When you are juggling work and family emotional distress will just be one more thing to add to the mix. We all get into a pattern of constantly trying to escape our emotions. When we are emotionally imbalanced, we make wrong choices. I look back on some of my choices and say to myself “what was I thinking, where was my head.” It happens to us all.
Learning how to tolerate distress when you have been in a pattern of constantly trying to escape it can require practice, patience, and persistence but when stress levels are high, we bypass the fact that feeling emotional is a part of life.
The first step to accepting distress is to start seeing your feelings and emotional experiences in a new light because it is a very normal, universal human experience. Negative emotions such as fear, anger, frustration, sadness is part of our makeup, and it is OK to feel them because they are important and useful to us. It is all a matter of proportion and is extremely helpful to our survival.
Fear can get our heart racing, breathing faster, feeling hot, sweaty, all these things are signs that the body has gone into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Being in this mode prepares us to either face the danger or remove yourself as soon as possible. The fear of exams is an example of facing the danger zone, embracing the emotion, and riding through it knowing it is a process to greater things. Being confronted by an angry bull in a field is an example of how our body alerts us to escape the danger and get the hell out it.
Our emotions are messages to inform us of the need for a change in attitude or circumstances. If we did nothing about our anger at being treated unfairly all sort of bad treatment may come our way. Similarly, if we are constantly angry about most things and do not process the feelings in a safe way, we will cause much harm in our relationships, to ourselves and others.
It is natural to feel sadness when we experience the loss of something important to us. Having sadness in your life alerts us to what is important to us so we can appreciate and value our lives and other people. It helps to fulfil our understanding of what we care about.
The one thing to recognise about emotions is that they are not permanent, we are always fluctuating through life experiences. Trying to block emotions is not helpful, accepting that emotions pass like a wave may allow you to tolerate the experience in a different way.
Accepting distress is not about having to like emotional discomfort, or being resigned to feeling miserable, or wallowing in negative emotions. Instead, accepting distress is about seeing the negative emotion for what it is and changing how you pay attention to the emotion. Altering your mindset will change the effect the emotion has on you.
Mindfulness is state of being where you are in the present moment, watching whatever you happen to be experiencing at that time, with an attitude of curiosity, and without judging or trying to change your experience. Viewing things in a mindful way will save you from being sucked into to the drama of the emotion so you do not react in an impulsive way. Writing this and you reading it is the easy part, having the mindset to direct your attitude in producing a more positive outcome takes courage. We all know that if you keep doing the same things, then the same consequence will come about. Steering yourself away from negative reactions is a process that takes time.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to practicing accepting emotional distress but watching and observing can be more helpful than reacting. It allows you to detach yourself from the fire within. Most of us judge ourselves far more harshly than others, having a softer approach to our emotions will lower stress levels. Looking into the future at the situation may help clarify things better. I think it is worth reminding our thoughts that where you are right now, well, you are probably doing your best. Nothing is perfect but your best is good enough for now.
My daughter got stressed out I had taken the boys down to the river instead of them being plugged into their computers being home-schooled on Ed Shed, the school educational programme. Their mindset was not right, frustration was boiling and fresh air an exercise was the best medicine. On our return and after some lunch we completed the work because they were calmer and had a better attitude. There is no point beating yourself up. If you try to do something when you do not feel like it, it will probably take you longer, frustrate you and have a negative effect on you for the rest of the day.
It is important to accept how you feel at a particular time and if possible, take a break from the situation so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. Emotions are clouds, they can appear from nowhere, hang around for a while, but always move on.
The next time you are stressed do not beat yourself up. Accept the feelings, give yourself a hug and know, nothing last forever.