Are your emotions holding you hostage? Maybe they’re preventing you from earning more money or having the close relationships you want. Maybe you just aren’t happy. Catharsis is the process of releasing strong emotions. Here’s how to get rid of those negative thoughts and get on track for the life you want.
Discover your negative emotions and where they’re coming from
Strong, negative emotions come from a lot of different places. They can be related to job stress, financial stress, personal relationships, self-esteem and more.
The first and the best thing you can do is to name your feeling. Is it anger? Resentment? Anxiety? Sorrow? If you don’t know what it is you need to work on, then how can you work on it?
If you’re having trouble figuring out what you’re feeling, here are some ideas:
- Get help. More and more employers these days have employee wellness programs, which offer free or discounted services. Your employer may offer things like free counseling through the EAP (Employee Assistance Program), or classes on stress management or meditation. And if your employer is the cause of your stress, it’s only fair that they contribute to the solution as well.
- Start a journal. Do some stream-of-consciousness writing. Don’t worry about punctuation, grammar or spelling. Just take whatever is in your brain and dump it onto a sheet of paper (or a word document). After a while, you may see a pattern emerging that leads you to some answers.
- Ask yourself a series of “why” questions surrounding something that you notice bothers you. Keep asking why until you get to the core reason. Here’s an example: Q: “Why do I get upset every time Jane at work emails me?” A: “Because she’s annoying.” Q: “Why do I find Jane annoying?” A: “Because she always asks stupid questions.” Q: “Why do I think her questions are stupid?” A: “Because she’s been told the same answer over and over again.” And so on. So maybe the feeling, in this case, is annoyance, or frustration, or resentment that you have to deal with someone who’s wasting your time.
Once you know what you’re feeling, see if you can reduce or eliminate external stressors
The ultimate change will have to come from within, but sometimes outside forces are so strong that they overwhelm any possibility of you making change inside yourself. Here are ways to cut back on some of that pressure so you have room for cathartic change.
- If you feel your stress is due to inappropriate workplace behavior, such as harassment or a hostile work environment, then speak up. HR is meant to be a neutral party that must investigate these claims.
- Build a support team. If you have a friend or family member who is also under a lot of stress, set up a buddy system to vent to each other. Sometimes just getting those negative feelings out with someone who is an active listener and on your side is enough to make you feel better. You can take turns, set timers, talk while taking a walk together.
- Cut people or things out from your life that trigger these feelings. If possible, take a couple days off away from everyone and everything that cause you problems. If you can’t do that, give yourself some time each day when you turn off your phone, don’t check email, and get in some “me time.” Do something you enjoy, like taking a hot bath or reading a good book.
- When you feel the stress building up during the day, take a break and walk or jog around the block as quickly as you can. Exercise floods your system with endorphins, which create positive feelings.
Only you can change how you think or feel about something
Always remember this: the power lies with you. I know it won’t always feel like it, but I guarantee that if you work at it, you will have more control over your reaction to things. Here are some ways to do that.
- Think about your money story. What are your beliefs about money, and what’s the earliest time you can remember thinking this way? What triggered this belief? I recommend writing out your story, just letting the words flow without thinking about punctuation, spelling, or grammar. Then read it over. Do those thoughts have any connection to your current reality or are they part of your past? If you can eliminate negative thoughts about money, you will likely be able to improve your financial situation.
- Stop the tape. Think of negative thoughts as a tape that’s playing in your head. When you notice harmful thinking, tell yourself STOP! in your head. Erase the tape and record over it with something more positive.
- Let go of the past. If you are going over and over something that happened, what you did wrong or how you could do it better, make peace with it. Nobody does everything right. You can’t change it, so look to the present for opportunities to do better.
- Accept that you decide how you react to any situation. Own your feelings and your responsibility for them. Then decide that you will not let your feelings control you anymore.
You got this.
If you can move your emotions in a more positive direction, you can improve all other areas of your life. All things begin with your thoughts.