Emotions are an essential part of the human experience. They color our perception of everything we encounter. How can we embrace and process our emotions in a healthy way? We may feel unable to do this, especially with emotions that feel uncomfortable, painful, or even dangerous.
The Emotions of Recovery
Leading up to treatment, we may be feeling broken beyond repair. Our lives may have spiraled out of control, and we may feel unable to manage life and our emotions anymore.
Taking that first step toward sobriety can be strikingly difficult, and the emotions that come with making that decision may be too much to handle at times. Although negative emotions are a healthy part of a full human experience, it is important to recognize when negative feelings start to eat away at us. We need to acknowledge how our feelings are affecting us so that we can engage in healthy coping mechanisms.
Feeling Emotionally Overwhelmed
When we feel emotionally overwhelmed, our perception of our surroundings can become altered. We may feel as though there is only one potential outcome in our current situation, and it’s extremely negative. It is during this time that it’s most important to stop and realize that there is a spectrum of possible outcomes to the issue in front of us, and we have the ability to handle whatever happens one step at a time.
We should take the time to calm our minds and focus on our breathing. The world may feel like it is closing in on us, but we can remind ourselves that, one way or another, we can and will get through this.
Acknowledging Negative Feelings
When we experience unwanted feelings, it can feel like we have hit a brick wall. We may shut down and not be able to communicate with others or with ourselves. It may feel natural to retreat into ourselves and ignore the emotions that feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
However, this type of thinking isn’t productive for our long-term well-being or our sobriety. Seeking recovery means that sometimes we have to face harsh realities and communicate the difficult truth. For example, if we relapse, we need to be honest with ourselves and our treatment team about the circumstances that led to the relapse. Healing honesty starts with acknowledgment, self-awareness, and a willingness to be vulnerable.
Taking a Break
Although repressing negative emotions or refusing to acknowledge them is unhealthy, there are times that it can be beneficial to take a break from a stressful situation and focus on something other than our emotions. Changing our scenery, getting our bodies moving, and giving our senses something pleasant to focus on can be excellent ways to put some distance between us and our stress. For example, we can take 20 minutes to take a walk, meditate, listen to music, read a book, or do whatever healthy activity helps us disconnect from the situation that is giving us stress.
This time away from the situation can provide us with some clarity once we return. It is okay to not know exactly what we are feeling or why we are feeling this way. We can all get there eventually, and we should practice patience with ourselves and others.
If we try to take a break but find ourselves still ruminating on our situation, we might journal about the situation to give our anxious or angry thoughts a place to go. Once our emotions are on paper, we will often feel more relaxed. Keeping a journal over time can help us to further improve our self-awareness of our emotions and what works to bring our minds to a calmer state.
Navigating Mental Health
When we feel stressed and overwhelmed, it can negatively affect our mental health. Overcoming our struggle with substance abuse requires us to focus on our mental health and improve it as much as we can. It may be a good idea to find a consistent therapist to sort out our feelings with and, through discussions and therapy work, improve our self-awareness.
During treatment, we will most likely be placed with a therapist, but it is important to find someone in the outside world as well who we can talk to honestly about how we are doing. Open communication with people who care can help us acknowledge and address feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. If negative emotions or mental health conditions go untreated, they may lead to other issues, including social isolation, extreme irritability, digestive issues, and chronic pain.
Listening to Our Bodies
It can be easy to forget that we experience emotions not only mentally but physically as well. Our bodies can hold on to stress and feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, if we get in tune with our bodies, we can learn what to give them to help them calm down and let go of stress.
What does being in tune with our bodies look like? If we suddenly feel tired even though we had an adequate amount of sleep that night before, we can acknowledge that without judgment and take a nap if possible. If napping isn’t possible or would throw off our routine, we might make a conscious effort to improve our sleeping habits so that we will feel less tired in the future.
Our minds and bodies are complex entities whose experiences fluctuate throughout the day. We can acknowledge these as difficulties and shut down, or we can receive them as opportunities to learn about ourselves, our situations, and our ability to achieve a sense of calm no matter what.
Life has many obstacles and challenges. When seeking treatment, we can experience an intense range of emotions that can negatively affect our mental health. This is why it is essential to acknowledge how we feel and take the time to cope with our emotions properly. We can take a step back from our negative emotions by mindfully meditating, taking a walk, listening to music, reading a book, or taking a nap. We can revisit our feelings after 20 minutes and see how we feel. We can practice our communication skills with others and ourselves. It is okay to take a rest even if we initially feel like we don’t need one. Our bodies will tell us what we need most if we pay attention. When we take time to recharge, we can come back stronger. For more information on coping with negative feelings, call 449 Recovery at (949) 435-7449.