Dialectical Behavior Therapy Emotion Regulation Skills: Letting Go of Painful Emotions

It’s normal to try to avoid emotions like anger, sadness, depression, fear and shame.  These feelings are incredibly painful to experience.  In order to keep them at a distance, people create walls inside of themselves.  Unfortunately, these internal walls keep the emotion at a distance, but they also keeps the emotion trapped inside of you.  The only way truly to let go of these emotions is to stop walling them off and bring your attention to them in order to observe and describe them.

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4 Strategies to improve how you feel

If you’re bogged down in negative emotions or stressed and overwhelmed, maybe it’s time to take a step back and refocus.  Usually when you feel stressed, angry, upset or sad, you do so for good reason. If that’s the case, you may need to make a more conscious effort to build positive experiences into your life.

  1. Do pleasant things today. Don’t underestimate the power a few immediate positive experiences will have on your mood and emotions. Schedule at least one thing a day that makes you feel good. It could be anything:  a phone call with a friend, listening to music, exercising, eating food you love, lighting candles or being alone.
  2. Make long term changes that will bring more positive events. Set goals of positive things you want and the small steps towards those goals. Again, schedule the small steps into your daily life.  Pay attention to the people around you. Make sure to keep your relationships strong or build or repair relationships, if you have conflict in your life.  Don’t give up.
  3. Focus on positive experiences.  Emotions last only a few seconds. However thinking about and focusing on events can keep those emotions around for much longer.  Notice if you tend to focus on the negative.  If that’s the case, refocus on the positive events in your life.
  4. Let go of worrying. If you notice yourself worried about problems in your life, what is expected of you or all you need to do, let it go. Refocus back onto the positive aspects of your life and the goals you have set for yourself.

Don’t let negative emotions and stress take over your life. If you have good reason to feel bad, take a look at what’s making you stressed and make some positive changes.

Stressed? Know Your Thoughts, They May Control How You Feel

Would you describe yourself as moody or stressed?  Do you sometimes feel like your emotions come out of nowhere or you get into a mood and have trouble getting out of it?  

In order to decrease stress, anger or moodiness it is important to understand where these emotions are coming from.  Emotions might be triggered by any number of events or things that happen to us.  You might react to something someone says, a hug from a friend, getting an e mail, or getting stuck in traffic.  However, it is what we think about the event, not the event itself that causes the emotion.  For example, if I get an email and I think “someone is thinking about me,” I might feel happy.  On the other hand, if I get an email and think “I don’t have time to deal with this,” I might be stressed or angry.  

If you are often moody or stressed it may be that you are distracted by and stuck in your negative thoughts.  While trying to concentrate you likely keep getting distracted by thoughts that pop into your mind which retrigger stressful feelings.  One way to release yourself from the power of your thinking is to focus attention on our thoughts.  Duke Integrative Medicine shows participants who took an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course reported less trouble sleeping through the night.  “When people become more mindful,” Jeff Greeson, PhD, MS, a clinical health psychologist at Duke explained, “they learn to look at life through a new lens. They learn how to accept the presence of thoughts and feelings that may keep them up at night. They begin to understand that they don’t have to react to them. As a result, they experience greater emotional balance and less sleep disturbances.”

 The following is an exercise will help you simply notice thoughts.  When you do this, something really interesting may happen.  You may realize that thoughts are just thoughts.  They are just like clouds floating in the sky.  They change and pass with time.  When you develop greater awareness of your thoughts, you can begin to choose which thoughts to respond to, which to allow to change, and which to allow to float by. 

Sit quietly and notice the natural flow of breath.  As thoughts arise in your mind, say to yourself “thinking.”  Once you say that in your mind, many thoughts will be derailed and your mind will settle back to quietness.  Try to notice thoughts quickly, before they become a train of thought and you’re swept off elaborating and associating.  Allow the thoughts to come and go like waves in the ocean.

The first few times you attend to your thoughts can feel awkward or uncomfortable.  You feel that you are not thinking anything.  If you do, label the thought “I can’t think of anything” as a thought.  You may get caught up in thoughts and not even realize that you were thinking anything.  If you do, when you notice you’ve been thinking about something, say to yourself “thinking” and bring your mind back to your breathing and noticing your thoughts.  If you do feel silly or awkward, just notice that feeling and let it pass.  If you find you are distracted by sounds or things going on around you, gently bring your mind back to your breath. Allow yourself to complete the exercise without judging or doubting it. 

Our feelings can be positive, negative or neutral in our lives.  Understanding how our thinking is effecting our emotions is essential to getting out of that stressed out moody cycle.

*For more information on the study in this article go to:  http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/06/29/stress-reduction-technique-aids-sleep/6785.html