This blog shares information on four steps you can take to sit with uncomfortable feelings. It’s inevitable that as we go through life, we will experience things we do not like. We can feel frustrated, stressed, betrayed, saddened, and more as a result. It doesn’t feel good to harbor these feelings, and we may try to get rid of them as soon as possible.
Some common, yet unhealthy ways, that we tend to cope with uncomfortable feelings include:
- Using substances, such as alcohol or drugs to numb.
- Engaging in self-harming behaviors, such as cutting or burning.
- Constantly distracting yourself to avoid the experience of confronting them.
It’s important to acknowledge that while some of these coping strategies can take away the discomfort, it is only temporary and does not provide a long-term resolution. We may be seeking for that temporary relief, especially in moments where we are unable to truly tolerate these feelings.
When we do have long-term resolutions, we can better manage stressors as they come, develop a greater understanding of ourselves, connect with others more fully, enjoy feeling more present in moments of joy and gratitude, and become more resilient. We can acknowledge that facing adversity is difficult and at times distressing, but can also have the comfort and solace of knowing we have the tools to overcome whatever happens.
Four steps to sit with uncomfortable feelings include: 1) Acknowledge what you’re feeling and label your emotions with words that are more descriptive than “bad” or “upset,” such as “disappointed,” “betrayed,” or “hurt.” 2) Try to identify what has contributed to these feelings arising – this could be an interaction with a loved one or stranger, a thought you’re having about yourself, etc., 3) Find ways to soothe yourself until they are over, using coping strategies and regulation tools, and 4) Reflect on what tools or strategies did or did not work for you.
This blog is for all ages, whether you are a teen, young adult, or adult seeking to develop skill sets for sitting with uncomfortable feelings. You may recognize that you are avoiding facing difficult or uncomfortable feelings, and want to begin your journey to heal from them.
Teen therapy in Simi Valley, CA and individual counseling in Simi Valley, CA provides you with a space to take a closer look at your current coping mechanisms. You may want to develop healthier alternatives and work on lessening some unhealthy behaviors.
It’s common when sitting with uncomfortable feelings to experience the urge to get rid of them immediately. However, having the skills to experience all emotions and “ride the wave” is essential to your well-being.
Make sure to check out our blog on 3 Benefits of Individual Counseling if you are considering whether it would be beneficial to you.
How to Sit with Uncomfortable Feelings: Label your feelings.
In the moment of experiencing uncomfortable feelings, the first instinct may be to get rid of it. While it’s important to be able to soothe yourself, it’s equally important to be able to acknowledge and sit with all emotions. It’s normal and acceptable to experience an array of feelings – sometimes even ones that appear to conflict with one another.
Label how you feel at this very moment. Are you feeling sad, frustrated, angry, hopeless? How can you define or describe your current state? Maybe you are experiencing a combination of feelings, and don’t know where to begin. You may know, however, that you are not feeling content. Simply having words to put to your emotional state can tame the severity and intensity of emotions.
Starting with identifying some keywords can help you in labeling emotions.
You know you are feeling X, Y, and Z, or “sad, frustrated, tired”. You may notice somatic reactions, such as your body tensing up, your heart rate increasing, or rapid, shallow breathing. Connect these bodily reactions to what you’re feeling and the thoughts you’re having.
You can begin to connect the dots and form more detailed descriptions to explain how you are currently feeling, either to yourself or to others. They don’t have to be exhaustive and detailed – they can simply start with, “I am feeling very frustrated right now”, or “I’m feeling anxious.”
Teen therapy in Simi Valley, CA can help teenagers build their confidence, resiliency, and ability to regulate difficult emotions. We wrote a blog on 4 Tips for LGBTQIA+ Youth, make sure to check it out and share with your teenager.
Beginning therapy for anxiety and depression at the first signs of struggle helps a teen develop a solid foundation of self-awareness and coping skills to manage stressors in the future.
How to Sit with Uncomfortable Feelings: Try to identify what has contributed to these feelings.
Now that you have labeled the feelings you are currently experiencing, try to identify what has caused this. Did something occur recently, or has this feeling been building up inside of you for some time? How were you feeling, and what were you doing or thinking before, during, or after these uncomfortable feelings arose?
When we are dealing with past trauma or grief, we may fluctuate between emotions fluidly – this is common and typical. They may be related to a past event, such as a traumatic event or the loss of a loved one. We may be feeling perfectly fine, and seemingly out of nowhere, we are presented with a reminder of the event or of the associated emotions.
Identifying the origin of these uncomfortable feelings or triggers that often lead to these feelings can help us work towards coming up with solutions. It can be difficult to connect feelings to events, certainly in times of distress. We may not feel that we can do it in the moment. However, being able to reflect back on what happened is essential to better understand how you can navigate similar situations in the future.
Teen therapy in Simi Valley, CA helps your teen breakdown the timelines of situations that lead to uncomfortable feelings. Make sure to check out our blog on 3 Benefits of Teen Therapy to understand how your teen can benefit from starting counseling.
In times of distress, it can be difficult to sit and reflect in that moment. After the time has passed, it is easier to consider all the factors of what has led to your distress or discomfort, as well as what your needs were in that situation.
How to Sit with Uncomfortable Feelings: Find ways to soothe yourself to be able to sit through difficult emotions.
Find ways to soothe yourself to be able to sit with these uncomfortable feelings from start to finish. Suppose you are feeling anxious right now. You have racing thoughts, your heartbeat is increasing, you may be breathing more rapidly. Your first instinct might be to smoke cannabis to try to calm yourself down.
While this may soothe you temporarily, or in the present moment, it also halts the opportunity to be able to cope without smoking. It’s important to keep in mind that we cannot selectively numb emotions – when we numb or disconnect from feelings, we also numb the possibility for gratitude, joy, and connection. Dependency can also grow when utilizing substances to avoid uncomfortable feelings. And while this may seem like an easy solution, it can worsen your condition over time, where you may only feel calm during or after using.
By identifying ways to soothe yourself with healthier alternatives, you can begin mastering the ability to acknowledge that feelings will pass, while taking care of yourself in the meantime. Some ways to self-soothe during times of distress might look like:
- Self-expression. Whether a traditional journal or simply taking notes on your phone, writing out your feelings and thoughts can help you feel a sense of relief. You can use emojis, create art through drawing or painting, listen to music that matches your emotional state, or get creative in another form to express yourself.
- Talking to someone you trust. Similar to journaling or taking notes, you can feel a sense of release/relief in doing this. It’s important to speak to someone who truly cares, who can help you feel heard, understood, and validated without trying to make your feelings disappear. They might help offer advice for what can be done and find ways to support you. Over time, you’ll learn what responses help you versus trigger you further, and you can use this information to share with others to better support you.
- Practicing breathing techniques. As mentioned before, your body sometimes alerts you of your feelings before you can put words to them. Breathing exercises can be perceived as a niche practice to some. However, you can find a surprising amount of relief when you learn to deepen and relax your breathing. Taking slow, deep breaths. Hold momentarily. And exhale to target your nervous system and calm it down. There are many free apps you can utilize to practice regulating your breathing.
- Self-care. Self care looks different for everyone. This might take the form of resting your body and mind by taking a day off from stressful responsibilities, or rather, being active and moving your body. Self care could be putting on a face mask and watching a comedy. It can also look like going for a walk, exercising, or moving your body. Try to learn to listen to what your body is telling you it needs, and find a way to accommodate that fits for you.
Self-soothing can look different for everyone. You and your therapist can come up with a solid list of healthing coping mechanisms to pick and choose from in times of experiencing uncomfortable feelings.
Teen therapy in Simi Valley, CA helps your teen work on decreasing unhealthy coping mechanisms and replacing them with healthier, positive alternatives. Make sure to check out our blog on How to Be Responsible for Your Mental Health, a blog dedicated to teens.
How to Sit with Uncomfortable Feelings: Reflect on what did and what did not work for you while sitting with these feelings.
When the uncomfortable feelings pass, reflect on what did and what did not work for you. You may feel that soothing yourself in one way works better than another. This could look like doing breathing exercises over trying to write your feelings out.
As mentioned, you and your therapist can come up with a list of coping skills to pick and choose from in times of distress. You might find it helpful to develop a list full of activities or things you can do when you feel the urge to cope in an unhealthy manner.
It can take some trial and error to understand what works best for you when sitting with uncomfortable feelings. However, this does help you gain a greater understanding of your needs in the future. Would you prefer to be alone to process this, or does it help to have someone you trust by your side?
It’s important to not feel discouraged or give up on your ability to sit with difficult or uncomfortable feelings. You can develop this skill and become more resilient to stressors, and more confident in knowing these feelings will pass.
Teen therapy in Simi Valley, CA supports teens as they strengthen their ability to self-regulate uncomfortable feelings. There is no judgment in teen therapy sessions, only listening and validation for their struggles.
We may find ourselves taking two steps forward and one step back while trying to sit with uncomfortable feelings. Guide yourself with patience, trust, and understanding during this.
In-person therapy in Simi Valley is ideal for those seeking a separate, safe space from their home. Check out our blog on Online Therapy or In Office Therapy to understand what format is best for you.
By seeking out support, you can begin your journey to feeling relief. You don’t have to go through finding the right level of support alone, either.
Consider calling our therapy group at (805) 774-1506 for a free consultation! Make sure to check out our blog on Therapy: Where to Start for tips on beginning therapy for yourself or your family.
Seek out a validating, safe environment with us today. We will help you get to where you want to be. Our therapists provide teen therapy, individual adult therapy, LGBTQIA+ therapy, anxiety therapy, depression therapy, family therapy, and more in-office in Simi Valley, CA.