Have you ever been so happy or upset that it was difficult to function and go about your daily tasks and responsibilities? Or maybe something was bothering you and you didn’t feel quite right, but you couldn’t pinpoint exactly why. Sometimes it’s easy to identify our emotions, especially when they are very strong or overwhelming, like in the case of grief or joy. Other times, it can be more difficult, such as when experiencing shame or even love.
Identifying our emotions is a first step in managing them, and both are important skills in getting through life’s ups and downs and feeling more in control about how we approach and react to people and situations. Of course, we must feel our feelings. We should acknowledge and celebrate happy times, listen to our instincts if we are afraid, and otherwise give ourselves the time we need to fully experience our emotions. In this post, we’ll focus on and provide support for when we are struggling with nagging or intense emotions.
Recognizing your emotions
You might be wondering why recognizing your emotions and feelings is important. Maybe you think it’s obvious what you are feeling at any given moment. In some cases, it is. Even then, it is important to name the emotion or feeling. This allows you to get what you need from it and effectively manage it so it doesn’t become disruptive in your life. It can be difficult to deal with an emotion and move on if you haven’t identified what it is.
For example—You’re sitting at your desk at work and not feeling like yourself. You’re anxious about the work you must complete. You could sit there and continue trying to push through with the nagging feeling. Or you could take a moment to identify and name the emotion so you can take the appropriate steps to move on from feeling less than your normal self. This could be as easy as saying to yourself, “I am overwhelmed.” Now that you’ve identified the emotion and given a name to it, you can use your knowledge about how to deal with feeling overwhelmed and seek additional help if necessary.
A great resource for helping to identify your emotions is an emotion wheel. Magellan provides a tool you can use here. Print it or keep it open in your web browser so it’s handy when you need to name an emotion that may be distracting you or getting you down.
Accepting your emotions
You’ve recognized and named the emotion you’re feeling. Now what? What do you do to get to a better place of focus and contentment? You can start with accepting what you’re feeling is legitimate and worthy of your attention. And while you may not be happy about the situation that is causing your emotional response, we know that situations will arise that are out of our control. For instance, we may experience negative emotions due to a breakup with a partner, seeing a child make a poor decision, or watching a friend go on the vacation we so badly want. No matter the situation, fighting our emotions only serves to give them more fuel to thrive, which may not be exactly welcomed.
A tool to help you accept your reality and let go of resentments is called radical acceptance. Find more on this technique along with a short video and helpful exercise worksheets linked on our website for Mental Health Month.
Managing your emotions
When we know what we’re feeling, have accepted it, and are giving ourselves grace to deal with it, we’re in a better place to act and feel better. One technique that can help you do this is looking at your thoughts from a different perspective. For example, if you’re feeling lonely, think about the supports that are available to you—some may be just a phone call away. When you flip that lonely feeling and remember there are people who are there for you, your thoughts become more rooted in reality. You can then take action to feel less lonely by calling upon family or friends or searching online for ways to meet new people.
Throughout the often-challenging process of dealing with emotions, it’s important to be kind to yourself and practice self-care. Take time to do the things you enjoy. While you’re doing them, you can revel in the positive emotions you feel in the moment.
Support is also available in the form of mood tracking apps, which can help us understand the stressors and triggers that cause negative emotions. Find a clinically-reviewed list of these apps linked on our website for Mental Health Month.
Finally, when emotions are overwhelming and causing distress in your life, like causing changes in your personality, eating or sleeping habits, it’s important to seek the support of a therapist or other mental health or medical professional. You don’t need to suffer. There is help available that can make a difference.
Additional emotional support resources
For more on recognizing, accepting and managing emotions, visit our website for May Mental Health Month, MagellanHealthcare.com/Mental-Health-Month, and be sure to check out the Mental Health Awareness Campaign Toolkit.