thesaurus to find precise words for your report. Really listening to your child can keep you out of miserable feelings.

Your mind will keep coming back to what was troubling you. Expect this. It’s not a problem. Just keep gently redirecting your attention to the business at hand.

Is your work boring? Does your mind wander even when you feel good? I faced this when I cleaned houses for a living after graduating from college. During this time I grappled with resentment and frustration about working a job I didn’t like. But tedious activities can make for dynamic meditation. A friend suggested I start focusing attention on my chores. While dusting, I started to notice how the cloth felt against a hard surface and to see the furniture change as I wiped it clean. As I washed acoustical ceiling tiles, I smelled the Lysol. This transformed not only my job but the rest of my life as well.

In the next post we will look at how problems, actions and thoughts set off bad moods and how to turn things around.

Saying Goodbye to Lousy Moods

liberation photo

Since you hate loud bars and don’t know your co-workers that well, you’ve never gone out for happy hour. But you’d like to socialize more so one Friday night you join them.

You sit down next to someone with their back to you. Everyone except you leans across the table toward each other while you sit up straight with a tight smile and fiddle with your napkin. No one notices you aren’t talking. Just as well: they’re arguing politics and their god-awful views are unbelievable.

Your face gets twitchy.

All you really wanted to do tonight was read your mystery novel, so you creep out, go home and turn on some jazz. You can’t quite be in the moment, though. Sixty percent of you trying to read but forty percent is back at the bar, feeling stupid.

The next morning you feel like your insides have been drained out and replaced with corn syrup. Your coffee tastes bitter. Normally you would go do your Saturday volunteer work, but instead you sit down with your novel again.

You mope. It seems impossible to turn your mood around.

What do you do?

Realizing that you’re caught up in distorted thoughts and feelings is the first step out.

Don’t worry that you’re repressing your emotions or invalidating yourself. Your feelings are real and telling you about real problems. But you can’t solve them if you’re drowning in muck. You must return to even keel to find answers.

Remind yourself that at the center of your being you are deeply good. This remains true no matter what you feel. You may find this meditation by Vietnamese meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh helpful:

Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in.

 Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out.

 Breathing in, I see myself as a flower.

 Breathing out, I feel fresh.

 Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain.

 Breathing out, I feel solid.

 Breathing in, I become calm water.

 Breathing out, I reflect the sky and the mountains.

 Breathing in, I become the vastness of space.

 Breathing out, I feel infinite freedom.

You have now started to pull yourself out. In the next post we will look at how to continue feeling better.

Readers: What works for you to get out of a bad mood?

A New Way To Handle Overeating

Your intention was to not overeat. But now that you’re done eating, you don’t feel so great. You aren’t stuffed, exactly, but you’re uncomfortably full.

Guilt starts rising up. Normally this would be the moment where one of two things would happen, or perhaps both. You’d begin berating yourself: “I can’t believe you did this again! What’s the matter with you?” You might also say, “Well, I’ve blown it, so I might as well keep eating.”

But instead you pause and catch yourself. You’re committed not to perfection and fast weight loss, but rather to freeing yourself from a painful relationship with food.

You’re going to need a moment to regroup, so if you aren’t alone, excuse yourself and head to the bathroom or someplace private for just a second. Now give yourself a hug, or gently touch some place on your body. Remind yourself about some quality you like about yourself, or about some loving thing you did today, or something you do well. You might say something like this to yourself:

I’m a wonderful person. I had some trouble just now, but it’s over and I’m moving on from here. I haven’t committed any crimes. I don’t have to keep eating.

Now close your eyes and take a few breaths. No need to breathe deeply, just notice the air moving in and out of your body. If you’re sitting, feel your legs and bottom and back against your seat and your feet against the floor. Notice the feelings swirling around inside you, and just say to yourself “feelings.” Do this for a few moments, and chances are the swirling will begin to subside. Notice the thoughts running around inside your head. Don’t engage with them, don’t start arguing with them or building them up. Just say, “thinking.” Again, chances are that they’ll start quieting down.

You might be aware now of something else that’s bothering you. If so, reassure yourself that whatever it is, you can handle it. If you have time, take a moment to think about it and see what solutions might present themselves. If you don’t have time for this, promise yourself you’ll get back to this before the day is up.

Now go back to whatever you need to do next knowing that you just turned around a moment that could have spoiled your day.

How To Cool Down Arguments

Sometimes a good fight clears the air. Too often, though, heated arguments just hurt a relationship. One or both of you say mean words that you can’t take back. Feelings get hurt. Resentment builds.

This is not to say that you’re supposed to sit on your feelings or that you shouldn’t get angry. Anger is a part of life, and it certainly comes up in every relationship. It’s just a question of how you manage your anger.

“Pause” is the key word. Not “stuff your feelings” but pause, step back and think. Buy yourself some time. You can teach yourself to stop, go inside yourself, and practice a healthy self-restraint.

“Sounds good,” you say, “but how in the world do I do this in the heat of the moment?”

The first step starts long before the argument begins. Decide that, from now on, you’re not going to go to that destructive place. A decision like this is powerful and can help you remember to stop when things start to go out of control. If you argue frequently, remind yourself daily that you’ve decided to practice self-restraint because you love your partner. And because you want to become more mature.

The second step also takes place before an argument. Take responsibility for your own misbehavior. It’s too easy to blame your partner and see him or her as “the problem.” We have a harder time realizing that we are the problem the moment we begin to blame. Fortunately, we are also the solution.

If you do these things, during an argument you won’t so readily indulge the feeling that this other person is wrong and that they need to agree with you. Just stop talking. Do this gently, without glaring or making a face. If your partner takes this as a hostile gesture, tell them you’ve just realized that you’re creating a problem with what you’re saying, and you need to take some time to compose yourself. When you’ve both calmed down, you can have a productive discussion about what made you angry.

This will take time and practice. Don’t judge yourself when you don’t “do it right.” Instead, give yourself a pat on the back for deciding to nurture your relationship and further your own growth.

Mindfulness and Strong Feelings

Mindfulness enables us to help ourselves with strong feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, and more. The key is getting out of our heads and into our bodies.

Emotions express themselves as physical sensations. You may feel a lump in your throat when you’re very sad, a tightness in your chest when anxious, a clenching of your hands and forearms when you’re angry. Finding that place in your body and simply feeling it often brings great relief and always provides useful information about potential solutions to our difficulties.

How does that lump feel? Is it heavy? Constricting? The tightness in your chest may feel solid one moment, and then open up. The clench in your hands may feel hot and shaky.

Our tendency is to try to think our way out of strong feelings. It never works. Noticing what our bodies feel like, though, allows us to process our emotions and extract valuable information from them for solving our problems.

For example, you find that your jaw is so tight it hurts. You take a moment to notice how it feels like solid rock, and find that you’re holding your shoulders up. When you soften them and bring them down, your jaw also relaxes a little.

Going further, you ask your jaw and shoulders what they’re trying to tell you. You realize you’re afraid that you won’t adequately handle some unpleasant upcoming task, that you “won’t do it right.” You weren’t aware that this was bothering you, but now you can remind yourself that you’ve handled situations like this in the past, and that you’ll do ok.

We often think that sitting with the physical expression of an emotion will make it worse, but generally the opposite is true. I’d like to hear your comments about experiences with this or your thoughts about it.