I’m guessing that no one actually enjoys feeling stressed. And because we don’t want to feel it, we try to push it away, or ignore it or do something else that distracts us from feeling it, but we end up with a net negative result.
For example, we might have a deadline looming over us. The pressure mounts and we feel stressed that we are not going to be able to finish the project in time. The worry, the overwhelm, anxiousness–that’s stress. Instead of getting started or continuing to follow the steps to finish the task, we scroll on social media or do some online shopping, or reach for snacks.
None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but if they are keeping us from taking action. Our intent is to help us to not feel the stress in the moment, but we are accomplishing the very opposite. Now we feel terrible for wasting time, spending money or eating food we don’t necessarily need.
Nothing is innately wrong with feeling unwanted or negative emotions. It’s okay. We can feel nervous and still move forward with doing what’s needed to finish the task. The enjoyment you’ll feel completing your goal will far outweigh the discomfort you’ll feel from not finishing it or buffering the time away, spending money you didn’t budget for or watching the numbers on the scale go up.
Instead try to think of negative or unwanted emotions as a smoke alarm and be curious:
—Is it a signal there might be a fire somewhere?
—Is it a signal to slow down or a signal to speed up?
—Or is it a signal to take a closer look at something in your life?
In other words, try to think of unwanted emotions as useful information.
Why am I feeling this way?
What am I thinking that’s creating this emotion?
What story am I telling myself?
Is it serving me to think and feel this?
Is it even true?
Emotions are just feedback for us, useful information.
They are important messages.
They are our best teachers.