Programme: Handling Emotions

3. Handling emotions

There are some situations which we simply cannot predict, avoid or prevent. In these cases, anticipation is not an option - all we can do is to accept the situation as it is. We all have our own strategies for handling the difficult parts of life, some of which science has proven to be more effective than others. What do you normally do when you experience fear, sadness or anger?


  • Your instinct may tell you to try to repress your feelings of sadness, fear or anger, but it is actually a good idea to engage with them. If there is a problem, how can you solve it? If you think about how you can make the situation better for yourself and act upon it, it can help you to feel calmer. Even if there is no immediate solution, it helps to have a proactive approach to the problem. For example, talk about your problem with people whom you trust. Looking for support from others is often a very effective strategy! You could also try removing the thoughts from your head by writing them down on paper.
  • Distraction can be another good way to deal with emotions, as it temporarily gives you some distance from them. You could try taking some exercise, listening to music, meditating, dancing, gaming or watching a series. Breathing is an effective way to recover from a traumatic experience. The 4-7-8 breathing technique invented by the American doctor Andrew Weil can help with this. View this technique.
  • It is important to allow yourself time to focus on your emotions as well as time away from them. It can be exhausting if you are constantly thinking about your emotions, but on the other hand if you ignore them or repress them, they are sure to come back with force at a later point - just like a boomerang. Try to find a good balance between working on your emotions and giving yourself a break.
  • Avoid using drugs or alcohol as a means of escape. They may dull the pain temporarily, but once they are out of your system the pain will return - often in a more intense form than before. You will find that you will need to use increasing amounts of drugs or alcohol to obtain the pain relief you are seeking - this pattern can quickly lead to addiction

‘The goal isn’t to get rid of all your negative thoughts and feelings; that’s impossible. The goal is to change your response to them’.

Reflect & connect

Answer these three questions and share your answers with your online psychologist and/or a friend:

1. Can you think of a difficult situation you have had to deal with recently? What were the emotions you experienced? Did you lose your temper? Or did you burst into tears?

2. How did you handle this? Did you find time to focus on what happened? When you encounter something difficult, can you find the right balance between actively focusing on your emotions and relaxation?

3. The next time you encounter an overwhelming emotion, which strategy are you going to use to help you?

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