A moody image of mountains with words: How to move forward from difficult emotions

When life doesn’t go as planned, do your emotions take over like a toddler throwing a tantrum? Learn how to move from frustration to flexibility by managing difficult emotions in a gentle, constructive way.

Main Points:

  • Difficult emotions can trigger a mindset battle
  • Trying to control emotions often backfires
  • Accept and acknowledge feelings
  • But don’t let them run the show either
  • Gentle curiosity helps you understand and adapt

It Can Be Difficult to Control Emotions

Woman is sitting against a wall, crying with a hand to her face

We’ve all been there. You put thought and effort into plans for your life, only for things to unravel, triggering frustration, anger, disappointment, sadness, and more.

In these moments, difficult emotions can take control like a toddler having a meltdown. And if we try to shove them aside to focus, it often makes things worse.

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"Good Vibes Only" Doesn't Work

It’s tempting to view bothersome emotions as “bad” or wrong. But shaming ourselves for having them is unhelpful. And trying to control or rigidly suppress feelings tends to backfire, flaring them up later.

Think of it like having a young toddler or puppy disrupt an important meeting. Ignoring their demands may quiet them temporarily, but likely escalates the situation eventually.

We need a different approach to manage emotions when life changes and plans fall apart.

How Do You Manage Your Emotions in a Healthy Way?

A woman sits at the beach, looking thoughtfully into the distance

Think about it this way: We don’t appreciate or thrive when a manager tries to micro-manage, restrict, or control everything we do, according to their unrealistic ideals. But all too often, it’s what we do to our emotions.

Similarly, we can think about managing our emotions, not controlling them.

We will have a range of emotions in our lifetime (and sometimes all in one moment). That’s human. That’s normal.

Accepting that your emotions are a natural part of life is kind of like kindly acknowledging that toddler or pet who shows up in the Zoom meeting.

At the same time, emotions don’t need to drive every decision.

Listening and acknowledging emotions don’t necessarily mean that we need to let them all lead at all times, just because they’re there.

That would be like letting the toddler make CEO-level decisions just because they’re in the meeting.

How to Use Self-Compassion and Curiosity to Manage Your Emotions

Instead of struggling against them, gently acknowledge messy or difficult feelings, as if you were listening to understand what someone was trying to tell you.

Ask yourself:

  • Where’s this coming from?
  • What do you need?
  • What might I be able to do to address this need?

Meet the emotion’s needs where possible, without letting it completely run the show in destructive ways. Offer yourself comfort without indulging a tantrum.

The flexibility and resilience from this method helps you to honor your emotions and the information they provide, without feeling as overwhelmed or out-of-control.

My clients also say that as they learn to accept and manage their emotions, they experience less emotional eating and more peace overall.

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  • Hello! I’m Shelly, and I help women with a lot going on to care for themselves, while reaching their goals.

    My specialty is addressing the why and how we eat, blending mindset and practical tips to make nutrition and self-care easier.

    I’m passionate about helping women like you get in touch with your body’s internal cues, develop a healthy, joyful relationship with food, and get peace with yourself and body at any size.

  • ©2023 Shelly Najjar, MPH, RDN

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