4 steps for breaking free of tough emotions


For the past 2 weeks, I have been struggling with some tough emotions. Ups and downs, anger, resentment, tears, temptation to give up, stress (lots of it), and just plain ugly feelings.

A friend of mine in Korea, emailed me last year and said something along these lines..

“I know you are a life coach, and I would assume people always think you are doing super well, coz you are always so positive, plus I suppose its your job to be. But, how are you really doing?”

This made me laugh at the time, as I guess, from the outside, maybe I do appear constantly positive. What I really took from her question though was, “Am I really naturally THIS positive or is this just my job?”. At the time, it was so easy to reply with a resounding ‘I choose it, and I love it’. But these past two weeks have challenged that thinking.

It’s easy to be positive when things are going ok. Not great, but even ok can be quickly turned towards the positive. But truth is, life isn’t always pastel coloured and filled with sunshine & fuzzy feelings.

Sometimes life is just plain hard. And that sux.

But life in all its hardness is never not worth fighting for. So does one merely need to reach a point where you jump back into the drivers seat of your life, slowly uncurl the legs from under you, wipe those eyes clean and choose happy??

Gracious I hope not…

4 steps for breaking free of difficult emotions

1. Acknowledge

One of the common links between most people suffering from depression is a lack of acknowledgement early on. Many of us feel the social pressure to keep smiling, suppress feelings and just ‘get on with life’; the problem with this, is that difficult emotions suppressed for too long, often surface later in the form of addictions.You can avoid this through acknowledgement.

One thing I have learnt to do is to name my feeling; avoiding the usual ‘sad’, ‘happy’ or ‘fine’. A mere acknowledging of the emotion you are feeling, gives your brain permission to be feeling this emotion & thus speeds up the process for this feeling to pass. (And feelings do pass, my friend, even without practising avoidance)

2. Acceptance

To accept an emotion for what it is, is to love oneself. It’s ok to feel what you feel. You are not strange, too sensitive, too serious, too up & down. You are doing just fine. Don’t fight the feeling that is surfacing within you. Practice step 1, then take 5 slow deep breaths, and ask yourself: “What would be most beneficial for me to be doing right now?”.

This will look different for all us. For some, dealing with frustration means hitting a pillow, for another a long run, and for another a good cry. But these actions won’t be applicable to every difficult emotion you feel. Learn to deal with the emotion presented and stop categorising them as ‘all the same’. Anger feels different to sadness and the way we deal with that should look different too. Trust your instincts here, you have all the tools you need.

3. Gratitude

What I love most about practicing gratitude is that it seems to wipe clean the glass through which we see the world. Naming 5 things I’m grateful for (or even 10), is a quick way to turn my focus off the negative and onto all that is good in my life.

4. Giving makes us happy

There is something beautiful in giving. I recently did a University short-course on the ‘Science of Happiness’ and read that in a 2008 study by Harvard Business School, professor Michael Norton found that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more that spending it on themselves (despite participants’ prediction that spending on themselves would make them happier). Worth a try, right 🙂

I’m not going to pretend that by doing these 4 steps, you will suddenly start loving life again, but I can promise you (trust me on this one) that taking these steps will indeed catapult you in the right direction.

So here’s to happiness…and learning to love life, even on tough days.

xxx C


  1. Maritsa on January 23, 2015 at 10:55 am

    I struggled with a lot of heart ache this week. After I promised myself that I will NEVER ever send my kids to boarding school…well, I broke that promise. Only on request of my son though. He insisted on going to boarding school to a school that he will absolutely thrive at! On Monday I dropped him off to start his high school career away from me. I cant speak to him for 2 weeks. I felt in my heart that this was possibly the worst mistake and decision that I have ever made in my life. I struggled this whole week. I find myself crying quietly. I have closed his room door and cant get myself to go in there. I read your steps and I have decided that I will open myself to them. I must realise that I can not hold onto him forever. He IS going to thrive at the school. I am grateful that I can afford to send him to the school that makes him happy. Soon these tears will pass and I will become a stronger mom. Not today..but maybe tomorrow. Thank you.

    • caitlyndb on January 23, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      Thank you for absolute vulnerability and honesty Maritsa. What a thing to go through and well done on being so brave in letting your son pursue his dream too. Hang in there, be kind to yourself and allow your self the time to adjust. It is so normal. But at the same time yay for all that you have to be grateful for 🙂 xxxx

  2. Fern Shaw on January 23, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    This is just what I needed to read! Thank you for sharing these helpful tips! Definitely helps to start off the new year on the right note xxx

    • caitlyndb on January 25, 2015 at 6:52 am

      Yay Fern, so glad you found it helpful. Hope u having a stunning wkd xx

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