6 Ways to Mindfully Handle Big Emotions

22 Dec

On my road to recovery I learned in the first few months about acceptance. I realized that resistance to things I did not like was the reason I would stay in pain and of course use chemicals to make myself feel better.  I was starting to connect the dots and see the more I resisted things the more trouble it caused. I was starting to apply the understanding that I was not in control and I could make better decisions about how to approach tough situations if I were approaching them from a place of acceptance.

 One of the biggest things that helped me was really getting into Mindfulness. I had studied it but I never truly applied the principles and needed to get a better understanding of what it looked like for me as a mom, in recovery. First thing is there are no legitimate reason for being angry at my child.  My child did NOT cause my addiction. Problems happen to everyone that is part of life. It could have been any hard challenge and I would have reacted the same way because I just did not yet have enough tools to cope with hard things. 

When I first started, I used the 6 Steps to Mindfully Deal with Difficult Emotions from the Gottman Institute. I learned I have to first recognize and identify where they are in my body. Where do you feel the hurt, anger, sadness? For example, I usually feel it in the middle of my stomach and chest. I almost can’t breathe at times. 

Once I become aware of the emotions, I identify the emotions, this is sadness, anger, confusion. Once I have identified the emotion, I accept it. Just as it is. I then remind myself that it won’t last forever and even if it’s overwhelming remember it will pass. The next thing I do is ask myself, “What triggered me? Why do I feel this way?” Then finally I let go of the need to control the emotion. Instead just let it come and let it go as it wants to. That last part is the hardest for me because I am a fixer.

  I began to recognize my emotions, not run or numb and certainly stop myself from pointing fingers at someone else as the cause. Nobody can get into my body and cause an emotion. If my child does or says something that causes me sadness, that sadness comes from the thoughts I think around what he has said or done. 

The other thing is what he says or does has nothing to do with me, no matter how personal it feels. That was a big part of me understanding that my child’s behavior has nothing to do with who I am. Just as I have good and bad days and things that get to me, so does my child. The biggest difference is that my child has even less tools in his coping toolbox than I have. 

There are so many ways mindfulness helped me personally but also as I practiced, I stopped reacting to my child in a negative way. This led to him starting to trust me more. He has also picked up his own mindfulness skills and at the same time I began to be very intentional about explicitly teaching him the different emotions. Wrapping language around our emotions helps us to be able to express them a lot better, and when we can communicate our hurt, we don’t get as frustrated. I am not always able to catch myself but I am learning everyday. 

I would love to know what experience you have had with Mindfulness and if you try these steps let me know how it goes. If you start to practice, give yourself time, be patient because we are literally rewiring our brains to mindfully respond to ourselves and others as opposed to reacting.

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