How Should I Deal With Negative Emotions?

Learn Healthy Ways to Deal With Anger and Frustration

stressed woman with elbows on desk in front of laptop
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It is a common problem for many people. Just how are we supposed to deal with negative emotions that keep coming up? Should we stuff our anger or frustration away and pretend it doesn't exist? That is definitely not the healthiest option and there are easy techniques that anyone can use.

FAQ: How Should I Deal With Negative Emotions?

You are not alone if you are struggling with negative emotions. Many people have the same question as one reader demonstrates:

"Sometimes I feel overcome with negative emotions, feelings of hurt, anger or frustration. I’ve heard that it isn’t good to "stuff my feelings," but I also don’t want to dwell on these negative feelings. How should I deal with these negative emotions in a healthy way?"

The Expert's Answer

You are right that ignoring feelings (like "stuffing your anger") is not the healthiest way to deal with them. Generally speaking, that does not make them go away, but can cause them to come out in different ways. That’s because your emotions act as signals to you that what you are doing in your life is or isn’t working.

If you’re feeling angry or frustrated, this can be a signal that something needs to change. If you don’t change the situations or thought patterns that are causing these uncomfortable, "red flag" emotions, you will continue to be triggered by them.

Also, while you are not dealing with the emotions you are feeling, they can cause problems with your physical and emotional health.

 

Rumination, or the tendency to dwell on anger, resentment and other uncomfortable feelings, however, brings health consequences as well. So it’s important to listen to your emotions and then take steps to let them go. Here’s what I recommend:

Understand Your Emotions. Look within and try to pinpoint the situations that are creating the stress and negative emotions in your life.

  • Negative emotions can come from a triggering event: an overwhelming workload, for example.
  • Negative emotions are also the result of our thoughts surrounding an event; the way we interpret what happened can alter how we experience the event and whether or not it causes stress.

The key job of your emotions is to get you to see the problem, so you can make necessary changes.

Change What You Can. Take what you’ve learned from my first recommendation and put it into practice. Cut down on your stress triggers and you’ll find yourself feeling negative emotions less frequently.

This could include:

Find An Outlet. Making changes in your life can cut down on negative emotions, but it won’t eliminate your stress triggers entirely. As you make changes in your life to bring about less frustration, you will also need to find healthful outlets for dealing with these emotions.

  • Regular exercise can provide an emotional lift as well as an outlet for negative emotions.
  • Meditation can help you find some inner "space" to work with, so your emotions don’t feel so overwhelming.
  • Finding opportunities for having fun and getting more laughter in your life can also change your perspective and relieve stress.

Find a few of these outlets, and you’ll feel less overwhelmed when negative emotions do arise.

You will also want to practice healthy options for ongoing stress reduction. Give them a try and you’ll feel less stressed.

Sources:

Lo CS, Ho SM, Hollon SD. The Effects of Rumination and Negative Cognitive Styles on Depression: A Mediation Analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy, April, 2008.

Miers AC, Rieffe C, Meerum Terwogt M, Cowan R, Linden W. The Relation Between Anger Coping Strategies, Anger Mood and Somatic Complaints in Children and Adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, August, 2007.

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