Coping with extreme emotions like anger, depression, and anxiety can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are many coping skills that you can learn to practice now so that you’re able to utilize them effectively when life gets the best of you.
Here are nine ways to cope with extreme emotions.
Practice self-soothing by using all five of your senses. You can look at photographs, doodle, or create art to engage your sight. Try listening to soothing music or nature sounds, or tickle your taste buds by sucking on a hard candy, eating mindfully, or enjoying a soothing warm drink, such as hot cocoa. To engage your sense of touch, try playing with putty, squeezing a stress ball, or hugging a loved one (yes, that can include pets). For extra brownie points, try combining several senses at the same time by rubbing in a nice smelling lotion or by taking a mindful bubble bath.
2. Deep Breathing
There are many deep breathing exercises out there in the world. One exercise, called four square breathing, encourages you to try inhaling for four seconds, holding for four seconds, exhaling for fur seconds, and holding for 4 seconds. Repeat at least four times for maximum effect. Practice an even further awareness to your breath by placing your hand on your abdomen or chest and feeling the rise and fall as you slowly breathe in and out.
3. Repeat Your Favorite Mantras
Try coming up with a mantra or motto to repeat to yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Some examples include:
“I’m strong enough to get through this.”
“This too shall pass.”
“I can do hard things.”
“I am capable.”
“I am enough.”
4. The “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” Exercise
Bring yourself back into the moment by grounding with your senses. Try finding five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Then evaluate how you are feeling. Still not calm? Repeat it again until you feel more in tune with the room around you.
5. The Rainbows Exercise
This grounding exercise involves your sense of sight. Try finding one thing that is red, one thing that is orange, and so on from yellow through purple. Repeat as many times as you need until you are feeling more in touch with your surroundings.
6. Catch, Challenge, Change
When you catch yourself thinking a negative thought, ask yourself: Do I have proof that this is a fact or is this a thought? Look for evidence to disprove your thought, then change it to a positive statement.
For example, let’s say your negative thought is “I’m not good enough.”
Challenge the thought by finding times when you did something good enough. Did you recently get a promotion at work? Did someone recently thank you for a kind action?
Now change the thought to a positive: “Sometimes I make mistakes, but I am good at ____________!” or ” I may have made a mistake this time, but I can do better next time!”
7. Intense Exercise
It may not be your first thought, but exercise is proven to help decrease negative thoughts and emotions, especially for those with powerful urges such as self-harming thoughts. Try a burst of exercise such as sprinting, doing jumping jacks, or doing sit-ups and push-ups until tired.
8. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a soothing way to calm the muscles in your body during an anxious state. Start by squeezing and tightening the muscles in your feet, then quickly release the tension. Work your way up to your head, going through each muscle.
9. Temperature Regulation
Have you ever heard someone tell you to cool off when your angry? Well, there’s actually some truth in the statement. Quickly changing your body temperature can soothe your mood by reregulating your body. Try splashing cool water on your face or sitting in front of the cold air conditioning. Have ice cubes readily accessible? Try squeezing an ice cube or gently rubbing an ice cube on the backs of your hand.