3 Ways to Cope with Difficult Feelings

This article is not a replacement or alternative for professional mental health care. Please seek help and support from a licensed mental health professional.

It can be really hard to move through difficult feelings.

From frustration to impatience, from grief to sorrow, we all have moments where life comes at us fast and we need help figuring out how to move forward. Our feelings can be complicated, heavy and intense. Learning how to cope with these feelings is an essential part of your emotional and mental self-care.

Here are three ideas to help you cope with the toughest feelings:

Put energy into a healthy distraction

young woman with dark curly hair reading book in park
Photo by Sam Lion on

Sometimes when you’re face to face with an intense feeling, what can help you move through it is finding an activity or a hobby to take a break, ease your mind from the emotional intensity and choose to intentionally not give the emotion your full attention.

A healthy distraction is an activity or hobby that doesn’t negatively contribute to how you’re feeling and offers some relief and pause from tough feelings. Try to put energy into activities that do not leave you feeling guilty afterwards. Ideas for healthy distractions include:

  • Listening to a funny or inspirational podcast
  • Taking a walk in the sunshine
  • Resting or taking a short nap
  • Trying a new recipe
  • Watching your favorite movie or TV show
  • Dancing to an upbeat playlist

Vent to a trusted loved one

There is nothing like being able to share how you feel with someone who cares about you.

To help cope with difficult feelings, call or reach out to a friend, family member or peer who understands you and wants the best for you. Being able to be safely vulnerable, heard and validated by another caring person can help you move through this tough time.

multiethnic students with documents walking in park
Photo by Charlotte May on

It may be hard to reach out to a loved one if you are used to keeping your feelings inside. Know that you are not a burden to the people that care about you. Your loved ones want to hear from you and are hoping you will talk to them. While there is a big difference between venting and complaining, know that it’s okay for you to lean on someone else when you’re going through something difficult.

Take time to process your feelings

When it comes to moving through difficult feelings, one of the most important coping skills is trying your best to move through them.

One way to process your feelings is to mindfully bring your awareness to them and remember that they are temporary. Check in with your body and how your body is feeling when an intense emotion comes your way. Is your body feeling:

  • Tense or sore?
  • Painful or uncomfortable?
  • Hot or cold?
  • Numb or stiff?

When you notice how your body is feeling, take care of your body in that moment. If you can, stretch tense muscles. Drink some water or turn on a fan to help you cool down, or add layers or wrap up in a blanket if you feel warm. Tend to your body’s needs to help you self-regulate and meet your immediate needs.

fit ethnic woman practicing yoga in park
Photo by Gabby K on

When you feel more physically regulated, tend to your emotions. Use affirmations, journaling or a meditative practice to help you remember that this feeling and this moment is temporary and it will pass.

When taking care of yourself and these difficult feelings, try to do a combination of all three of these coping strategies. Try to not only rely on venting or only focusing on distracting yourself. It’s difficult, but you are so worth this type of care.

Which coping skills do you use to take care of difficult feelings?

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