Strong emotional reactions are an unavoidable part of life. From time to time, we will experience strong emotions due to stressful situations in our life. It could be anything from getting bad news to having an argument with a loved one. Strong emotional reactions are normal but most of us don’t know how to cope effectively with these emotions.
One coping strategy that I love to share with clients is called improving the moment. We might not be able to change what is upsetting us, but we can improve the moment.
Below are seven ways to improve the moment. Every time you make an effort to improve the moment, you temporarily calm your mind and body. By temporary calming your mind and body, you feel more in control of your emotions and more confident that you can handle stressful situations.
Select one or a few of the strategies below and try them out when a stressful situation arises. Note how you feel differently even if it is just for the moment.
IMPROVE THE MOMENT
Imagine a very relaxing scene. Imagine a secret room within yourself, seeing how it is decorated. Go into the room whenever you feel very upset. Close the door on anything that can distress you. Imagine everything going well. Imagine coping well. Make up a fantasy world that is calming and beautiful and let your mind go with it. Imagine strong emotions draining out of you like water out of a pipe.
Find or create some purpose, meaning, or value in the distressing situation. Remember, listen to, or read about spiritual values such as peace, love and non-violence. Focus on whatever positive aspects of the distressing situation you can find. Repeat them over and over in your mind. Make lemonade out of lemons.
Open your heart to a greater wisdom, God, or your own wise mind. Ask for strength to cope with the distress in this moment. Turn things over to God or a greater wisdom.
Try muscle relaxation by tensing and relaxing each large muscle group, starting with your hands and arms, going to the top of your head, and then working down; listen to a meditation app; exercise hard; take a hot bath or sit in a hot tub; drink hot milk; massage your neck and scalp, your calves and feet. Get in a tub filled with very cold or hot water and stay in it until the water is tepid. Breathe deeply; half-smile to change your facial expression.
5. One thing in the moment
Focus your entire attention on just what you are doing right now. Keep yourself in the very moment you are in; put your mind in the present. Focus your entire attention on physical sensations that accompany non-mental tasks (e.g. walking, washing, doing dishes, cleaning, fixing). Be aware of how your body moves during each task.
Give yourself a brief vacation. Get into bed and pull the covers up over your head for 20 minutes. Give yourself a special treat to eat or drink and read a fiction book or magazine for an hour. Take an hour breather from work that must be done.
Cheerlead yourself. Repeat over and over; “I CAN handle this,” “This feeling won’t last forever,” “I will make it through this,” “I’m doing the best I can do.”
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