How to sit with ALL emotions and how to cope with mental ill-health

Not surprisingly, given the URL of this site, most of my blog articles focus on happiness and positive psychology. More often than not I try to focus on practical strategies that will help you (and me) live a good life.

At the same time, however, I like to keep things REAL.

And what that means is that it’s OK not to be OK all the time. I definitely experience times of being very not OK and I know many of you do too.

So, with this in mind, today I’m sharing two articles that focus a little more on dealing with the negative or unpleasant emotions many of us experience.

This still relates to happiness because dealing with these, more effectively, frees us up to enjoy more positive emotions. And so with that …

First up, via Psychology Today by Stephanie Freitag, I bring you this practical guide to accepting one’s feelings, both positive and negative …

KEY POINTS

  • Emotions are fundamental to our daily lives.
  • They are an evolutionary adaptive way of processing the world around us.
  • Suppressing emotions does not take them away, but it does lead to more pain in the long run.

Even our furry friends depend on feelings.Source: Getty Photos/iStock

As a psychologist, my number-one goal for my patients is to create space to process emotions. I’ve made this my main focus because, in my experience, a lot of folks come to therapy because they don’t have a place in their lives where they can safely and freely feel their feelings. They are told to “suck it up” or to “keep calm and carry on” when they experience any form of negative emotion. It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where many of us are constantly bombarded with messages that emotions don’t matter, that they are “irrational,” or somehow not valid, or at the very least are far inferior to logic and reason. I will be the first one to tell you that these messages are untrue and damaging.

To be clear, we are not the only species that experience emotion.

In fact, those “pesky” and “unruly” feelings are what most animals use to survive in the wild. In a sense, emotions serve as a compass for interpreting the stimuli around us. They let us know when we are in danger and give us a sense of reinforcement or satiation when we’ve experienced something pleasurable like a delicious meal. Most evolutionary scientists would argue that humans would be lost without emotion!

Despite the breadth of evolutionary science supporting the importance of emotion, society continues to tell us that we have evolved past needing them to function. There’s so much emphasis on algorithms and arguments that seem to fundamentally obscure the complexity of human behavior. Yet, if we truly had moved past the need to rely on emotion, why do people so often act in ways that go against their best interests? Why do so many of us still rely on alcohol, drugs, food, or sex to suppress our feelings when it would be so much easier to just experience them as they come?

… Keep reading the full & original article HERE

And following this, is a great article by Gwendolyn Kansen via Psych Central on “9 ways to cope with having a mental illness” …

The world is pretty much in the Stone Age when it comes to psychiatry. This makes it hard for people with any degree of mental illness. It’s especially hard if you’re not quite able to function like other people but you do well enough so that your problems don’t show every day.

That’s what it’s like for me on the autism spectrum. (Not everyone considers autism a mental illness. I consider it one for me because it affects my daily functioning and makes me depressed.) But I think it applies to most other disorders, too. Here are some tips that might help you keep a healthy perspective.

Know your limitations, but focus on your strong points.

You probably can’t handle as much stress as other people. So maybe you don’t get as much done in a day. But the flip side of that is that you’re probably a pretty patient human being. That’s going to make a lot of people want to be your friend.

I’m not sure why, but it seems like people with mental illnesses are overrepresented in the brains and creativity department. Autism often comes with great attention to detail and the same type of associative thinking as schizophrenia. And we all know how many artists are bipolar.

I’m not as productive as other people because it’s hard for me to do anything involving a quick transition of focus. Sometimes I feel like I can only do 40 percent of what other people can do in a day and see 25 percent of what other people see. I don’t think I can be an artist with the trajectory I wanted because the industry is too fast-paced. But that doesn’t mean I can’t figure out another way to sell my work.

I think having autism gives me a unique perspective that people don’t come across every day. I’m trying to figure out flexible work and how to recognize tolerant people so I can focus my energy on the good things I have to offer the world.

Figure out who will accept you.

A lot of us are charismatic in small doses. That gives people high expectations. But when we can’t be “on” consistently enough to meet those expectations it feels like we’re letting people down. There are some people you can be around all the time and others who are only able to deal with you on good days. That’s okay. Every friendship has a different purpose. Sometimes you fit with someone so well in some ways that it makes up for all the others.

Relationships are harder. I’ve had the best luck with other people on the spectrum. People break up with me early on because they say I’m weird. Or I break up with them because I can tell they wouldn’t accept me in the long haul. One guy ended things because he couldn’t stand my ruminating. He said I asked him the same questions over and over. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be comfortable in a relationship where I’m not allowed to do that. I could sit here years later telling people what a jerk he is, but he isn’t. I’m sure there are things he could endure in a partner that I never would.

Being a thoughtful, reliable person sets you apart in itself. Trust me, there’s someone out there who’ll deal with your panic attacks if you’re a good listener. Just think of the many people out there who don’t like to compromise. People who might vaguely want to become better people but find it easier to get a sort-of-spineless person to put up with them. If these people can have a relationship they’re okay with most of the time, chances are you can, too…

… and you can keep reading this article HERE



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