Here Are 2 Simple Tips to Cope Better with Sticky Emotions

I don’t do well without sleep.

In college, I stayed out once all night my freshman year. I ended hanging out with several people I didn’t know well in a frat house thinking the whole time how I’d rather be in bed. My version of an “all-nighter,” study session for pharmacy school was downing a 1-liter of Mountain Dew to keep me up. I still fell asleep by 11pm.

Now, in my early forties, I am essentially worthless past 8pm. Our typical bedtime routine consists of my wife, Amy, reading books to our kids, while I nod off on the bed.


Boss Baby

This past weekend, my wife started back at work as a night nurse. This meant someone needed to feed our three-month-old in the middle of the night. For some reason, Amy elected me to be that person.

On Friday night (or Saturday morning), I found myself up at 12:30am trying to convince Luke to take a bottle. He didn’t want to see the bottle or me, he wanted mom. He didn’t hesitate to “voice,” his displeasure.

I was exhausted. I was exasperated. I was trying everything to get him to drink the milk. I even considered whether a Super Soaker full of milk might be a viable option.

Finally, I tried a small medicine cup and got him to take a sip. The crying paused for a brief moment. Then a few minutes later, he was drinking and calm.

At around 1am, I got Luke’s irresistible baby smile. I felt a deep love for my son wash over my heart.

Along with that deep love, I was still exhausted. And I still felt exasperated.

A part of my mind tried to tell me that I shouldn’t feel exasperated. “A good dad wouldn’t feel that way about their kids,” my mind admonished me. Especially a three-month-old who cannot help it when he’s upset.

You could argue that I shouldn’t have felt exasperated. But I did.


Fighting Your Feelings Is a Losing Battle

Do you know that tune? The “I can’t feel this way,” or “I shouldn’t feel this,” or I “mustn’t feel this,” tune

One of the biggest problems my client’s have is attempting to control their feelings.

Instead of letting themselves feel what they are feeling, they wrestle with their emotions. They try to ignore them, stuff them down, or fight them.

Yes, sometimes we need to put our feelings aside and perform. There are times when we need to tell ourselves that we will deal with that emotional stuff later.

Yet for too many people, later never comes. Their sole strategy is ignoring and stuffing their emotions.

I’m going to give you two quick ways to deal with uncomfortable emotions that will serve you much better.


2 Simple Tips on Handling Uncomfortable Emotions


1. Acknowledge the emotion.

If you read most of my blog posts, you will see a pattern developing. I talk often of first acknowledging your emotions.

There’s a good reason.

You can only deal with an issue if you admit that it exists. Acknowledging your inner world is the first step in many skills, including dropping anchor.

After you notice that you are hooked by a difficult emotion, name it. You can say to yourself, “I’m noticing that I’m having a feeling of anger, etc.”

Work to notice your feelings with a sense of curiosity and name them without judging yourself for it. Do that and you will be headed in the right direction.


2. Allow the emotion.

The next step is allowing the emotion to be there. Just because you or I feel a difficult emotion doesn’t mean we have to act on it. Or like it.

This is where having a little conversation with yourself can be quite handy. For example, I could tell myself, “I don’t like that I’m feeling exasperated with Luke, but I can let myself be where I am.”

Emotions are like waves. We can’t control them. They will come and go on their terms.

Wouldn’t it be easier for you and I to ride those waves and let them be what they are? I’m not a surfer, but from what I’ve seen, riding waves goes a lot better than trying to wrestle with water.

Are you struggling with loss & grief, anxiety, or burnout and live in Ohio? Reach out to me at Oak Harbor Counseling Services. My office is conveniently located in northern Columbus. You can learn more about my counseling practice here or email me at [email protected].

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Brent Flory

Brent is a licensed professional counselor in Columbus, Ohio. He works with adults and adolescents, and specializes in helping people who are struggling with anxiety, loss & grief, and burnout.
In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his family, playing basketball, and eating too much ice cream.

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