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Dealing with difficult emotions

There are lots of healthy ways to manage your feelings

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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When dealing with difficult emotions, sometimes our natural reaction is to try and shut them down or block them out. Many people do this because the fear of feeling those emotions is so strong. They may be afraid that they will ‘feel too much’ or that they won’t be able to control the intensity of the emotion. For example they will get so angry that they fear they will ‘burst’ or that if they start crying they won’t be able to stop.

But in reality there’s nothing to fear as we are always stronger than what we give ourselves credit for, and no-one has ever been unable to stop crying!

It can be extremely difficult for some people to work out what they are feeling especially if they have tried to suppress them for so long. There are loads of different ways to deal with difficult emotions but here are some healthy ways that we think are a good place to start.

Tips on dealing with difficult emotions

Be aware of your emotions

Try to tune into how you are feeling. Start by just trying to notice what you are experiencing without any judgement. Ask yourself if you are experiencing things like anger, happiness, sadness, fear, shame etc. Once you work out what you’re actually feeling just acknowledge that the feelings are there without trying to change them. This can take practice if you aren’t used to it.

Accept your emotions

This means that if you are feeling sad, upset or angry that you simply accept the feelings without questioning why, or trying to shut them down. This is a  much healthier alternative to trying to block them out. Accepting them is a really important step in understanding them and dealing with them, whatever they are. This takes a lot of practice so don't give up if it doesn't seem to ‘work’ straight away.

Allow yourself to feel your emotions

Feelings can often be painful and our natural reaction is to avoid feeling them. But this actually isn’t helpful and can lead to you feeling stuck. Working through your feelings is a much more helpful response in the long run. Many people can be afraid of actually feeling their emotions as they are so scared of being overwhelmed by them. But when you feel strong emotions it’s important that you don’t ignore them. Instead allow yourself to feel them in the knowledge that it’s perfectly okay to feel however you feel.

Be mindful and focus on the present

When we focus on the present we are less likely to be panicking about the future or worrying about the past. It can be difficult to sit with our emotions and recognise them for what they are, but if you give yourself the space to try, it can really be a powerful way of helping to deal with them. Learn more about mindfulness here.

Talk to someone about how you are feeling

It can really help to take a lot off your mind if you confide in someone about how you are feeling. Let them know that things have been difficult and that you have a lot on your mind. If you don’t feel comfortable in talking to them face to face, why not try talking to them on the phone or by text message if that’s easier. Read our factsheet on conversation starter tips for talking about your mental health here.

Seek professional help

If you don’t have anyone you can confide in, there are loads of professionals that you can speak to. Your GP should be your first port of call and can refer you onto people like counsellors, psychiatrists or psychologists. Jigsaw is a free counselling service for young people aged 12-25 years of age, and has centres around the country. You can find more information out on You can also ring a listening service such as Childline, Teenline or Samaritans.

Childline: 1800 66 66 66
Teenline: 1800 83 36 34
Samaritans: 116 123

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Published July 29th2016
Last updated Octo­ber 2nd2018
Tags mental health self harm
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