Emotions go hand in hand with both thoughts and behaviors, so this is where we’ll start. Thoughts are affected by feelings. If I happen to wake up in a bad mood one day, I’m likely to find myself thinking pessimistically. The converse is also true. If I think pessimistically, I’m likely to find myself in a bad mood. If I’m feeling just terrible, I probably either have negative thoughts that are causing my bad mood, negative thoughts being caused by my bad mood, or both. And if I’m feeling so terrible that I don’t think I can stand it, I will most certainly feel overwhelmed. Did you catch that? The thought: I can’t stand it. Sometimes life is bad. That’s just reality. It makes no sense to tell yourself that everything’s rosy when it just plain isn’t. But you don’t have to tell yourself you ‘can’t stand it’ either.
When trying to create distance from an overwhelming emotional state, try telling yourself ‘this is really hard to handle’ instead of ‘I can’t stand it.’ Or ‘I don’t know how to get out of this’ instead of ‘there’s no way out.’ Observe your emotions as if from a distance, neither embracing nor denying them. ‘This is just a feeling. It’s unpleasant, but it’s just a feeling. Feelings come and go. Feelings are temporary. This will pass.’ Keep telling yourself these things, because thoughts affect your emotions. If possible, think of something else. Imagine yourself in a different place or situation. Fantasize about lying on a beach, walking in a sunny wood, or riding on a rollercoaster.
The same way that thoughts affect emotions, behavior affects emotions too. If I lie around in a dark room all day, I might feel pretty gloomy, and when I’m feeling gloomy, I might just want to hide away in a dark room all day. It’s fine to feel bad and act like you feel bad some of the time, but you have to keep yourself balanced. If you feel absolutely miserable, to the point where you’re not sure you can handle it, don’t do things that are going to contribute to the feeling. Don’t shut the blinds, turn off the lights, put on sad music, and eat a tub of ice-cream. Everything about that behavior is designed to make you feel miserable. Even though you don’t feel like it, take a shower, put on fresh clothes, get out in the sunshine. Go for a run, take a brisk walk, meet somebody for coffee, anything that would normally make you feel good and provide a distraction from the pain. If your brain is telling your body to feel bad, have your body tell your brain to feel better.
Pain is real, and pain is important. I would never suggest that a person ignore pain. We feel pain for a reason. It’s a part of being human. But as humans, pain does sometimes seem unbearable. It isn’t unbearable, but it can seem that way. You need to deal with your pain, but you don’t necessarily have to deal with it right now. Step away for a little while. Give it some time, and it will surely get better. It always does.