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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.

In reality, allowing yourself to feel those emotions is the first step towards healing from them. You don't have to go on this journey along - open up to a friend or a support service about how you've been feeling. 

Our text message support service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We provide in-the-moment anonymous support and problem solving when you need it most. Free-text SPUNOUT to 50808 to chat anonymously with a trained volunteer.

How to deal with difficult emotions

Here are some things you can try to help you overcome difficult emotions and move forward feeling better.

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

Reaching out to a professional can help you find the support you need. Consider talking to your GP about your mental health and ask about counselling services in your area.

Jigsaw is a free counselling service for young people aged 12-25 years of age, and has centres around the country.

Turn2Me.ie offer free online counselling to young people age 12-17 and to adults over 18. They also offer online support groups for young people and adults. Find out more about Turn2Me.ie.

Traveller Counselling Service

If you are a young Traveller and would like to speak to a counsellor who specifically works with the Travelling Community, the Traveller Counselling Service can support you. The service works from a culturally inclusive framework which respects Traveller culture, identity, values and norms. They provide Traveller culture centred counselling and psychotherapy. They are a Dublin based service but offer counselling both in person and online.

Feeling overwhelmed or want to talk to someone right now?


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Published July 29th2016
Last updated Octo­ber 2nd2018
Tags mental health self harm
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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