Tough emotional times and ten steps that helped me

In our work we strive to find ways to help our clients develop their skills including in relation to communication, conflict and managing their own challenging emotions, so they can do better in their work, life and relationships.

Part of this also involves us using our own life experiences and challenges to reflect on how we manage those times and how the tips and tools we use can help others too.

At the present time, we are seeing so many challenges in people’s lives and combined with the uncertainty of day to day right now, there’s real and significant struggle.

Recently I have been going through a number of significant personal challenges myself.  As I’ve experienced hard and intense emotions, I have paid attention to what has helped and ways that best support me to navigate through those difficult times.

I am sharing my current and personal ‘how to’ in relation to dealing with emotional pain and suffering, in the hope it might help you or you could draw upon any of these strategies to help others.

  1. Find your trusted circle. These are the people who listen, who don’t try to fix, who validate your emotions and are there for you no matter what. They could be close friends, family or a therapist or all the above. They are the people to talk to.
  2. Sit with and acknowledge your feelings. This can include paying attention to what you notice in your body and how the emotions feel. Notice, observe and be with the discomfort.
  3. Recognise the different emotions. It helped me to recognise 6 main experiences recently. Deep grief in the pit of my stomach.  Relief.  Intense sadness.  Resignation.  Acceptance.  Doing ok and well. Noting the movement between them helped me too, realising that everything moves and changes.
  4. Cry (if you can). I’m quite skilled at that. Cry by yourself or find people that you feel comfortable crying with. I find crying washes away the grief pit for a good amount of time.
  5. Celebrate the times you don’t feel bad, as in say to yourself something like ‘this is great I’m feeling ok right now’. Pay attention to those good feelings. I’ve found relief and appreciated those times and the lightness that comes in those moments as rare as they are sometimes.
  6. Embrace your closest people. Make plans with them. Chat to them.  Call upon them for regular catch ups. If you need quiet times, do that too.  I’ve found a good online series quite therapeutic on occasion.
  7. Accept the situation or gently work towards doing that. When you’re feeling angry express that to a trusted person. If you’re angry in relation to someone, acknowledge that you’re angry and also allow yourself (even gradually) to go to a place of acceptance if you can. Sometimes it can help to recognise that a person has done the best with what they’ve got. If you’re angry about a situation, work on accepting that these feelings make sense and are okay and part of the process of navigating your way through hard emotions.
  8. Accept yourself and that you’re doing your best at this time with what you’ve got. Also acknowledge what you’re still doing well. I had a therapist friend ask me, ‘are you getting up in the morning, are you showering, are you eating?’ And I answered, ‘yes’, ‘yes’ and ‘yes’ and it made me feel like I was actually doing okay and that felt good. It also made me recognise that I’ve continued to stay focused on my work, work out strategies to deal with the challenges, be there for my kids day to day and I’ve stayed connected to some of my loved ones. So ‘well done’. And we need to keep saying that to each other and to ourselves for whatever we manage to do in times of struggle.
  9. If you’re really struggling, do a ‘countdown of days’. It has helped me to focus on getting through one day, three days, then focus on getting through a whole week. Look back and celebrate when you’ve done that.  You can even say to yourself ‘well done you got through those hard 3 days’.  In the most intense of times, I’ve wished away the moments and the days.  Don’t worry if you’re doing that.  I felt a little bad myself initially but I’m starting to accept it more. I realise it’s part of dealing with the intensity and not wanting to feel the pain.  And at some point, you won’t be counting anymore and that’s another good feeling.
  10. Continue to be interested in other people’s lives. Take time to listen to what they’re going through and support them. Giving and receiving support is very important and studies have shown it makes a real difference to managing in life. I have loved hearing how others are going, and in my work, providing support to many as I simultaneously navigate through this. I have focused on using this experience productively and finding inspiration and clarity. Even writing this has helped me and research also shows that writing about your thoughts and feelings can provide some relief.

You might have your own strategies that help too. If we can use some of these strategies for ourselves and also help others reach out more, we can do it better together. I’m ready.

By Tulsi van de Graaff, Partner, Brave People Solutions

We help teams, leaders and individuals through tough times as well as supporting personal and professional growth.  Please contact Tulsi on to discuss how we can assist.

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