7 Tips for Dealing with Uncomfortable Feelings in a Relationship
A few hours after I recorded last week’s video about how there’s no such thing as good feelings or bad feelings, I got with some pretty tough feelings. You might even say they were “bad” feelings (I certainly didn’t want to be feeling them!)
I’m not gonna lie: it sucked. It’s all well and good to say that there’s no such thing as good feelings or bad feelings when you’re feeling on top of the world. It’s another to wrestle with that truth when you’re in the midst of feeling confused, jealous, insecure, lonely, hungry, isolated, insignificant, or any number of “bad” feelings (aka feelings when your needs aren’t being met)
So I dug deep and did my best to practice what I preach (after more wallowing than I care to admit). I got off the couch, I changed my outfit, I played some tennis, (I came home and recorded a quick video just for folks on the email list), I took a long hot shower, I sat and breathed for a minute or two, I journaled, and then I ordered delivery and turned on Schitt’s Creek.
Figuring out how to cope with uncomfortable feelings in a healthy and productive way has taken me yearrrrs to figure out (and it’s still an imperfect practice).
Here are 7 of my go-to practices to help with that process (jump to 1:45 if you want to skip the intro and dive right into the tactics):
Sit & Breathe
The first thing is something that many of us learned in elementary school. And it can often be easier said than done. And that’s to just sit still and breathe. I know for me it can be tempting to jump right into problem solving mode, but to just like sit with myself and my thoughts for 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, however long it takes to really get clear on how I’m feeling can be huge. It’s not always easy for me to figure out exactly what I’m feeling.
Consult a list of feelings
So sometimes I have to consult an actual list of feelings; I mentioned that in last week’s video. If you don’t already have it you can download it from briangerald.com/feelingslist.
I put together a big ‘ol list of feelings and sometimes I have to like stare at this list of feelings and be like, do I feel excited, do I feel agitated, do I feel horny, do I feel isolated, do I feel lonely, what am I feeling? And looking at this big list of feelings can help me really get clear on that.
So if you don’t know what you’re feeling, you’re not alone. Or if you just like know that I feel bad or jealous or angry, like maybe there’s a more specific feeling. And looking at a list of feelings would be helpful to you to figure out what it is that you’re feeling.
Another tool that I use that I’ve definitely been doing a lot of over the past few days as I’ve been wrestling with these feelings is to journal. There’s no right way or wrong way to journal, just go grab a piece of paper or open up a Google doc or Evernote or whatever it is you use to write and just start writing.
It can be for a minute or 10 minutes or an hour if you’ve got a lot to say.
You can just free flow, you can go find a structured journal prompt and just get it out.
I know for me it’s really helpful to take all these thoughts and feelings that are rattling around in my head and get them out of my head and onto paper so I don’t have to be carrying them around with me. The process of journaling helps me get some clarity on what it is that I’m thinking and what it is that I’m feeling, what it is that I’m wanting.
I grew up Evangelical Christian, and meditating was not something that I ever heard about. Or if I did, it was something that other people did far away.
Over the past 10 years or so I’ve been getting into a practice of mediation. Sometimes daily and sometimes very infrequently. But it’s been helpful for me and my life overall and in my relationships in particular and in dealing with uncomfortable feelings, even more specifically than that.
I find that having this sort of like formal structure of meditating can sometimes be easier to slip into than just sort of this general idea of sitting still or breathing. Which if meditation is not your thing, sitting still and breathing like I suggested in the first step is still totally helpful. But having a formal structure can be helpful.
It can also be helpful to practice meditating when things are not totally a mess. That way when life starts to fall apart you have the practice of doing that to fall back on.
If you haven’t meditated before, here are some of the books, articles, and resources that helped me get started:
- Insight Timer
- Ruling Your World by Sakyong Mipham
- The Wisdom of No Escape, When Things Fall Apart, and The Places That Scare You by Pema Chödrön
But it can be simple as just sitting down, closing your eyes, counting your breath in and your breath out up to seven or up to 10 and then just starting over for 30 seconds, or for a minute, or three minutes, or 10 minutes. I usually do between five and 12 minutes.
Move your body
The other day when I was really in the depths of it, those feelings, after I sat and meditated and after I journaled for a little bit, I then went and played tennis. And so that’s my next tip for you is to just move your body in some way. That could be a specific exercise like lifting weights or going for a run or even jumping ropes. It could be playing a sport like tennis, soccer, basketball, any sport that you enjoy.
It could be dancing, either a formal dance class or just blasting some music in your living room and dancing around can get your body moving, your heart pumping, the act of dancing can sort of take you outside of whatever it is you’re feeling for a little bit, but also help you connect to yourself in a really powerful way.
You can also just go for a walk. It doesn’t have to be this big event to move your body. Just go for a walk around the block or to the end of the driveway, just a short walk to get outside and get moving.
You could even do yoga or just some simple stretching to again get your body moving.
I find that moving your body helps you not turn off your feelings, but engage them in a different way.
Take a bath
This tip is total cliché self care, and that’s to just take a bath. I don’t often do this, it’s not one of my go-to’s and so if it doesn’t resonate with you, set it aside. But maybe this will be at the top of your list. Fill up a bath, maybe you got some bubbles, maybe you got some essential oils, maybe you light a candle, maybe you don’t. Maybe you have a glass of wine in there also. But the hot water and the relaxing can just help you mellow out when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed with feelings.
Read a Book or Watch TV
My last tip is last on the list because I think you should actually do it last after you’ve gone through one or two or more of these suggestions. It’s to read a book or watch a movie or a TV show.
I don’t start with this because it can be easy to use TV or movies in particular, sometimes even books, as a sort of a way to escape your feelings, not think about them, turn on the TV, your eyes zoom in and you just sort of zone out. And we don’t wanna be running away from our feelings, but sometimes you sat and you breathed for a little bit, you’ve done some intentional thinking, maybe you’ve journaled or you’ve meditated or you exercised and still those thoughts are rattling around in your head and you’re like I’ve thought all that I can think about this today, then maybe it’s time to pick up a book or turn on the TV and just sort of check out for a second.
It is okay to not constantly be consumed by your feelings all the times.
So if you’ve done all the processing you can do for the day or the morning or the evening, it is okay to turn to a bit of entertainment to unwind and find relief from those racing thoughts.
You’ll notice that I didn’t include talk to the person who’s making you feel bad on this list. Or even talk to a trusted friend. And that was on purpose. Our culture teaches us that it’s other people who make us feel bad and it’s other people who are responsible for making us feel better. But we can’t really control other people, and so I’m trying to focus on the one person I can control, which is myself. Now sometimes someone else really does hurt us, like if someone hits you they are in fact to blame. And that is true in other circumstances as well. There really might be someone who is in fact contributing to the uncomfortable feelings that you’re feeling, and talking to them might be an important part of your process. I know that for me it is, but first I wanna get really clear on how I’m feeling, what all the parts are that contribute to it, what my part was, what their part was, how it all fits together, what’s in my head, what’s reality. And I can’t do that if I jump right into talking to them first.
I also don’t put talk to other people on this list for similar reasons. You know if I talk to a friend, it’s only natural that they’re going to want to support me and have my back and take my side on things, and that might lead them to encourage or exaggerate any of the feelings that I might be feeling or even sort of bring their own ideas of how I should be feeling into the mix. And so before I get their perspective on things, I wanna get really clear on how it is I am actually feeling in myself, by myself.
Now it can be super helpful to have an outside perspective sort of reality checking for me to say to me, no that did in fact happen, or that’s a normal response, or you’re not making this up, right? That can be super critical, but I wanna start with myself first before moving on to talking to other people and then eventually to the person who I’m having these feelings about. Definitely talking with others is a part of the process but in the very beginning I think it’s important to do work on myself.
What about you? When you’re facing uncomfortable feelings, how do you cope? Hop on over to the YouTube video and let’s talk about it in the comments! I will see you down there.
And if you want to stay connected, head on over to briangerald.com/hello to drop a line, let me know what’s going on with you. You can also let me know if you want me to send you emails when new videos and articles come out (and other just-for-email-folks messages). Or just say hi.