I believe that, in general, the best way to deal with a negative emotional reaction is by identifying the irrational thoughts behind it and substituting them with rational ones.
This will quickly make the negative emotion subside, and with practice it will also create lasting changes in your mental wiring, so that negative emotion will appear less and less frequently.
However, this approach is problematic when dealing with really strong negative emotions. This is because strong negative emotions tend to skew your mental awareness. You’re marginally conscious of your thoughts, you can’t think straight, it’s hard to see the big picture; all you’re truly aware of is that strong anxiety, or anger, or sorrow, or whatever.
So a different, more straightforward approach is needed, which will permit you to take the intense negative emotion down a few notches, until your judgment becomes more lucid, and then you can take it down even more through rational thinking.
I’d like to share with you not one, but four such methods to deal with strong negative emotions, drawn from my own experience as a confidence coach, and as a guy who dealt with a lot of intense negative emotions himself.
1. Breathe Deeply
The first time I learned about deep breathing as a technique to calm negative emotions, I thought it was really simplistic and silly. Until I decided to give it a try, and I was amazed how much it helped me in dealing with the worst kinds of feelings.
You see, your mind and body always work together. And when you feel intense fear or anger or sadness, your breathing is very shallow and irregular. By focusing on your breathing, taking a few deep breathes and regulating your breathing, through a sort of feedback mechanism, you’re telling your mind to calm down, and the negative feelings begin to drop.
You begin to feel relaxed, your thinking become clearer, and then you relax even more. Now you’re out of that mental danger zone. So whenever you feel strong negative emotions, deep breathing is the first method that I encourage you to apply. Its simplicity and effectiveness will not let you down.
2. Repeating to Yourself: “Everything Will Be Okay”
Even though it’s hard to think straight when you’re swamped by a strong negative emotion, you can still say to yourself at least one simple statement. And if that statement is the right one, it will make the intensity of that emotion decrease significantly.
After serious testing, I’ve discovered one such statement, which is ridiculously effective: “Everything will be okay.”
When your mind triggers a strong negative feeling, it’s because it perceives some major threat or aversion present, and it believes that you cannot handle it. Most times though, this perception is a gross exaggeration.
So be saying to yourself repeatedly that everything will be okay, you’re effectively reminding yourself that things aren’t that bad, and you’ll fix them somehow. After all, you’ve been through bad situations before, and you got out of them somehow.
This self-reminder, especially if you repeat it to yourself a few times, creates a sense of hopefulness and self-reliance. And thus, it helps you clam down almost instantly. It’s another powerful technique to try.
3. Taking Action
Many negative emotions such as fear and sadness are inclined to paralyze us. We just sit there doing nothing. The trouble is that if you do nothing, your negative thoughts are likely to snowball. They get even bigger and denser, which only amplifies the negative emotion, and soon you feel like you’re going mad.
This is why one very useful way to soothe such emotions is by taking action. When faced with a predicament, get yourself to do something.
For example, if you just heard a rumor that you may lose your job, immediately try to talk with somebody who may have accurate information about this. Or instantly go online and start looking for available jobs. It doesn’t even have to be the ideal action; taking action in itself is important. It will help your mood improve significantly.
This works in two ways. First of all, taking action keeps your mind busy, so it doesn’t have the opportunity to snowball those negative thoughts. In this sense, it works kind of like a distraction for your mind. Second of all, it helps you be more aware that you can do something about your predicament. So it gives you a sense of personal power, which overpowers negative emotions.
4. Keep Healthy and In Good Shape
This last approach is not something to do when feeling an intense negative emotion. It’s something to do daily, as part of your lifestyle, and it has a big impact over your emotions as well.
What you eat, what you drink and how much you exercise greatly influence the range and strength of the emotions you experience. Because, they affect your body, and remember: your mind and body are connected.
For instance, if you eat foods with a lot of sugar and you have a lot of sugar in your blood, it’s very likely that in the face of an aversion you’ll feel a much higher dose of anxiety than if you avoid eating foods with a lot of sugar, and it will be harder to manage it. Sometimes a high-sugar diet can even make you feel anxious and shaky all of a sudden, for no apparent reason.
For this reason, it’s important to keep yourself healthy and fit. Take good care of your body, have an active lifestyle, and your emotional life will be much better as well.
Mastering your emotions is in my opinion one of the most valuable things you can do. Emotions play a crucial role in your life. And if you know how to influence them, no matter what intensity they have, you’re in possession of an asset more valuable than gold.
So work on mastering your emotions, use these 4 techniques I showed you to manage intense negative emotions, and I’m certain that you’ll like the outcomes you’ll witness.