Managing Negative Emotions by Jade Caswell, MA
Many clients come to us seeking assistance in coping with negative emotions. Learning
how to cope with our emotions can improve life quality and foster heathy relationships. While
there are numerous techniques to soothe emotional distress, I often start with teaching clients
how to 'sit with their emotions'. For those not familiar with this phrase, this may seem
confusing or vague. Or you may ask- how do I do this? In simple terms, 'sitting with our
emotions'; means to accept our emotions, without pushing them away or judging ourselves for
them. It involves taking a mindful stance towards emotions, and allowing them to have a brief
moment of existence within ourselves, and then gradually subside. If we attempt to suppress
our emotions, or avoid them altogether, we do ourselves a disservice and place ourselves
further away from our goal of emotional regulation. Below, I provide a practical, 'how to'; guide
for learning to 'sit with our emotions':
1. Name and identify our emotions
Oftentimes, we may feel confused with what exactly we are feeling, however, identifying what
we are feeling and putting a name to our feelings often helps clarify what we are experiencing
and may help reduce the intensity of a negative emotions. If needed, a feelings wheel can be
great tool for practicing emotion identification.
2. Noticing physical sensations
The mind and body are intricately connected; as such, it is important to become fully aware of
how our emotions may be manifesting in our physical bodies. If we are having trouble
identifying an emotion, often, our body will provide clues. For instance, if we are stressed or
anxious, we may experience muscle tension or become clammy.
3. Adopt a curious stance towards our emotions
The next step involves asking ourselves where the emotion may be coming from, using a
curious and non-critical perspective. I like to encourage clients to be 'emotion detectives'; and
strive to find their personal triggers for emotional distress. Knowing what is causing an emotion
to come up is the first step towards identifying proactive ways at managing them or avoiding
4. Practice self-validation
Sometimes, negative emotion can leave us feeling defeated or leave us questioning our self-
worth. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain an objective stance towards our emotions, instead of
becoming fused with them or allowing them to define our sense of self. If you find yourself
become critical of your emotions try using these phrases instead, 'I'm allowed to feel this way';
or 'My feelings matter and I will listen to what they’re telling me'.
Regulating emotions can seem like a difficult task; these are just a few steps to get you started.
We are here to help-- For more support, please reach out to our office to schedule a session
with one of our therapists today. We would be happy to hear from you!
By Jade Caswell, MA, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern