Winter Wellness Practice: Dealing with Difficult Emotions and Feelings

14.12.21 03:47 PM By Theresa Yu

In this Winter wellness series, I will go over qualities of combating winter blues, sluggishness, and mental freeze during these cold months.

  • Dealing With Difficult Emotions


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    The end of the year comes with a mixed bag of emotions. We’re entering that time of the holiday season where gift-giving is rampant, you may want to spend more than you like, and you might have to face certain friends and family that you don’t want to hang out with. You might have been in a cohort that lost their jobs, and you’re in a place of grief, shock, and anger. For some others, this is the time for self-reflection and looking to crush those goals for next year. It could be a mixed bag of emotions such as, anxiousness, nervousness, irritation, scared, frustration. For others, it can be exciting, motivated, and proud.

There are no bad emotions, only bad reactions.

    If you are dealing with negative emotions, dealing with these could look the same as those positive emotions. For example, positive emotions could mean “butterflies in your stomach” or dealing with the “positive stress” of planning your own wedding. They are all complex and natural and okay to feel what you’re feeling. If one of those negative emotions come around to you, your body and brain is just communicating with you that there is something wrong. It’s neither good nor bad, it is letting you know what is happening; with the right boundaries, you can respond to it in the right way.

Escaping the emotional loop

    Let’s say that you did get fired from your job recently, and you’re very upset about it. Perhaps you had a vacation planned at the end of the year to see mom and dad – for the first time in two years you can finally travel—and now perhaps you can’t go or you have to stick to a strict budget to see this through.

For any person, this can be very infuriating. This is smashing glass-to-the-floor, curling-up-in-bed-for-days, pounding-fists-on-the-floor infuriating.

    This, however, does not need to be how you choose to respond. This is where escaping the emotional loop comes in. For some reference, I talk about this concept in the article: “Your Cells are Listening: How Negative Thoughts Can Affect Your State of Being.”

    Every time a thought comes in your head, during any situation such as losing a job, there is a period of time where you can actively divert your thoughts into a different emotion. If your immediate thought is to avoid frustration and sadness during a difficult moment, it is critical to escape the emotional loop through cultivating mindfulness to get your brain to feel that different emotion. According to Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor when we are triggered by a negative emotional stimulus, “there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.”

Let’s do a play-by-play:

    Bad response: You get fired from your job --> brain releases chemicals --> you let the 90 or more seconds pass by --> automatic response --> [loop starts] negative emotion --> negative thoughts --> negative emotion --> negative thoughts…

    Better response: You get fired from your job --> brain releases chemicals --> less than 90 seconds go by --> you feel anger pent up (automatic response), but you calm yourself down through deep breathing exercises/mindfulness --> do a calming meditation to level the mind --> negative emotion released and diverted

    As you might imagine, escaping the negative emotional thought loop is quite difficult. 90 seconds is a short amount of time! As mentioned above, the key is to catch yourself in that short block of time to move to a positive emotion, then once you associate that thought to a different emotion, your thought sequence changes as well.

    What better way to cultivate mindfulness than through meditation?

    Let’s begin.


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Theresa Yu