8 Healthy Coping Skills for Strong Emotions

Emotions can be overwhelming. They can make us feel crazy and out of control. They can ruin our relationships and cause tremendous havoc.

There is a better way. Emotions don’t have to rule our world. We can learn to control our emotional state. It begins with understanding what emotions are, where they originate, how they affect us, and healthy ways we can manage them.

What are emotions?

Emotions are not our enemy. They are assets to tap into, nurture and put to good use. Emotions are physiological, cognitive, and behavioral responses to a personally significant event (http://www.apa.org/research/action/glossary.aspx). They are complex patterns of change that protect us from danger, ignite feelings of love, and indicate internal calm. Emotions provide valuable information. All we have to do is stop, notice and listen.

How do emotions function?

Emotions affect our body, mind and behavior. Emotions influence how we communicate and influence others. Emotions manage and motivate action. Emotions bring life and vigor to our thoughts and actions (http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/emotion_function.html).

Emotions Assess for Safety

When danger arises, we automatically react with flight, fight or freeze. We flee when we see an exit or an escape. We fight when trapped. We freeze when we have exhausted our efforts to fight or flee

Emotions Influence Memory

Emotions are attached to memories. When current events trigger unresolved past reminiscences, feelings are compiled.   We not only respond to the current event but also the past.

This behavior is typical. Our reaction is signaling that we have past trauma or abuse. We are responding to all the thoughts and feelings aroused by our history ignited in the present.

Knowing this helps to understand our current emotional intensity. With understanding, compassion is possible. We can soothe our thoughts and feelings. Self-compassion is number one for coping with intense emotions.

8 Coping-Skills to Manage Emotions

  1. Self-CompassiHelp to Manage Emotionson

Self-compassion is a matter of relating. When we can relate, understand, and feel the difficulties of another, we can translate the same experience to our self.

Compassion is not about pity. It is a desire to help from a place of kindness and understanding. It is the ability to recognize without judgment or ridicule when others fail, make mistakes, and show imperfections. Compassion recognizes that we all have faults, make slip-ups, and possess limitations. It is part of our shared human experience.

Self-compassion is taking the same attitude toward others and giving it to our self. Just as we listen and empathize with our friend who lost their job, relative who had surgery or stranger homeless on the street, we can transfer those same nurturing thoughts and feelings to our self.

  1. Nurture

We can get out of our head by nurturing and socializing with others. Problems are distracted when we tend to children, friends, and relatives. By occupying our minds and lending a hand to someone else, we help ourselves. What could be more rewarding than that?

Developing and maintaining social alliances lowers stress. When we interact with those we care for, Oxytocin is released.   Oxytocin is a hormone that naturally calms.

Sharing our feelings with those we trust can help to normalize and validate emotions while helping to get out of isolation and see other perspectives.

  1. Notice the Breath

Becoming aware of our breathing helps assess our feelings. For example, when we breathe shallowly we may be feeling anxious. When we are breathing deeply into our abdomen, we may notice we are feeling calm or restful. Observing our breath at the moment gives us indicators as to how we feel.

We have control to deepen and slow down our breath. Paying attention to the location of our full inhale and exhale gives the opportunity to change our state of mind. We can choose to take a deep breath and breathe in our abdomen. Abdomen breathing calms a racing pulse and scattered mind.

Observing the muscles especially around the shoulders, neck and jaw may also give us a gauge into how we are feeling. If our muscles feel tight, we can choose to move around, stretch, and relax any tight areas.

Using our imagination to visualize the tension flowing out with our breath as we relax any tense muscles can have a tremendous effect on our mood.

  1. Visualize

Sometimes when we are flooded with feelings, it can be difficult to manage. It may be helpful to think of a calming visualization when we are calm. Thus, we have a tool from our toolbox we can resort to in times of stress.

Here is an idea, try putting emotional pain in a treasure chest. We can bury our treasure chest of emotions for the time being and come back to them when we have time to give them our full attention. It is important to make time for our feelings. They need acknowledgment, validation, and nurture just like a crying child. By tending to our emotions, we are caring for our self.

  1. Take a Break 

Sometimes we just need to pause for a moment. There are times when it is not appropriate or convenient to express intense emotions. During these incidences, it is best to excuse our self for a few minutes.

Try saying, “I need a moment to get my thoughts together. I’ll be back in ten minutes.” Make sure to return at the time indicated. Following through with your word ensures trust and reliability.

Taking the time to calm down and compose our thoughts and feelings, gives us a moment to think clearly.   We can then determine the best approach for expressing our self and finding solutions that are agreeable to all.

  1. Write

Writing can be extremely useful. Studies showed that survivors of traumatic events lowered their distress levels significantly by journaling.

Transforming thoughts and feelings ruminating in our mind to paper helps to stop the spiral. When we are in the thick of things, our thoughts manifest and continue in a downward twist. Externalizing them in a journal gives us the opportunity to clarify what we are thinking and feeling. It is valuable to practice self-compassion and validation when writing.

Closing our journal can also be symbolic. We are physically putting away our distressing feelings and letting go from the upsetting event.

  1. Speak Up

It is important to speak up when an issue is bothersome. Otherwise, we build up resentment. Built up anger causes us to lash out and nitpick at the tiniest of incidences.

It is most effective to think about the problem and clarify our position. It is at times like these to step away, breathe, and formulate a plan of action. We are then able to voice our concerns with an even tone and clarity.

Changes in our relationships are a process. It takes time to adjust to a new way of thinking and behaving. Impulsive confrontation never results in positive outcomes. With practice, talking about what bothers us becomes easy.

  1. Feelings are Temporary 

Emotions are like waves in the ocean. They are always moving and changing. It may be helpful to remind our self that we have not always felt this way. This too shall pass.

Think of previous times when intense emotions were felt. Remember that they eventually faded. Knowing they are temporary can help to begin the process to feeling better.

It may be useful to use a visualization of the ocean. Associate each wave with an emotion. Watch how each emotion moves through the continuum of the water, builds with momentum, crashes on the shore, and then washes away into the sand and current.

Taking time to acknowledge what we are feeling and understanding intense emotions are temporary can help calm a turbulent sea.

Managing our emotions becomes easy with practice. If we recognize the full range of feelings from fear, anger, sadness, and depression to happiness, inspiration, peace, and love, we can use them to protect our self and balance negative experiences. We can make the most of our emotions by opening our mind and utilizing healthy ways to manage them. Choosing what techniques work best for us in the situation is optimal.   We can learn to stabilize an out of control state of mind.

Exercise for Thought

Getting to know our emotions helps us to decide how we want to act rather than act. We can learn more about our feelings by keeping an emotion diary. Choose without judgment the strongest, longest lasting or most difficult or painful feelings. Describe the prompting event and the response in body, mind, and behavior.

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The Connection Between Excessive Tanning and Mental Health Disorders

By Marissa Maldonadotanning-and-mental-health-disorders

Many people want a tanned, sun-kissed look, thinking it will make them appear healthier and more attractive. When studies began to show that exposure to sunlight without the use of sunscreen increases the risk of skin cancer, some people turned to alternatives, like spray tans and sun beds, to achieve their desired look.

However, recent studies have shown that artificial tanning can still cause cancer and other health problems. Any type of tanning can cause health problems, yet many people still sit in the sun or in a tanning bed in order to become bronzed despite being fully aware of the risks.

Although many of those who tan stop once they have achieved glowing, sun-kissed skin, some people continue to tan to an excess. One infamous example is the “tanning mom” who stepped into the media spotlight recently after being arrested for reportedly bringing her 5-year-old daughter with her into a tanning bed. She brought some attention to tanning addiction, which is not yet an official diagnosable condition but has been given the slang term “tanorexia.”

Can You Become Addicted To Tanning?

Over the past few years, researchers have begun to look into the possibility of people being addicted to tanning. One study showed that the UV light involved in tanning, either naturally with the sun or using artificial light, causes an endorphin release that is similar to the effect of drugs and alcohol, so it can be similarly addictive.

Another study looked at the connection between the neurological reward and reinforcement trigger involved with tanning. A more recent study has looked into the connection between mental health disorders and tanning addiction or dependency, rather than just the possibility of addiction.

Tanning Addiction And Psychopathology

A paper titled “Tanning Addiction and Psychopathology: Further Evaluation of Anxiety Disorders and Substance Abuse,” which will be published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and is currently available online, reviewed excessive tanning to see whether it should be classified as an addiction.

The researchers, Lisham Ashrafioun, a Bowling Green State University (BGSU) doctoral student in psychology, and Dr. Erin Bonar, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Addiction Research Center and a BGSU alumna, surveyed people about their tanning habits and associated feelings in order to see if they also met the criteria for body dysmorphic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder.

Mental Illness And Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental illness associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). People with BDD become obsessed about an imagined or inflated physical flaw. They will engage in behavior to try to alter their physical features, such as excessive cosmetic surgery, but do not feel satisfied. They isolate themselves because they believe people will ridicule them for their perceived flaw.

OCD is a mental disorder where a person becomes obsessed with something and engages in compulsive behavior in order to try to reduce the anxiety associated with the obsession. For example, a person with OCD might become obsessed with germs or safety and have to go through certain rituals to assure themselves that they are safe, such as excessively rechecking a lock or washing their hands. This behavior disrupts daily life, relationships, and work.

Study On Tanning Addiction

For the study on tanning addiction, 533 BGSU students who regularly tanned were surveyed using a Tanning-DSM questionnaire, a modified version of the substance abuse criteria found in the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and a Tanning-CAGE questionnaire, a modified version of the CAGE alcohol screener.

A person who answered yes to at least three of the eight criteria on the Tanning-DSM fell into the tanning dependent category. Those who answered yes to two of the four questions on the Tanning-CAGE were labeled as having problematic tanning. Problematic tanning is engaging in behavior that is harmful to the person. Tanning dependence is when a person is physically or mentally dependent upon tanning.

Creating A Dependence On Tanning

The researchers found that 31 percent of those responding met the criteria for tanning dependence, and 12 percent for problematic tanning. Those who had tanned at least nine times in the past 30 days had the greatest risk for meeting the criteria for both problematic tanning and tanning dependence.

They also screened the participants for the possibility of mental health disorders, specifically BDD and OCD. They found that being female and having positive results for BDD and OCD were significantly associated with tanning dependence. For problematic tanning, only screening positively for OCD was related in a significant way. The researchers also found that while BDD appeared to be linked to tanning dependence, OCD was more closely related to problematic tanning.

Tanning May Be An Addiction

The researchers concluded that tanning may be an addiction, but there are a significant number of people who excessively tan and have underlying mental conditions. For example, some individuals may engage in tanning due to obsessive compulsive behavior or to decrease symptoms of OCD.

There were some limitations to the study. The rates of positive screens for OCD and BDD in their sample were higher than other college samples and the national prevalence estimates. They also noted that the Tanning-CAGE and Tanning DSM may lead to an overestimation of rates. However, this study still provides some potential evidence to support continued research into whether excessive tanning may be an addiction, as well as highlighting the underlying or co-occurring conditions contributing to excessive tanning.

Moving Forward

Knowing more about why people engage in this behavior could help doctors and health professionals talk with patients about tanning, especially those who do not alter their behavior even after being informed of the health risks. Looking at the mental health of the patient might help to find more efficient ways to discuss the behavior with the patient and find a way to stop the destructive behavior. Developing a screening tool for dermatologists and primary care physicians to use could help these professionals recognize when a person who excessively tans might have underlying mental health problems, whether OCD, BDD, or tanning addiction, if it becomes a disorder.
– See more at: http://www.sovcal.com/sovblog/tanning-and-mental-health-disorders/#sthash.QW2d4az4.dpuf