How to Express Your Emotional Pain the Healthy Way

Four Methods:Opening UpManaging Emotions PhysicallyExpressing Your Feelings through CreativityLearning to Monitor Your Feelings

Over the course of life, it is inevitable that we will feel intense and unpleasant emotions from time to time. Our loved ones will pass away, our friends and families will disappoint us, and the challenges of life will make us angry and frustrated. When those painful emotions arise, it’s important that we know how to deal with them in order to maintain our mental health and stay emotionally balanced. The following steps should help those who want to express their feelings in a more effective way.

Method 1
Opening Up

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    Find a counselor. Given the stigma surrounding mental health treatment, you may feel hesitant to seek counseling services. Don’t be. Feelings of sadness and anger are common and unavoidable, but when those feelings are negatively affecting your day-to-day life you may need a therapist to help you work through your thought processes to understand why you feel the way that you do.
    • Ask friends or family for counselor recommendations. While you may be hesitant to disclose to others that you are seeking therapy, you could find a valuable resource. You may even be able to have a great discussion about the process of going to counseling with someone whose opinion you value.
    • Search for a therapist in your area. Depending on where you live, you might have numerous options for a counselor, and you might have very few. In either case, you go find a directory of counselors in your area by visiting the website for the National Board for Certified Counselors. [1] If you'd rather find a counselor based on a personal recommendation, ask your doctor for a referral.
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    Keep an open mind. When you are experiencing intense emotions, you sometimes lose the ability to accurately see what is motivating those feelings. In these times, it’s helpful to have a trained professional to help you analyze the situation.
    • Be aware of feelings of resistant while talking to your counselor. Inevitably, there will be times when you'll feel misunderstood or as if your therapist doesn't understand why you feel so strongly about certain things. Remember that your therapist can see the situation more clearly than you can.
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    Be open with whoever is willing to help you. Don't worry about trying to make your counselor think that you're a normal, well-adjusted person. He or she can only help you if they understand how you process your emotions and think about them. Your counselor is the one person with whom you should feel comfortable saying every ugly or embarrassing thing you'd be hesitant to say to anyone else.
    • Ask questions. If, at any point, you feel confused about why you're feeling the way you do or how you should react in certain situations, ask your therapist for feedback. He or she is there to give you feedback and to help you monitor your thoughts and feelings, and asking questions will help both of you clarify what is important for your treatment.
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    Talk to a friend or family member. In some situations, such as feeling sadness over the death of a loved one, you probably have friends and family who are feeling many of the same emotions that you are.
    • Be brave. Though it might be scary to express those feelings to loved ones, it could be helpful for both you and them to acknowledge the situation. After doing so, you won’t feel quite so alone. Be careful, however: in situations where you are expressing anger toward someone, it’s possible that they’ll respond with anger, as well.
    • If that happens, don't allow your emotions to escalate. Simply take a deep breath and walk away until you can continue your conversation calmly. Getting into a screaming match isn't going to make anyone feel better.
    • Speak honestly but tactfully. Especially if you're confronting a friend or family member about something that bothers you, try to approach them with calm and humility. Say something such as, "I was wondering if we could talk. There's something I'd like to get off my chest, and I'm hoping that I can be honest with you."
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    Try to avoid confronting someone when you're already angry. That leads to conversations where you might say something such as, "You need to listen, because I'm really angry with you because of what you did." That will only make the person you're talking to defensive.
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    Remember to listen. When you're expressing strong emotions, it's easy to start talking over the other person, while never listening to what he or she is saying. You'll possibly come off as uncaring and arrogant, and you won't have the possibility of clearing up any misunderstandings because you won't hear what the other person is saying.

Method 2
Managing Emotions Physically

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    Exercise to help deal with depression. Despite the commonly held belief that people need to vent their anger to help alleviate its damaging effects, research indicates that this method is counterproductive and can actually increase anger. [2] However, exercise is very effective at relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety.[3]
    • The benefits of exercise for regulating anger are debated. Some studies suggest that because vigorous exercise actually increases physiological arousal, it may make feelings of anger worse.[4] However, slow exercises such as yoga and tai chi may help you relax and calm down.[5]
    • Studies have also shown that over the course of several weeks, exercise can increase feelings of emotional well-being and calm, especially in people who are experiencing symptoms of depressed mood.[6] Exercise is unlikely to help you in the moment, but it's good for your heart and also appears to help your emotional health in the long run.
    • Join a community league. If you like to play team sports, it could be helpful to join an adult basketball, softball, or soccer league. You'll get regular exercise, you'll get in better physical shape, and you'll make some friends that will likely become part of your social support system.
    • Try going for a relaxing walk when you feel overwhelmed. Allow yourself to be quiet with yourself. Drink in the natural beauty that surrounds you, focusing on noticing the small beautiful details that you usually miss. Breathe deeply and evenly. This will get you exercise and help you relax.
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    Develop relaxation techniques. Deep-breathing exercises, listening to calming music, and progressive muscle relaxation have all been shown to be effective for slowing heart rates and decreasing anxiety. Each technique takes some practice to master, but those who learn to use them often find them to be highly effective. [7]
    • Learn how to breathe. Practice breathing deeply from your diaphragm. Breathing shallowly from your chest won't help. Instead, imagine your breath coming up from your gut. [8]If you can master this technique, you'll find it much easier to relax yourself.
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    Learn how to meditate. The process is simple. Just sit straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your eyes closed. Think of a calming phrase, such as “I feel at peace" or "Take it easy" and say it or think it to yourself over and over, syncing your words with your breathing. Before you know it, your negative thoughts will drift away and you’ll feel more relaxed.[9][10](Note: if you are a spiritual or religious person, prayer could be a useful substitute for meditation.) [11]
    • Don't give up too soon. Meditation can be difficult, especially at first, because it takes some patience to see any results. At first, you may even feel a bit more anxious or frustrated, just because you want it to work more quickly. Take your time, and you'll reap the rewards.
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    Allow yourself to cry. Crying is viewed as a sign of weakness in some cultures, particularly for men. However, giving yourself permission to cry can provide you with a valuable outlet for your intense emotions.[12] Many people end up feeling better after they cry, especially if they are in a secure environment around loved ones.[13]

Method 3
Expressing Your Feelings through Creativity

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    Keep a journal. In this case, unless you decide to share your journal, you’re really only communicating with yourself. Even so, journaling can help you see the progression of your emotional state over time, as well as offer you possible day-to-day connections between events and feelings.[14]
    • Go to your journal instead of acting out. If you feel like you want to punch a wall, write about what is making you angry. Write about why you want to punch a wall, what it would feel like, and what it would accomplish. Journaling has been shown to help people manage feelings of anxiety and depression, while also offering an opportunity to write boldly and without fear that anyone will respond negatively. [15]
    • Take your journal to counseling sessions. If you're using your journal regularly, it will provide you with a day-by-day account of what you're feeling and experiencing. This information could be very useful in helping you explain to your therapist exactly how and why you feel the way you do.
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    Try expressing yourself through art. Studies suggest that artistic expression is a healthy, helpful way to express your emotions. For example, arts therapy can help survivors of trauma process their feelings. These methods are powerful because they remove the need to create words, allowing you access your emotions directly.[16]
    • Try painting. You can free-form your painting to express whatever it is you're feeling at the moment.[17]
    • Try music. You may find creating a piece of music, or simply playing your favorite piece on an instrument, helps you express your emotions.
    • Try photography. Photography can be very helpful because it doesn't require any special skills to get started — all you need is a camera. Try taking photos that express how you feel.
    • Try dance. Dance connects the movement of your body to your inner emotions, allowing you to express how you feel through how you move. You can try formal dance, or just move your body in ways that express yourself.
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    Consider writing about your pain. Narrative therapy views pain and trauma as a way of telling yourself stories about things that have happened in your life. In order to help you process your pain, it encourages you to explore the stories you are telling and think about them from different angles.[18] Writing a story, poem, or other creative piece to express your feelings may help you express your pain in a different way and bring you to a new understanding of it.
    • Use self-compassion when you write about your pain. Studies suggest that merely writing about your pain might make you feel worse, unless you approach it from a place of self-compassion.[19] Don't beat yourself up over your emotions or judge yourself harshly.

Method 4
Learning to Monitor Your Feelings

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    Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Many of us bury our feelings if they become too intense or embarrassing, thereby denying their presence. Doing so can prolong the healing process, simply because we fail to confront the root causes of those feelings.
    • Remember, those intense emotions, as threatening as they may seem, are only temporary. There is no shame in feeling sad or angry in certain circumstances, and denying those emotions only means you’re pushing them deeper inside where they might do more damage – both psychological and physical. Expressing your pain is the first step in making it stop. [20]
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    Identify your emotions. Instead of only feeling your emotions, force yourself to put them into words. Even if you only do this in a journal or in your own head, it helps you to clarify exactly what you’re feeling and understand it better. Identifying intense feelings can slow or attenuate emotional responses.[21]
    • Monitor your internal dialogue. People who are experiencing strong emotions tend to think in very black or white terms, such as "Everything is terrible" or "This is hopeless." Instead, try to reframe your thoughts to something less extreme, such as "This is frustrating, but I'll get through it" or "I have a right to be disappointed, but getting angry won't help anything."
    • Try to avoid terms such as "always" and "never." That kind of polarized thinking will only escalate the intensity of your negative emotions and allow you to feel justified for feeling that way.[22]
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    Avoid the situation that is making you angry. Once you've identified what tends to make you lose your temper or feel unpleasant emotions, there may be times you'll want to simply avoid that situation instead of allowing it to trigger you. If your kid's room is always such a mess that you feel rage when you see it, close the door or look the other way when you walk past.
    • Of course, this isn't a solution for all situations, as many can't and shouldn't be avoided. But in those cases where it's impossible to make any progress and the situation can be avoided, don't be afraid to do so.
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    Observe your feelings as you talk to others. For instance, if you feel yourself getting red in the face and angry when you're talking with someone, take a moment to pause to perceive what emotion you are feeling, and then put a name to it.
    • Once you’ve learned to identify your emotions, you can own them when you speak to others. For instance, try not to use words such as “You make me feel bad,” when you’re talking to others. Instead, say “I feel bad because of...” Doing so will allow your tone not to sound accusatory, and the person with whom you are talking will come to a better understanding of how you are experiencing your emotions. [23]
    • Slow down when you're expressing yourself. When you're feeling a flood of emotions, it's possible that you'll have so many thoughts that you won't be able to keep up with them. In these moments, try to slow down and take one thought at a time.Think very carefully about what you want to say and what is the right way to say it.


  • If you are thinking about suicide, get help immediately. There are many resources available that can help you think of other ways to cope with emotional pain. Call your emergency services or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
  • Be aware of the possibility that you're depressed. While feeling sadness is normal, prolonged and chronic feelings of despair and grief are not common. If you are losing weight, have no appetite, and have decreased interest in activities that you once enjoyed, you might be experiencing depression. In this case, you should contact a doctor or therapist for an evaluation.
  • Listen to sad music. Strangely enough, researchers say that listening to depressing music helps us process negative emotions and promotes healing. So don't be afraid to crank up that Adele album to help deal with your breakup. [24]


  • Don’t abuse addictive substances. Sometimes we numb ourselves with chemicals that allow us to put some space between us and our feelings. Doing so not only keeps us from actively dealing with those emotions but also might reinforce negative habits where we develop dependencies on addictive substances. Be careful not to use drugs and alcohol to cope with your pain.

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Categories: Happiness & Optimism