Let’s state the obvious for a minute, shall we?
Experiencing negative emotion doesn’t feel good.
It’s not something that most of us willingly sign up for.
But here’s something that’s not so obvious: feeling negative emotion is also part of the process.
Because you can’t have the positive without experiencing the negative.
So remember, whatever you’re feeling right now – whether it’s sadness, anxiety, stress, fear, anger, etc. – it’s all perfectly okay. It’s all part of the process.
And what’s more, once you allow yourself to stop fighting with reality; once you stop telling yourself how you “should” feel; and once you experience the negative emotion rather than resisting it; it relieves some of that resistance.
It opens you up to alternative thoughts, feelings, and actions, which helps you work through your negative emotions and start feeling better.
And that’s exactly what we’re talking about today: how to think about your current circumstance in a new way to begin moving forward.
So if you’re ready to start feeling better, then listen to the latest podcast episode below (or check out episode 36 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast on your favorite app!)
Let’s do this.
Prefer to read? No problem. Keep scrolling to access the entire episode transcript.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE!
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL DISCOVER…
- How negative emotion fits in your life
- My top strategies for processing your emotions
- How to work through stress, anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, and overwhelm, so you can start feeling better today
LINKS FROM THE PODCAST
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Transcript: Discover How to Feel Better When You’re Down
Hey, friends. How’s it going today? Welcome to episode 36 of the podcast. Thanks for joining me.
I have had quite the crazy day here so far. It is Friday when I’m recording this, and this morning when I went downstairs to workout, I found water all over the floor by my hot water heater, which is never a fun thing.
And – frankly – I know nothing about that kind of stuff so I just called a company nearby once they opened and assumed they’d put me on a waitlist for next week sometime. But I couldn’t believe it – they said: “we can be there in about 60 minutes to check it out.”
Now, I had to teach my classes over Zoom at that time, so he said, no problem, we’ll come when you’re done teaching. And he showed up right on time, took a look at my water heater, said, “yep, you need a new one. Water is coming out the bottom of it” and he was able to go pick up and install a new one within probably two hours.
WHAT? Seriously, that’s amazing.
No waiting. He worked around my teaching schedule. And now we have hot water and no problems in the basement. And because I am teaching from home now, I was able to deal with the situation right away. So that was pretty awesome. And this is most definitely not a sponsored ad, but if anyone lives in the Boston area, I highly recommend Target Air Systems. They were amazing.
Feeling Emotions Recap
And believe it or not, this actually does lead into today’s podcast episode, but in a slightly roundabout way…so let me give a little background.
Last week on the podcast we took a deep dive into how to actually feel your emotions. Because over the past few weeks, I’ve found that a lot of us are experiencing a lot of intense emotions, but we’re not necessarily allowing ourselves to feel them. Instead, we are resisting our emotions. We’re pushing them away. We’re judging ourselves for feeling a certain way. Or we’re distracting ourselves from our emotions with social media or snacks or drinks, or whatever else we can think of that keeps us busy and not focusing inward.
And the problem is that this practice of avoidance and resisting only increases the intensity of our emotions overall.
So last week we explored the importance of feeling our emotions generally and exactly how to allow the emotions, name your emotions, and feel your emotions in order to relieve some of that discomfort. So hopefully you have been practicing these steps and paying attention to what emotions came up for you this past week.
Strategies to Process Emotions
Now, this week, I want to explore individual emotions more specifically, and then share some different strategies that you can use to process and work through them.
So this past week, I asked my followers on Instagram what emotions were coming up most often for them right now. And also what feelings that they’ve been struggling with over the past few weeks.
And as a side note – if you are not following along on Instagram, you definitely should be. Just open up your Instagram app and follow me @ I’m busy being awesome. It’s a great place for us to connect. I’m always sharing different thoughts and questions and polls, and sneak peeks behind the scenes at the I’m Busy Being Awesome household.
Also – I have been getting a lot of fantastic questions from listeners over email and on Instagram recently. I’ve gotten questions about emotions and how to handle them, but also broader questions about relationships, and how to keep gratitude front and center at this time, and how to stay productive when you simply don’t want to.
And I thought in the next couple of weeks that I would do a listener Q&A podcast episode where anybody can write in with a question and I will offer my two cents. So if you have a particular topic you’d like explored or a question you’d like answered about anything and everything, just send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a DM on Instagram @imbusybeingawesome. I’ll add it to the list and do a big Q&A episode. It will be fun!
Anyway, back to the topic for today. So, I got lots of powerful and moving responses from people about the emotions that they are working through right now. And while we are all feeling a lot of different emotions, they all seem to revolve around some similar themes.
Generally, I kept seeing emotions of sadness, overwhelm and anxiety, fear, disappointment, anger, and stress. And while you might label your emotions slightly differently, or you might not be feeling all of those that I just mentioned, chances are you have experienced some of these emotions pretty strongly over the past couple weeks.
So what can we do when these feelings come up? How can we handle them?
Well, first of all, remember that the initial step that you need to take is to both feel and allow that emotion. Don’t disregard it. Don’t push it away. And certainly don’t judge yourself for experiencing any motion.
Remember, whatever you’re feeling is absolutely perfect. It’s exactly what you should be feeling in this moment. So let that judgment go, and replace it with curiosity. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now? Where do I feel it in my body? Is it hot or cold? Fast or slow? Does it have a color?
Working Through Emotion
After you allow yourself to feel the emotion, and you release some of the urgency that comes from trying to resist it, then you can try some of these approaches that we’re going to talk about next.
And I want to stress that these aren’t all one-size-fits-all tips. Some of them might work great for you, some of them you might not find effective. That’s perfectly okay. In this episode, I simply want to offer several different suggestions so you can try them out and find the ones that work best for you.
Experiencing Fear and Anxiety
Now, the first emotions that I want to explore more closely are fear and anxiety. And one of the tools that I’m going to suggest that you try might sound a little bit crazy at first, but bear with me. It is a two-part strategy, so listen through the entire suggestion, and then you can decide whether you want to give it a try or not. Again, it’s totally up to you.
Worst Case Scenario
So after you identify that you are feeling fear and anxiety, and you understand where you’re feeling it, and how it feels, and where it sits in your body, one strategy that I personally find effective is allowing my brain to go to that worst-case scenario and actually play it out followed by the best-case scenario.
So let’s walk through both of these steps starting with the worst case. Why on earth would I make this suggestion?
Well, often when we are feeling extreme fear or anxiety, our brain doesn’t actually go all the way to the worst-case. Instead, it just does big-picture catastrophizing. It thinks things like, “I know something awful is going to happen.” “I know something terrible is going to happen.” “Everything is a disaster, everything is lost, and we’re all going to die.” and while all of these thoughts certainly don’t feel good, your brain does not actually go to what the specific fear is.
But what if you actually allow yourself to go there? Then what?
Because by actually allowing your brain to identify what the worst-case scenario for you is, it takes away some of that power. It’s kind of like when you hear a noise in the dark and you feel really scared, but then you turn on the light and you see what is actually causing the sound. The cause of the sound is still there, but now you get to decide what you want to think about the source of that sound. You get to decide how you want to feel about it, and how you want to act in response.
Worst Case Scenario
So for example, I was coaching a woman the other day who is getting married at the end of July. And she was feeling really overwhelmed and afraid about what is going on with the virus right now. And her brain just kept spinning out in fear and overwhelm, but as I mentioned, it was this kind of general anxiety. Her brain wasn’t focusing on anything specific. Instead, she was catastrophizing over all of the different news reports and increases in numbers of cases and closures and updates, and everything else.
But she never actually named what was scaring her so badly.
So we slowed down, and we talked through her fears together. And when we took that time to focus on her particular fears, she finally allowed her brain to go to the worst-case scenario. For her, the worst-case scenario was that she would have to cancel the wedding.
And when she finally named that worst-case scenario, she allowed herself to consider the situation. She allowed it to play out in her mind. And she realized that she would feel a lot of negative emotion around it. She would feel incredibly disappointed. She would feel very sad. And that’s okay! Of course, she would want to feel sad if that happened.
But she also realized that if this happens, she would also make plans to reschedule the wedding. And while that thought still doesn’t feel great, she was able to let go of all of the resistance that she was feeling on top of the negative emotion.
When she allowed her brain to go to that worst-case scenario, and play it out, she could think about it more clearly. She could choose on purpose how she wanted to think, how she wanted to feel, and how she wanted to act. And she felt much calmer about the same circumstance.
Identify the Worst Case
So if you are feeling a lot of fear and anxiety, the first part of this approach is to allow yourself to consider that worst-case scenario. Is it that you’re afraid you’re going to get sick? Are you afraid that you won’t be able to take your summer trip with your family? I was talking with one student who is worried she wouldn’t get to finish out her senior year of high school and was feeling really anxious about that. So what is your worst-case scenario?
Allow your emotions to come up. Name them. Feel them. Breathe into them. Locate them in your body. Describe them. And allow them to be there.
Do you remember last week when we compared resisting emotions to holding a beach ball underwater? You struggle to keep that big ball under the surface of the water as it pushes against you to get back up. And eventually, it will resurface and pop up quickly out of the water, right? But what if you simply allowed the beach ball to float beside you rather than trying to keep it pushed underneath the water? It makes the experience much less intense.
Alright, so we talked about part one of this strategy, which is worst-case scenario. Now, please hear me. You cannot stop there. You see, there is one more critical part of this exercise, and you cannot skip it if you are going to allow your brain to go to the worst-case scenario.
And the second part of the exercise focuses on the best-case scenario.
You see, if you are going to focus on the worst-case, then you have to give at least equal time to the best-case scenario as well. Because the reality is this: the chances of either scenario happening – worst-case or best-case scenario – is equally as likely. In reality, the result will likely land somewhere between those two options.
And I really cannot stress the importance of this enough. If you allow your brain to go to the worst-case scenario, you must give your brain equal – if not more – time on the best-case scenario.
It’s kind of like the equal-time rule for political ads. Did you know that by law US radio and TV stations must provide equal opportunity to opposing political candidates who request the time? It’s true. They have to provide equal time. And I want you to think about your brain and your thoughts the same way. You need to give equal time.
So if your worst-case scenario is that you are going to go to the grocery store and there is literally nothing in the store. You imagine that they will literally lock the doors because every single piece of food has been sold. Then you also need to give equal time to the thought that you were going to go to the store and walk in and they have every single item that you need. They have everything on your list.
And again, the reality will probably fall somewhere in the middle. But if you’re going to the worst-case scenario, you must go to the best-case scenario.
Do not skip this step.
Focus on the problem now
Alright, now I know some of you are not too keen on the idea of allowing your brain to goto the worst cast scenario, and that is absolutely fine. No problem there. I’ve got you covered, too.
So if you are feeling anxiety or fear and you don’t want to try that first practice, another great strategy is to get your brain focused on the problem now.
You see, 99% of the time when we are feeling fear and anxiety, we are experiencing these emotions because of something our brain is imagining in the future. Most of the time it is not happening now, and we don’t even have clear proof that it will happen. Instead, our brains are just spinning out in overwhelm and the unknown, which is so easy to do when our circumstances are changing often and we are out of our usual routine.
And another great way to handle those feelings of anxiety and stress and fear is to focus on solving your problem right now. Because the truth is that your brain can’t solve for a problem that can’t happen yet, right? But it can solve for the current problem at hand.
Water Heater Stress
And this is what I dealt with this morning with the water in my basement. (See? I told you I would bring it back to my story from this morning.) Rather than spinning out in overwhelm about all of the water on the floor, and the time it will take to find someone, and whether or not I will get an appointment with a company, and whether we will have hot water…. I just took a deep breath. And I focused on the current problem.
I asked myself, what do I need to solve right now?
And I cleaned up the water. Then I asked, what’s next? And I found the number of the company and called for an appointment. Then I asked, what’s next? And I starting prepping for class while I waited for the technician to arrive. And I kept asking what’s next? What’s next? What’s next?
And by keeping myself in the moment, I quieted the overwhelm and the stress.
Home from School
Similarly, I was talking with a friend of mine about her kids and homeschooling. Massachusetts just made the announcement a few days ago – on March 26 -that students will remain at home at least until May 5th. And my friend was completely stressed out about how on earth she was going to keep her kids busy and teach them while also working for at least 5 more weeks.
And so we stepped back a minute and we looked at the problem NOW. We said, what do you want to do for school with your kids today? What do you want to do with them this morning? What resources did the school send you on Monday?
And by narrowing her focus to the current problem, she was able to get centered and make a plan from that calm space.
All right, now I also want to talk with you about the feeling of disappointment, because disappointment is an emotion that is also running very high with people right now.
Now once again, as I want to remind you for each emotion, it’s perfectly fine to feel disappointed. I’ve had a lot of people say that they shouldn’t be feeling disappointed over this circumstance or that circumstance because there are so many bigger problems in the world. And they say that they shouldn’t be feeling disappointed because that feels like it’s selfish and self-involved.
But that’s not true. It is absolutely 100% okay to feel disappointed about whatever has been canceled or postponed or changed in your life. So feel that disappointment. Allow it.
It’s Happening For Me
And once you’ve relieved some of the pressure by simply allowing yourself to experience the emotion, then I want you to ask yourself: how is this new circumstance happening for me right now? What is one good thing about this current situation? And this might seem like a stretch at first. Your brain might immediately say, “nothing.” But sit with the question for a bit. Allow yourself to consider the question for a while.
I was talking with one of my students on Zoom this past week and he was telling me about his experience with this transition back home. All of the students had to move out of the dorms two weekends ago, and there were a lot of different emotions about that circumstance. And a lot of students were feeling disappointed because many of them love college, they love living with their friends, they love being on campus, Etc. And they were disappointed they had to leave.
But this one student offered me a fascinating thought about this circumstance even though he was feeling disappointed.
He said, you know, I found that since I’ve been home, I don’t have the distractions of meetings, clubs, parties, and just general dorm room distraction, and I’ve actually been able to focus on my schoolwork even more. I’ve been able to really dedicate myself to my readings and my studying, and it’s really made a difference in how I understand the material in my classes.
And I thought this was fascinating. Yes, he felt disappointed. And that’s 100% okay. But he also was able to identify how the situation was helping him as well.
Similarly, during a coaching call last week, I was talking with another bride who did have to postpone her wedding, which is happening in the last week of May. And she was feeling incredibly disappointed.
After we talked through the emotion, I asked her, can you think of maybe one reason why this is happening for you? And she had to think about it for a little while. She was really feeling sad. She was feeling very disappointed. And again, that is absolutely okay.
But I challenged her to really dig deep and find how this is happening for her. And I thought that she came up with one of the most beautiful answers that I’ve heard in a long time. She said: I get to be engaged for several more months.
One of the things that she loves about being engaged is that she gets to call her partner her fiance. It’s one of those terms that you only get to use for a finite period of time. And she realized that because she decided to postpone her wedding, she gets to continue calling her partner her fiance for a little bit longer. And she loves that.
So again, we’re not looking to take away all of your negative feelings. But you can also find some really beautiful thoughts and powerful positive emotions within these circumstances as well. You just need to spend a little bit of time, open your mind, and think about it and some different ways.
Now, another common emotion that’s coming up right now revolves around the idea of scarcity, and more specifically, scarcity of resources.
Scarcity of money, scarcity of food, scarcity of toilet paper, scarcity of jobs.
And when we spend a bunch of time on social media or watching the news, and we see these images of empty store shelves, and constant updates of the stock market, and out-of-stock items online, it’s really easy for us to let our thoughts go into scarcity thinking. We start feeling this anxiety around the idea of not having enough.
Now, here’s the deal. Your brain is going to latch onto these things. It’s going to tell you, see? I told you it’s true. There’s not enough of X (food, medicine, toilet paper, etc.) Look at these pictures. Listen to those news headlines.
But I promise you, these thoughts are not helpful. These thoughts are not serving you. And they make you feel terrible.
Look for Abundance
So if you find yourself shifting into scarcity, I invite you to ask yourself this question: what do I have in abundance right now? What do I have a big supply of right now? What is in abundance in our world right now? And by getting your brain thinking about this other side of the coin, it’s going to help you start noticing things differently. And I promise, you’re going to feel differently, too.
For example, many of us have an abundance of time right now. Many of us are no longer commuting to and from work. We’re not driving our kids to and from sports activities. We’re not going out to different social events or meetings or committees. And so we have more time in our hands.
And just think about that, in a normal situation, how many times do you tell yourself: “I don’t have enough time to pursue this goal” or “I don’t have time to work on this project”?
Well, now you do.
Now you do have time to read that book or start your self-coaching practice, or begin journaling, or practice yoga, or work on that puzzle, or do that Pinterest project. You do have time to learn that language or get in shape. My husband and I are finally going to tackle the clutter in our basement this weekend.
What do you have in abundance?
I asked my followers on Instagram what they have in abundance right now, and I got such beautiful responses.
One person said that they had hope in abundance. One person talked about the abundance of excitement around homeschooling and homeschooling tools and blogs and resources. And one person shared the abundance of love and support and shelter and family that they had around them.
One person simply wrote the word “everything.” I have abundance in everything.
So if you’re working through feelings of scarcity, I invite you to focus on what you have in abundance.
What do I need right now?
And similar to our strategy for focusing on the now in terms of anxiety, this can also be helpful for scarcity. Yes, you see empty shelf pictures posted on social media, or you see your favorite item out of stock online on Instacart, but what do you need RIGHT NOW? At this moment, are you lacking in anything? Do you have food and water and shelter?
Again, when we take time to focus more intently on the NOW and the fact that we have everything we need right now, rather than the fear of “what if there’s not enough?” that can also help calm the feelings of scarcity and lack.
How to Handle Stress
And then one more emotion that I want to explore that seems to be coming up for a lot of people right now is stress. And I think that this is coming up in a lot of different scenarios.
One of my followers on Instagram mentioned she’s feeling stress due to the current influx of people in her home all at once. Both she and her partner are living at home. Her kids are at home. And everybody is together in the same living space all of the time.
While she is choosing to socially isolate her family and keep everybody together. And she’s choosing this both for the health of her family and to help with keeping our nation healthy, she is also feeling some stress about it.
She said she’s having a hard time finding “me time” because everybody’s always together. And she’s feeling stressed about this because she doesn’t know how long it’s going to last. Basically, she’s not getting in that necessary self-care time that she needs.
In fact, I think this is a very real challenge for many of us. And especially for parents and caregivers who often find themselves putting everyone else’s needs first.
So if you find yourself struggling to create that “me time” and you can’t seem to find that quiet time for yourself, I invite you to think more deliberately about how you can start making that time.
Because here’s the truth – this is a necessity.
So I invite you to stop thinking that it’s not possible. I invite you to stop thinking that it is a luxury. And instead, I invite you to ask yourself, “how am I going to ensure that I have self-care time every day?” And then I want you to answer that question. Don’t blow it off. Don’t say, I can’t. Answer the question.
Daily 5 Self-Care
Now, if you go all the way back to episode 3 of this podcast, you’ll find that I do a deep dive into the practice of self-care. And in it, I share with you my approach to practicing self-care with my daily five.
Basically, this means that I choose five things that bring me absolute joy. These can be big things or small things. They might be reading, working out, journaling, going outside, calling a friend, whatever it is. And I make sure that I incorporate at least three of those things into my life every day. Again, these don’t need to be giant acts of self-care. But they are three things that bring you joy that you make sure you incorporate every day.
Now, I am also part of this incredible slack Channel with all of my fellow coaches from the life coach school, and I also asked them how they make sure to incorporate daily self-care in their life during this time with kids home from school and partners working from home and everybody together in the same space. And they offered several amazing suggestions as well, which I wanted to offer to you.
How Do You Want To Feel?
One of the coaches explained that she thinks about how she wants to feel and the result that she wants to create in her life every day.
So what are the feelings that you actually want to create for yourself today? Do you want to feel rested? Calm? At peace?
Similarly, what are the results that you actually want to create for yourself? Do you want to make sure that you have 30 minutes of self-care time for yourself? How can you do that? What can you do – given your current circumstance of everybody at home – where you ensure you get those 30 minutes?
Can you wake up earlier? Can you check in with your partner and do a little bit of tag-teaming so that they get their 30 minutes and you get your 30 minutes? How can you work together to ensure that you both get time to yourself?
As we keep seeing all over social media, we’re in this together. So how can you help one another out?
It’s Not a Luxury
Another coach offered a powerful thought that she repeats to herself at least daily to ensure that she practices self-care. And her thought is: “this is not a luxury, it is a necessity.”
And when she’s thinking this thought about self-care to herself, it’s not hard to make the space for it in her life. “This is not a luxury, it is a necessity.” “When I get time for self-care, then I show up at my best for my family.”
Because when you think that to yourself — when you think, “this is not a luxury it’s a necessity,” it almost creates a feeling of responsibility or commitment to yourself to ensure that you are taking care of yourself so that you can take care of your family as well.
And then finally, make sure that you are intentionally planning for self-care. And I mean deliberately include self-care in your schedule. Just as you make time for your work. Just as you make time for teaching your kids. And just as you make time for taking them to the park or making dinner. Make sure that you are deliberately planning self-care time for you.
In fact, I recommend even scheduling exactly what you are going to do in your calendar – whether it is reading for 30 minutes, going for a walk, doing yoga, whatever. Make a plan and follow through like it’s your job.
So if you’re feeling stressed, and you’re thinking there is no time for you, no quiet time, no me time, then I invite you to shift that thinking.
Ask yourself, “what feels like self-care to me?” “What are the five things that bring me joy?” “How can I ensure that I practice at least three of these things every day?” “How can I schedule these activities in my day?” And “how can my partner and I work together to ensure we are both getting the time we need?”
Because this is not a luxury, my friends, it is a necessity.
Negative Emotions and What-If
Now, the last practice I want to offer you is helpful for any type of negative emotion that comes up when you’re focusing on the unknown and you’re stuck in the what-ifs.
For example, one person on Instagram mentioned that they are feeling a lot of sadness, overwhelm, and fear for their kids and their loved ones.
She wonders about who she will be on the other side of this experience. And more broadly, she worries about who any of us will be on the other side of this.
And chances are, your brain has gone into some sort of questioning like this, too. Maybe you’re asking yourself, how long is this going to last? What am I going to do if it lasts X amount of weeks or X amount of months? How are we going to handle this situation or that situation? And when you don’t have immediate answers, your brain starts spinning out and overwhelm.
But the thing is, your brain is once again spinning out in worst-case scenario. And it gets stuck there.
Ask Your Future Self
So what if you look to your future self one year from now or 5 years from now? What if you asked her to answer those questions for you?
Because while she might not be able to tell you the specific amount of time that this will last, I’ll bet she’ll be able to offer you some words of wisdom.
When I ask My Future Self questions like this, she tells me: Yep, you’re probably going to feel some anxiety right now, and that’s okay. You can feel anxiety. You can feel fear. You’ve felt those emotions before. And you know that you can absolutely handle them.
And she also reminds me that – without a doubt – you’re going to get through this. You’re going to take care of your family and yourself. You’re going to do what you think is best for you and your family by sitting tight and socially isolating. And you’re going to learn so much about yourself along the way. What’s more, you have the opportunity to help so many people work through their own emotions as well.
And she reminds me that – in fact, the entire world – all of us who are connected by this same circumstance – are learning so much about ourselves. We are all going to come out on the other side of this so much stronger in so many different ways. And we are going to develop so much more compassion and understanding for one another. And that is beautiful.
So yes, some stuff is tough right now. And yes, things aren’t going the way you initially planned. But that’s okay. You’re going to get through it. It’s all part of the process, and it’s all happening for you. So don’t fight your emotions. Allow them to come up and experience them. Keep showing up the best you can. And keep choosing love. Because love always wins, and we’re going to be okay.