6 Healthy Coping Mechanisms for Dealing with Difficult Emotions

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We’ve all gotten to that point where you feel like you just can’t take anything more being piled on your mentally or emotionally. It’s just a fact of life that we will all get to that point at least once in our lives. It can be a lonely place as many of us are afraid to talk to anyone about it, so we just bottle it all up and try to deal with it on our own.

Mental wellbeing plays a crucial role in our daily behavior, viewpoint, and feelings. When we’re coping with difficult emotions, we have a hard time dealing with stress, overcoming challenges and building relationships.

It doesn’t matter how healthy, happy or resilient you may be, there are times in our lives when we’re faced with difficult experiences that may become too much for us to handle. And at times we try to work through it, other times we simply avoid whatever is bothering us, leaving it to fester and bubble inside. While it may be easier to just bury it all, it’s more productive if you accept them as a natural part of life.


A crucial part of actually dealing with emotions is acknowledging them and then finding healthy coping skills to deal with them. Without this process you are left with unhealthy options that can only lead to more problems down the road.

Being brave and fearless enough to deal with your emotions through trial and error until you find what works with you. The following strategies will help you deal with the negative emotions and boost your mental health.

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Identify your emotions.

Giving your emotions a name takes away their power and makes it easier for you to work through them. Feelings may vary in intensity; however, they fall basically into 4 groups:

Top 6 Healthy Tools

Write your feelings in a journal or diary.

Studies show that conveying your feelings through writing helps counteract make sense of our feelings and experiences and puts things into perspective. When you categorize your thoughts, you can begin processing your feelings, thus dealing with them becomes more accessible.

Share how you’re feeling with a trusted friend.

Talking also provides an outlet for self-expression without fear of rejection or judgment. It counterbalances the negativity and builds confidence and trust. A support group or therapist is also a great way to deal with difficult emotions and be surrounded with people who face similar difficulties.

You can also get in touch with the National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI or Attitudes In Reverse AIR for someone to talk to as sometimes its easier to talk to a stranger.

Take a step back and look at the big picture.

This will help you empathize with others’ suffering and realize that you’re not alone. Compassion produces a constructive attitude on life and helps you connect with others on many levels.

When I used to wait tables at a busy restaurant, this technique really saved me. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, just stepping back to look at your situation and break it down piece by piece, it can feel more controllable. It’s like if you get overwhelmed cleaning a messy room, just go in every hour and only take one article out of the room at a time. You’ll find that by the fourth or fifth hour, you wind up jumping right in and cleaning. This works just as well here.

Relaxation breathing techniques.

Controlled breathing positively impacts your stress levels. Take in a breath while counting to 5, then hold it in for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts. Repeat it several times. If you have a favorite color, imagine inhaling that color as it allows your mind to focus on something else.

Positive imagery.

Imagine someplace where you feel calm and at peace. It could be somewhere you’ve already been or wish to visit. Start with a mental image and try to concentrate on all the details, using all 5 senses. This is a great example of practicing mindfulness which helps reduce stress and anxiety.

One of the best exercises, hen you are feeling so overwhelmed you can’t think straight, is the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique. This helps you used all of your senses to bring you back to the present.

5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique

Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and take three deep breaths in through your nose (count to 3) and out through your mouth (to the count of 3). Sometimes even breathing in your favorite color can help (mine is always cobalt blue).

Now open your eyes and look around at your surroundings. Name these things out loud or softly to yourself.

  • 5 things you can see (looking around the room or out the window).
  • 4 things you can feel (your skin, the material on your chair, your hair, anything tactile to touch)
  • 3 thing you can hear (like traffic, birds or noises in the room)
  • 2 thing you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste. You might need to move around to find something to taste.

Throw away your negative emotions.

It may be symbolic, yet it gives such a strong sense of control over your detrimental feelings. Write down what’s bothering you on a piece of paper then scrunch it up and throw it away. This helps you mentally let go of whatever is bothering you and helps you regain control. It might sound silly, but it really does do wonders for you. If you’re somewhere that you can burn the list, it can be very cathartic.


These are just some ways to deal with your stressful, difficult emotions, but there are dozens of other ways through which you can find healing and a way to get through your negative experiences. The point is to find what makes you stronger and more capable of facing your fears.

While you may know by now that it’s not as easy as it sounds, all you need is to take that first, single step, and by time, you become more resilient and better at finding healthier, more constructive ways to cope with your difficult emotions.