Distress Tolerance Part 2: Pushing Away Negative Feelings
Updated: Mar 30
She was mourning the loss of her father. He had passed away a week ago. He had been the closest person to her in all her life. He had known her well, cared for her and supported her. She was feeling the void. The sharp knife of acute pain pierced her heart. Nothing seemed right.
He was heartbroken. The love of his life was fighting cancer. It was excruciating to watch her suffer. Nothing mattered more than her well-being. He felt lost and hopeless.
We all know these people or we have been them. Pain and suffering are unavoidable in life, and it is not uncommon to feel like all hope is lost. And then we see a sliver of sunshine and we get up again. We are resilient, we are fighters. Sometimes it takes a little more time to pull ourselves back up and that’s OK.
Where can we find the energy to fight the crisis and hold our head high again? What do we say to ourselves when nothing seems to be going right? How can we push away negative feelings?
A few strategies to push away negative feelings
Stay away from emotion crutches - Easy fixes are not long-lasting. When you are down in the dumps, reaching for a glass of wine, beer, or whiskey is easy. Sure, you feel better for a while but that is not going to help you in the long run. Alcohol is a depressant and can exacerbate negative feelings. Stay away from substances in any form and of any amount.
Positive Self-talk - We are what we believe in. If you tell yourself that I am stronger and capable to face the challenge, then you will find a way and energy to stand up again. Tell yourself that you will survive and you will. We are stronger, wiser, and more resourceful than we think.
Contribute - Helping others in similar situations like yours helps you share the experience and take the edge off of your pain. You can find support from people by helping them deal with similar situation. It creates a sense of meaning, which fuels positivity. Join a support group in town or on social media, or volunteer at local organizations.
Eliminate Comparison - Human tendency is to compare ourselves with people in a better situation than us. When we lose a job and have a hard time finding a new one, we look at someone who was in the same situation and is employed now. We disregard the fact that they might have taken a pay cut or are commuting 70 miles one way. We are quick to feel disheartened. Instead of engaging in this thought process, look at someone who is in crisis. Count your blessings.
Opposite Action - Do things that please you or relax you even if you don’t want to. Go for a walk, or force yourself out of the bed and meet a friend. Watch a comedy show or a movie on Netflix. This is a small vacation from your sorrow and pain. It will relax your mind and body and might help you find a new perspective. Sure, it is not going to make the suffering go away, but this is a small break to refuel.
Leave the situation - If possible, push your negativity away by getting away from the situation or the person. Create space so you can think.
Prayer and meditation - Praying leads to comfort by giving our pain away to someone we trust. It lessens the burden and soothes your mind and spirit. Meditation is an age-old practice proven to bring peace and balance your mind and body. Practice what you believe in.
Mindfulness - Practice mindfulness everyday. Engage in small exercises of mindfulness. Do one thing at a time and immerse yourself in it completely. For example; listen to music without multitasking. Focus on the music, take it in, and bathe in it. Feel the vibrations of the instruments, the meaning of the lyrics, and the emotions poured in the vocals. Be one with the experience. Believe in your mindfulness practice to help you give clarity of thoughts by focusing on the present.
Not all of these strategies will work for everyone. Try a couple of them out. Find the one that most suits your needs and situation. You are the best judge of your needs. Find a strategy that works for you to get out of the negative space, hold your chin up, and do what’s needed to make the situation better.
PathWise Productions, Inc (2014). DBT Training manual.
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