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1.4 Identify Methods for Responding to Emotional Stressors

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1.4 Identify Methods for Responding to Emotional Stressors

Once you have acknowledged what situations trigger certain emotional states in you, it is time to address how to respond to them. A few methods that you can try are the following:

  1. Make choices.

It is important to make sure you make a conscious choice and not simply react to a situation with pure emotion. Here are some good things to remember before acting: 

2. Change your outlook.

In order to experience fewer negative emotions, you must change the way you see the world. It takes time and effort, but it means learning how to let go of some things and find good things in everyday life.

You may find that changing your outlook also changes your emotions. Being optimistic is important. Instead of letting emotions take over because you pessimistically expect them to, try to evaluate the world around you and find a learning experience in the things that happen. Keep your perspective open and allow yourself to grow with each event.

Acknowledge that there are certain things you cannot change, but do not allow them to anger and frustrate you. What you can change is your reaction.

3. Discard upsetting thoughts and negative emotions.

There are many ideas that can upset people repeatedly. Though they are made up, many people pressure themselves to conform to these thoughts. Here are some common notions about the self that are wrong:

  • ‘I must be perfect in order to be worthwhile.’
    • Nobody is perfect. If you believe you must be perfect in every situation, you will only cause yourself stress.
  • ‘I must be loved and approved by everyone.’
    • There will always be one or two people who will not really like you, and that is fine. You are not required to be liked by everyone and the sooner you learn this, the easier it will be to discard feelings of inadequacy and disappointment.
  •  ‘I hate it when I am frustrated, treated badly, or rejected.’
    • Small doses of frustration can be healthy for you. It improves patience and resilience to adversity. It is all about taking things into perspective and building resistance to letting your emotions control your every action.
  • ‘I hate it when things do not work out the way I want them to.’
    • The only thing you can control without compromise is yourself. The rest is beyond you. Learn to adapt and accept that there are things that will not go as you planned.

4. Eliminate many negative core beliefs about yourself.

Some people do not think of themselves highly enough. Their self-esteem is almost non-existent and many of their emotions result from not being able to love themselves adequately. Some common negative core beliefs are:

  • ‘Misery comes from outside forces, which I cannot influence.’
    • You cannot control the things that happen around you, but you can change how you perceive them. You are the only one who can choose to change your own situation.
  • ‘It is easier to avoid difficulties and responsibilities than to face them.’
    • Even painful experiences can serve as a basis for learning and future growth once you get through them. It is childish to go through life thinking that difficulties can be avoided.
  • ‘Because I had no control over my life before, I have no control over my present and future.’
    • Change is the only constant thing. People do not stay the same as time passes. Situations change, people learn and growth happens. Learning to let go of the past can help you improve your life.
  • ‘I could be happy if I did nothing and enjoyed myself.’
    • An unmotivated life is a life left unrealised. Setting new goals, new objectives, and striving for your ambitions help give more meaning and purpose to life. While you can, it is better to explore and actively search for your goals and purpose.

5. Discard negative ideas that come from feeling inadequate.

Inadequacy comes from low self-esteem, the idea that you are not good enough. Banishing inadequacy from your thoughts can help you accomplish more things. Some habits that form from feelings of inadequacy are:

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking
    • This type of thinking assumes that everything is either good or bad. There is no in-between. 
  • Disqualifying the Positive
    • You may feel that positive statements are untrue, while negative comments are things you ‘knew all along.’ 
  • Personalisation
    • You falsely believe that you are always at the root of bad situations.
  • Mind Reading
    • You immediately assume that you know what other people think of you. Instead of asking and clarifying their thoughts, you assume the worst.

6. Discard negative ideas that come from fear.

People can be afraid of a lot of things, but you should not let fear rule over your decision-making. Rationalise things and understand the root of your fear and find a way to face it rather than cower from it. Some common thoughts that stem from fear are:

  • Over-Generalisation
    • A single negative event turns into a pattern of defeat. A failed job application becomes two, and suddenly you may believe that you are incompetent. You generalise not because of a pattern, but because you fear the pattern.
  • Labelling and Mislabelling
    • This is an extreme form of over-generalisation. When you make a mistake, you instantly label yourself as a ‘loser.’ Mislabelling involves describing a situation with words that are emotionally charged, and often extreme or irrational.
  • The Fortune Teller Error
    • You already believe that things are going to turn out badly. You have no evidence of this, but you are convinced anyway.
  • Jumping to Conclusions
    • You immediately jump to the worst conclusion without even facing the facts. You think that preparing for the worst is better than hoping for the best because you are afraid, not hopeful.

7. Avoid negative ideas from other complex emotions.

Do not give in to defeatist emotional responses. Realise that you are more than what you think of yourself. Focus on interpreting your worth positively if you catch yourself thinking the following thoughts:

  • Magnification or Minimisation
    • Magnification, also known as catastrophising, is the exaggeration of the importance of insignificant events. Meanwhile, minimisation is lessening the importance of something significant. These two blow up a person’s problems. This cognitive distortion is often found in people who experience panic attacks frequently.
  • Emotional Reasoning
    • You assume that your negative emotions reflect how things really are, ‘I feel it, therefore, it must be true.’ You put your emotional weight on situations so that you can regain some sort of control.
  • ‘Should’ Statements
    • You beat yourself up as a way to become motivated to do something. You ‘should’ do this, you ‘must’ do that, you ‘ought’ to. This type of thinking only brings you undue stress instead of motivating you. And when you direct ‘should’ statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

8. Seek more positive experiences.

Some experiences, like listening to a specific song or eating certain foods, can trigger good emotions. The more pleasant memories you recall, the easier it is to realign yourself to that mood. It is far easier to get out of an angry or sad emotional state when you know what a happy state feels like.

The way you cope with the stress can come in different forms. This can be facing the cause of the stress directly to solve the issue immediately. For example, if a deadline is causing you stress, your strategy may be to finish it as soon as possible so you can stop worrying about it.

You can also choose to take a step back from the cause of the stress. If you feel too overwhelmed, it is best to take time to calm yourself down before you face it again. Try to do any activity that relaxes you but note that this is only to take your mind off the issue temporarily. Actively avoiding the problem will only cause your stress to accumulate and will not solve anything. As soon as you feel ready, approach the cause of your stress with a refreshed mind.

No matter what method you choose to address your emotional stressors with, it is important to continue acknowledging the emotion. Just because you are not reacting to it does not mean that the emotion does not exist. Controlling your emotions is essential, but you must learn not to suppress them. Suppressing your emotions can cause not only emotional symptoms but physical disorders as well.

Controlling your emotions is built by reducing stress, remaining focused, and staying connected to yourself and others. It involves expressing emotions, even the negative ones, in a healthy manner. Being able to connect to your emotions by having a constant awareness of them and how they influence your thoughts and actions is key to understanding yourself and remaining calm in tense situations.