1. Personal Transformation

How to Deal with Emotional Pain, According to 24 Experts

Emotional pain is inevitable; Regardless of the cause, it is an unpleasant feeling that is hard to deal with head-on.

Here are 24 experts and their professional advice that can guide you in dealing with emotional pain.

Table of Contents

Nate Battle

Nate Battle

Certified Health & Well-Being Coach |
Author, Battle Endurance: How You Can Be Someone Who Never Quits and Gives Everything You Have To Give

First and foremost,

  • Remember that life, like this moment or day, does not last forever.
  • In life, no one gets out alive. We all have an expiration date; we just don’t know when it is.
  • If someone hurt you, don’t take it personally. Remember that most of the time, people are not against you; they are for themselves.
  • As long as you have breath in your body, you win. Don’t quit; the opportunity still exists for things to get and be better.
  • You’re still here. You win by not quitting.
  • Be your own superhero!

Let go, live now and win

Secondly, as a powerful tool to use proactively in the pursuit of a fulfilling and meaningful impact with your life, when facing paralyzing, overwhelming and crippling adversity and pain, I use the following approach for wringing the good out of challenges and living life to the fullest. It’s called “Let go, Live now and Win!”

This approach helps put adverse events into perspective.

At best, they are temporal. It teaches us to discard negative thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that don’t serve us and begin anew at any moment we choose. Challenges help you grow, builds character, be more grateful, and live an authentic life.

Let go

  • You need to start by letting go of the things you do not control. Be it the past, people, or circumstances, you cannot change.
  • The time and effort you spend worrying over or being distracted the past, or things you can do absolutely nothing about, causes undue stress, a loss of energy and focus.

Live now

  • By that, I mean you need to live in the present moment.
  • Yesterday ended last night. The combined wealth of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos cannot buy 5 seconds of yesterday.
  • The future has not happened yet. When it occurs, it happens in the present moment. So, in reality, all you ever have in now, this very moment. You would be wise to make the most of it.
  • You need to stop trying to pre-live (what may or may not happen in the future) or relive (what happened in the past) and live now!

Win

  • You should celebrate every win along the way. The big ones, as well as the small ones.
  • By acknowledging your victories, you encourage yourself and build momentum toward achieving your goals.
  • By realizing your vision, you become the best version of yourself!
  • You can always live your spirit when you begin to list out the things you are thankful and grateful for by merely shifting your perspective to one of gratitude.

Related: Things to Be Thankful For

This approach focuses on mental wellness and is more of a mental ‘work-out’ than a physical one. When you recognize you are doing something you are not supposed to be doing and are where you are not supposed to be, you have become someone you are not.

What can/should you do about it?

Simple three-principle rule to live by

  1. In what you do, do you what you love
  2. If unable to do what you love, find something to love about what you do
  3. If unable to do either, then love yourself enough to be able to do #1 or #2

Having reached a point where my career was killing me, in the literal sense, feeling a void inside that was depressing at best, I realized that my best and the only real option was to walk away from a six-figure salary in pursuit of getting the most out of life and pursue my purpose and passion in life.

In my book, I’ve shared many stories and approaches on how to live a full, more peaceful life, even while dealing with challenges. I wrote it with the idea that readers can replace the challenges I’ve included with their own and be able to see themselves working through conflict, obstacles, and difficulties and limiting negative self-talk, one step, action, moment, and the battle at a time.

Amber Stevens, LMT, CINHC

Amber Stevens

Myofascial Release Practitioner | Integrative Nutrition Health Coach | Mindful Eating Instructor
Author, Food, Feelings, and Freedom: The End to Emotional Eating

Many people overlook the connection to food and emotional pain.

People say, “I’m eating my emotions today” as they chuckle and try to make light of a situation. But there is great truth in their statement. People often deal with emotional pain through food due to learned behaviors, coping mechanisms, and chemical messages sent to the brain. Let’s break this down a bit further.

By the age of seven, we have already learned a great deal about how to handle any situation, including strong emotions. We learned from mom that ice cream brought relief from a stressful day, and was also a great way to celebrate a happy day. We learned from dad that French fries was a whole food group when cooking dinner was too big of a demand.

We learned as teenagers to hide bags of candy in our room because candy was a loyal friend when our other friends failed us (and candy kept our secrets). We learned all of this because we watched others find relief with food and because salty, fatty, sugary foods told us to feel better.

Yes, our food talks back to us through neurotransmitters in our bodies. Sugar, salt and fat are scarce in nature, so biologically, our bodies have adapted to reward our brains with the release of happiness chemicals – dopamine and serotonin as the primary two – to say “good job! You will survive another day!” That is really the only thing our brain cares about – keeping us out of danger and alive.

So we have a sad day. Our brain goes through our “files of learned behaviors,” which it’s accumulated over the years and says, “ah-ha – pizza made us better last time, let’s order something dripping with cheese.” And we do. So our brain, in an effort to feel better and to keep us safe, picks the one item that accomplishes both – food!

But our brain has support from our gut. Our microbiome is full of billions of bacteria, who also want to thrive and survive. Specific strains of bacteria feed on specific foods. One type of bacteria loves sugar! The more you feed that bacteria by eating sugary foods and simple carbohydrates, the more that bacteria grows, and the louder its voice becomes in your mind. When you are having an emotional day, you hear that voice speaking, “sugar will make it better.”

All of this happens subconsciously, of course. Now the sugar from fruit will give you the same dopamine response, but you don’t grab an apple; you grab a soda because that is the behavior you learned long ago.

This is a very simplified summary of what is happening. Here are some simple things to help deal with your emotions:

Eat more fruits and vegetables

Certain strains of bacteria love fiber! The more fibrous foods you eat, the more that bacteria grows, and the louder that “eat fiber” voice becomes in your mind. In this way, your gut bacteria can be your best friend.

Eat protein with your produce

The amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine convert into dopamine, but they need certain vitamins and minerals to do this successfully. Whole foods equal to happy brain!

Pause before you eat and practice mindfulness

Ask yourself, “am I really hungry, or am I eating my feelings?” If it is not hunger, practice “surfing the urge.” Sit with your food craving, allowing the urge to eat to rise, then crash over and fade away. By surfing the urge, you can learn valuable insight into your emotions and what drives your food choices. Surfing the urge also keeps you from instantly grabbing nutrient-void foods, furthering the cycle of emotional pain.

Get plenty of sleep

A lack of sleep makes you more prone to more frequent and intense negative feelings, or emotional pain and compromises your ability to regulate your emotions. For most of us, 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep is ideal.

Get your vitamin D

Our brain has vitamin D receptors, which are linked to our emotional wellbeing. Research shows that people with low vitamin D levels are 11 times more likely to be depressed! Serotonin, a happiness chemical, requires vitamin D for activation in the brain.

Stay hydrated

A body water loss of just 1-2% can impair cognitive performance and overall mood. A hydrated brain, however, can elevate happiness, alertness, and memory and have an ability to make calm decisions in how to handle emotion.

Move your body

Movement is linked to every function in our body and is critical to overall health and a balanced mood. Numerous studies support the movement as a means of improving mood and enhancing feelings of wellbeing. Any movement will do—dance, walk, clean the house—just get moving!

Lastly, breathe

Deep, diaphragmatic breathing shuts down the “coping” brain and charges the “calming” brain so you can better regulate your emotions and ease emotional pain. If you love breathing, try meditating. Meditation makes room for positive thoughts to come forward, where negative thoughts once dominated. Often easing emotional pain is simply having the ability to just sit with the emotion, let it be, and send love its way!

In summary, easing emotional pain begins with stillness.

Choosing a method that calms your body and brain, then making choices to nourish your body and mind and giving yourself permission to love you!

Megan E. Johnson, Ph.D.

Megan E. Johnson

Licensed Psychologist, Quincee Gideon Psychologists

Reassess

First and foremost, we must understand that emotions are neither good nor bad. They are not right or wrong. They just are. Whether it is anger, sadness, guilt, frustration, or anxiety—having an emotion simply means that you are human.

Begin to accept your emotions as part of your humanity and refrain from judging the emotions that come up for you. Rather than assigning a label of “good” or “bad” to your emotions, it can be more helpful to think of them as pleasant or unpleasant.

Take the feeling of grief, for example. Most people would say that grief is an unpleasant emotion. But it is not a bad emotion. In fact, it would be abnormal if you didn’t feel grief, particularly in sad situations.

Similarly, grief is not a wrong emotion. It simply means that you cared deeply about something or someone that is now lost.

Listen

Once we stop judging our emotions as good or bad, the next task is to begin listening to what those emotions are trying to tell us.

Emotions are subjective, internal states that represent a response to our internal and/or external experiences. Emotions are the body’s way of communicating something to us. They are simply data points.

For example, if you are experiencing anxiety, that is your body telling you that there is potential danger ahead. If you are about to jump off a cliff, you will feel anxious because your body is sending warning signals that this activity could hurt you.

However, when we feel anxiety in our everyday lives, the danger is rarely physical. Sometimes we feel anxious in relationships because we perceive the possibility of being rejected or disappointed. We may feel anxiety at work or school in response to our awareness of the potential for failure or negative evaluation.

While most humans feel a similar range of emotions, we all feel them in response to different triggers, so it is important to listen to the messages that your feelings might be telling you. Emotions are our guide to ourselves, and if we use them to our advantage, they can help us make sense of our experiences.

Own your experience

Along the same lines of listening to, rather than judging, our emotions, we must also own the feelings we have. Oftentimes when people experience unpleasant emotions, the knee-jerk reaction is to stifle them in some way. This can come in the form of ignoring, suppressing, or numbing out emotions.

Common ways in which people attempt to avoid their feelings include masking them with humor, distracting themselves with shopping, TV, or hobbies, isolating from others, or consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. But when we silence our emotions, we are not authentic and honest, and we run the risk of missing out on the message our emotions are trying to communicate to us.

It is essential that you own your emotions by labeling and accepting whatever it is you are experiencing.

Keep a journal

One way to acknowledge your emotions is to keep a journal. Your journal does not have to contain lengthy or profound entries, but it may be something as simple as identifying your emotion and describing what it feels like in your body.

If you find that you lack words to describe your emotions, check out Dr. Gloria Wilcox’s Feeling Wheel. Identifying and tracking your emotions can also help you to listen to what they might be telling you as you begin to notice patterns emerging over the weeks and months.

Soothe

Although it is psychologically healthy to accept and listen to our emotions, the things we feel internally can often cause us to behave in unkind ways.

For example, it is reasonable that you feel angry during an argument with your partner, and it is important to understand what your emotional arousal is telling you about your relationship with him or her. But, if these feelings cause you to lash out, an intervention to regulate your response should be used.

Some practical tips for regulating your response to unpleasant emotions include:

Mindful breathing

Research has shown that mindfulness practices and the breathing exercises they contain can actually have a physiological effect on your body that calms you down.

There are many patterns of breathing that have been suggested to help ease the mind, but the easiest way to engage in mindful breathing is to take ten slow, deep breaths in which your out-breath is longer than your in-breath.

Don’t respond right away

No feeling is permanent, and whatever intense emotion you are experiencing will eventually subside. Make the conscious decision not to write that email or send that text or say those words until your emotional experience has settled down.

Find outlets to help you cope

Increasing your pleasant emotions can help you keep your more unpleasant emotions at bay. If you are feeling particularly emotional, try out various coping mechanisms.

This may include exercise, meditation, or proper nutrition; but it can also include integrating life’s simple pleasures such as listening to your favorite song or podcast, picking up your favorite coffee drink on your way to work, going for a walk outside on your lunch break, putting on your most comfortable pair of yoga pants, or treating yourself to your favorite meal or TV show at the end of a long day.

Reach out for help

When your emotions begin to get in the way of you living the life you desire, it may be time to reach out to a therapist. If you find that your unpleasant emotions are too overwhelming to cope with on your own or you need help making sense of the messages your feelings could be trying to communicate, therapy can help you.

Lynell Ross

Lynell Ross

Founder and Managing Editor, Zivadream | Certified Health and Wellness Coach | Behavior Change Specialist

Emotional pain is caused by our thoughts, which can manifest as physical pain in the body, as well as heartache and a feeling of pain in the head that causes stress, anxiety, and sadness.

Face what’s causing you pain

The first way to deal with emotional pain is to face what is happening in your life that is causing the pain, without running away from it. Many of us try to numb our pain by distracting ourselves with everything from overworking and overeating to numbing our pain with alcohol, spending money, or abusing medications or drugs. This only prolongs the pain and makes things worse.

It takes courage to feel your pain and examine what is hurting you, yet the outcome is well worth it. It is often said that we need to feel our feelings and deal with them so we can heal them.

Go within and meditate on the physical pain

When emotional pain causes physical pain, the accepted method to help ease and release the pain is by going within, meditating on the physical pain, and feeling the sensation. As you feel the pain, it often disappears. This type of energy healing is becoming more well known.

Practice tapping

Another way to deal with emotional pain is to practice the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), otherwise known as tapping.

All three of these methods work rapidly to help ease a person’s pain. Depending on the severity of the problem and if the person is dealing with severe trauma, I would recommend seeing a therapist or trained coach skilled in these techniques to help facilitate the healing.

In many cases, a person can’t see past their own underlying beliefs, so having an objective and trained professional can help them unlock buried feelings in a safe environment.

Lucile Hernandez Rodriguez

Lucile Hernandez Rodriguez

Registered Yoga Teacher and Mindfulness Coach

Emotional pain is a normal part of life, whether you are coping with the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or a romantic relationship, or anything else, you are not alone.

There are a few easy steps you can take to deal with emotional pain right now:

Feel your feelings, but don’t dwell in them

It is so important that you acknowledge your feelings and do not repress them. It is ok to feel whatever emotional pain you are feeling, and chances are others have felt the same way before. Although being aware of your feelings is healthy, it is not a reason to dwell in them! Recognize them for what they are and take action to process them better.

Create your emotional first aid kit

Include few activities that are guaranteed to make you feel good. Whether it’s talking with a loved one, cooking or going for this tough boxing class you’ve always wanted to try, pick something you know you will enjoy and blow off some steam. One of my personal favorites is physical activity, as it releases endorphins and has a positive impact on sleep.

Deal with these feelings for the long run with a few mindful practices

Put in place the right habits to actually process your emotional pain and don’t wait for it to go away on its own. The first one to try is journaling, try writing for 10 minutes every morning when you wake up, it is when your guard is usually down, and you’ll be able to uncover some ways you are potentially repressing your feelings.

The other one I love is practicing mindfulness in common activities, which means being aware of your thoughts in your everyday life. Notice how some activities make you feel. Are some bringing out more emotional pain than others? What is making you feel better? Being aware of this is the first step towards dealing with emotional pain.

Charlene Walters, MBA, PhD

Charlene Walters

Writer and Speaker | Business & Branding Mentor | Author, Own Your Other

We all experience emotional pain from time to time. Although it’s not pleasant, here are a few steps that you can take to help you deal with it.

Take the time to truly feel and process your pain

It’s tough to go through an emotionally challenging situation, but it’s something that everyone experiences at one point or another in life. It’s best to give yourself the time necessary to grieve, own the pain, and process your emotions. Cry, rest, and do whatever is needed to absorb the experience fully.

Take a look at the situation objectively

Once you’ve had time to grieve, take a look at the situation objectively. If the emotional pain was caused by another person, try to see things from their perspective and not take it personally. Why did they do what they did? Does it make sense from their point of view? Put yourself in their shoes.

If the emotional pain is due to the loss of a loved one, think about the good experiences that you had with him/her and how they enhanced your life while they were in it. Focusing on the positive will soothe your spirit.

Find the lesson in it for you

There is always a lesson in pain. It’s your job to find it and identify what you can learn from it. Pain has the ability to transform us into a stronger, more beautiful versions of ourselves. How can this experience help you moving forward?

Do something to improve your mood

Get some fresh air, exercise or plan a fun outing or trip. Embark on an activity that will lift your spirits; life is meant to be enjoyed. You’ve done your grief work, dealt with the pain, and now it’s time to seek some joy. It’s everywhere, all around us. Grab your personal slice of happiness and keep moving forward with renewed enthusiasm.

Tracy Schlepphorst, M.Ed.

Tracy Schlepphorst

Author and Founder, Emotion Belly Books

I have lived in the wake of emotional pain my whole life.

My father died from cancer when I was six years old. He left behind a wife that was the typical all-American housewife from the standards of 1971. She was a wonderful wife and mother, but she didn’t have a college degree, little work experience, and she didn’t even know how to drive a car. My 10-year-old sister, my 15-year-old brother, and my 19-year-old sister were also left fatherless.

As I recall, we were an emotional wreck of a family. Being as young as I was, people tried to protect me and assumed that death shouldn’t be talked about in front of me. There were not many pictures or stories those first several years.

As I entered into my adolescence, I had a huge dose of emotional pain on a daily basis that I was unable to process. After all, I didn’t even consider the fact that this could be connected to the loss of my dad.

I was lucky enough to have Janet cross my path at the age of 14. I babysat for her son, but she became a second mother to me. She could handle and talk about hard things. She asked me questions about my dad, wanted to see pictures, and asked me how I felt. This was all new to me, and I ate it up like crazy.

You see, up until Janet, I thought you were just not supposed to talk about hard things.

Fast forward to 2011. My brother died by suicide. They say huge losses in adulthood can bring up old pain from the past. I remember thinking in those dark days following his death, “I will never feel happiness the same way again!” A year after my brother’s death, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two years after her diagnosis, my other sister was diagnosed with lung cancer. They died three weeks apart over the holiday season of 2015.

Many people have asked me how I have navigated such painful experiences. My answer?

“Your Happy can never leave you; it just gets buried under your other emotions.”

I have come to understand that when I am overtaken by painful memories and the yearning for so many people that I loved and lost, that I need to let those emotions come, because they will come, and they will go. I don’t bury my sad behind a smile. I give myself emotional sick days to feel what I need to feel. I watch sad movies and cry my eyes out.

Eventually, I can get up off the couch and go on with my day.

I write books for children to help them understand how important it is to feel all of your emotions, even the hard ones. I have learned to deal with emotional pain by sharing my story with others and being open to feelings as they come and go.

Dr. Margaret Paul

Margaret Paul

Bestselling Author | Relationship Expert | Co-Creator, Inner Bonding

There are two kinds of emotional pain: the pain caused by you, and the pain caused by life—others, circumstances, and situations.

Be kind and compassionate with yourself

With the pain caused by life, such as loneliness, heartbreak, grief, and helplessness over others, put your hands on your heart, which stimulates oxytocin, and be very kind and compassionate with yourself. Stay with the pain as you would stay with a small child, holding yourself or reaching out for holding from a loving person. Stay with the pain until you feel it moving through you and then be willing to release it to the universe.

With big losses, you need to do this over and over, every time the pain comes up, allowing yourself to cry as long as you need to. Learning to access a spiritual source of love, compassion, and comfort is essential in managing big pain.

Learn what the pain is telling you

With the pain caused by you, such as anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger, aloneness, emptiness, or jealousy, you need to learn what the pain is telling you. What are you telling yourself, and how are you treating yourself that is causing this pain?

Are you judging yourself, ignoring your feelings, turning to addictions to avoid responsibility for your feelings, or making others responsible for your pain? In other words, are you abandoning yourself rather than taking loving care of yourself?

Are the anxiety and depression physically-based, such as eating too much sugar and processed carbs, which cause an imbalance in your gut, resulting in toxicity that can go to your brain and cause these feelings?

All feelings have vital information for us, and by opening to learning about what they are telling you, you can start to heal your false beliefs and self-abandoning behavior that is causing so much of your pain.

Lindsey Pearson

Lindsey Pearson

Mindfulness Coach | CEO & Founder, Do You Mind Fully

One of the skills we look to cultivate in mindfulness is the ability to navigate challenging emotions. Here are some mindfulness-based coping suggestions: I have created the acronym ALLOK.

Acknowledge

First, as many wisdom traditions and recovery models suggest, is acknowledging the pain exists. Admitting there is a problem sounds basic, but so many of us avoid this simple step because we are afraid of what will happen if we do (ex: that it will be too much to bear, we will fall apart, that it means something is wrong with us). But to avoid the pain only works temporarily.

Language

Once we are open to acknowledging this pain is occurring, we can use language to support us. Try saying, “There is a pain here,” “there is suffering here,” or “I am feeling really anxious” instead of “I am suffering, I am hurt.” The former conveys the transitory nature of the experience. It is here, but it can go. To say “I am anxious” is to self identify with the pain, with no end date.

Learn

Is there information here? Is there learning here? No need to rush to silver linings, but pain can often be a point of growth or discernment. Asking oneself if there is something to learn from this situation may offer insight and perhaps a bit more ease about the outcome.

Offer kindness

Can we meet this experience with kindness and compassion? Often a painful emotion comes up, and we judge it for even existing. (Ex: “Why do I still feel like this? Can’t I just move on? I am such a burden”) Most of us would never speak to a friend or even a stranger the way we speak to ourselves.

So we can reframe the narrative to something softer “I am going through a challenging time, but I am doing the best I can” or “It’s ok to feel this way,” “This isn’t what I wanted, but I am equipped to handle this.” Offering kindness may feel odd, but no one shames themselves into feeling better.

Sherianna Boyle

Sherianna Boyle

Adjunct Psychology Professor | Author, Emotional Detox for Anxiety

Here is the thing I have learned: emotions do not cause pain; holding them back does.

You see, your emotions, when allowed to be fully digested in your body (similar) to food, can feed you nutrients. Only instead of vitamins and minerals, your emotions feed you with energy. This increase in energy soothes and heals your emotional pain.

I know because I have been there. You might not realize it now, but what is happening to you can be a tremendous resource for healing, but only when you choose to feel it. Keep in mind that feeling your emotions is not the same thing as talking or thinking about them.

Give yourself more space for feeling

To begin the process consider giving yourself more space for feeling — small moments where you can sit quietly, breathing and observing the world around you. Allow your emotions to rise with every breath you take without needing to judge or criticize them. Simply soften your muscles, relax your jaw, and allow your breathing to alleviate your stress. Permit your emotions to show up as is and trust they will be your greatest resource for healing.

Yocheved Golani

Yocheved Golani

Editor, eCounseling

Share the emotional pain with friends

Sharing emotional pain with friends is a time-honored way to sort out upsetting, confusing, and saddening thoughts. The feedback that friends can give includes respect for your sensitivities, and words likely to help you to understand the issues in a soothing way.

Therapists can do that for clients, too, and that’s why they’re sometimes referred to as “paid friends.” Friends and therapists can help you to figure out what to do about your emotional pain, too. But there’s something important that must happen no matter whom you speak with.

Recognize and admit you’re in pain

Recognizing and admitting that you’re in emotional pain is necessary in order to recover from it. Only by facing the reality that you’re experiencing inner agony can you hope to minimize or to end the emotional pain. Denial isn’t going to end it or the confusion that emotional pain can cause. Worse, you’ll have trouble dealing with life overall while your emotional pain continues and probably worsens.

Going forward will seem impossible if you don’t face your inner pain, and it will be. You can’t create a new future as long as your state of being is bound by the past. Admitting to the problem and wrestling with the issues that led to it is necessary so that you can release yourself from the mindset that imprisons you. Once you do, life becomes fun again.

Do things to distract yourself

While you’re making progress at dealing with emotional pain, do things to distract yourself from it while soothing your psyche. Do things that make people happy: Play with pets, do volunteer activities to improve the quality of someone else’s life, listen to appealing music, enjoy time in natural settings such as parks, beaches, gardens, read books that cheer you up, and so on.

You can even practice having an attitude of gratitude for whatever is going right in your life. Feeling grateful tends to lower emotional pain. It lets you focus on pleasing realities instead of misery alone. Be sure to eat whole foods, too. Good nutrition can do a lot to improve moods and outlooks.

Many vitamins and minerals nourish mental health. Go to bed at sensible times so that you can spend 7-8 hours resting, strengthening the mind and body. Too little sleep messes up human chemistry, including mental health chemistry.

Spend some time alone

It’s okay to spend some time alone, thinking about the emotional pain that you’re suffering. Goal-oriented thinking can be helpful, but only if it is indeed goal-oriented and not simple brooding over your unhappiness. Thinking to yourself can help you to gain insight and to figure out solutions to specific problems.

Temporary medication

If talking with trusted confidantes and doing things to soothe your psyche doesn’t lower or end your emotional pain, you might benefit from temporary medication prescribed by a medical health professional. Speak with a licensed therapist about that, and specify that you don’t want to take the medication forever, but only as a temporary measure to empower your recovery from unhappiness.

Caitlin Fisher

Caitlin Fisher

Author, The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation: How to Succeed in a Society
That Blames You for Everything Gone Wrong

As a motivational writer and speaker, I am no stranger to people asking me how to get through life’s painful periods. Whether you’re dealing with grief, rejection, a breakup, mental illness, or general stress, emotional pain can be just as debilitating as physical pain.

Let yourself take it just as seriously.

When you catch yourself thinking thoughts like, “I should be able to just get over this,” imagine that your emotional pain is a broken leg. You can’t just walk it off. It needs attention.

What would you do for a broken leg? See a doctor, get it set in a cast, rest it, and take care not to re-injure it. The same thinking applies to your emotional pain and mental health.

See a professional if you can

A good therapist can help you organize your out of control thoughts and see a way through the chaos and fog of negative situations. If you’re prone to panic attacks or you have past trauma, specialists can help you deal with chronic and acute mental health issues.

Not everyone has access to affordable mental health coverage, so look into local universities with a counseling program that may offer free or discounted sessions for student counselors to get practice hours, or other sliding scale services.

Take a rest

Once you’ve identified where the pain is coming from, see what you can do to rest. I took time off being in relationships after a series of breakups showed me that I needed some time to work on boundaries and my self worth instead of getting it from my relationships to my own detriment.

Sometimes, rest looks like withdrawal, and that’s okay as long as you’re not completely isolating yourself from positive aspects of your life.

Give it time

Whether it’s a broken bone or a broken heart, it takes time to work through emotional pain and trauma. Let go of the idea that you’ll be exactly like you were before the pain. Trauma changes us, and that’s okay. You’ll get to know the new version of yourself, who is just as worthy and deserving of healthy love as you were before.

Karen R. Koenig

Karen R. Koenig

Licensed Psychotherapist | Motivational Speaker |
Author, Outsmarting Overeating: Boost Your Life Skills, End Your Food Problems

There are two types of dealing with emotional pain: constructive and destructive. We need to distinguish them and respond appropriately.

Understand the purpose of emotions

To consider what to do with emotional pain, we first need to understand the purpose of emotions, which are meant to give us information about surviving and thriving in the world.

Emotional discomfort in its myriad forms can alert us to whether something or someone will bring us pleasure or pain. Feelings are strong and keep returning because they want to make a point—pay attention here.

However, not all emotional discomfort is a valid warning against pain or threat.

Some of it is from old events that are stored in memory. This kind of pain gets triggered when we encounter a situation that is similar to a memory of a threat and is your amygdala’s way of warning you to be careful.

There’s a difference between constructive discomfort, which helps you sit with anxiety and longing when you want to call an old lover who you know isn’t good for you and destructive comfort when you call them. They’re abusive to you on the phone just as they used to be when you were dating.

Ask yourself

As soon as you feel emotional discomfort, ask yourself: Is the feeling justified or mere habit because you’re experiencing a challenge? Is the feeling giving you crucial information that will help you survive and thrive? Or are you experiencing recall from a similar situation long ago rather than being in reality? If you sit with the feeling, will it go away?

If you decide that you’re experiencing constructive discomfort, which will better your life, all well and good. Find ways to manage it. But if that discomfort will be destructive to your well-being and is about “old stuff,” you’ll need to manage it effectively to thrive.

Michele Lefler

Michele Lefler

Conscious Lifestyle Designer | Owner, Living Moon Meditation

There are many different types of emotional pain and various ways to deal with that pain, depending on what caused the pain. However, there are also some responses to pain that are universal, meaning they are effective strategies no matter what type of emotional pain you are suffering or what the cause is.

Keep a gratitude journal

The number one thing I tell my clients is to keep a gratitude journal. Taking five to ten minutes each day to jot down the things you are thankful for focuses your brain on the things that make you feel good. When you focus on the positive, feel-good things in life, your mind has less time to dwell on the painful things.

Meditate

I also recommend meditation for working with emotional pain. It can be rather difficult to focus when you’re working through the pain, so I generally advise that those meditating to work through pain do so with a guided meditation.

If you have a trusted meditation teacher, I recommend that route. But, if you prefer privacy, or don’t work with a teacher, there are plenty of guided meditations available online.

Repeating affirmations

Affirmations are also an effective way to work through emotional pain. Repeating affirmations like a mantra can help focus the mind on more positive things. I tend to have my students craft their on affirmations whenever possible to help with dealing through whatever pain point they are dealing with.

When creating an affirmation, keep it positive and easy enough to remember. You want to repeat it exactly the same way every time. But, the most important part of an affirmation is that it be positive and in the present tense. Instead of “I don’t want to live in poverty” or “I won’t be in debt,” a better affirmation would be “I am living a life of financial ease and abundance.”

Our words are powerful, and we tend to create what we speak. When we phrase things in the negative, we tend to call the negative into our lives. The same goes for speaking in the future tense. If you state an affirmation in the future, you are calling the constant desire and struggle to attain into your life.

Keep affirmations positive and present tense, and your life will come into alignment with the words you speak.

Jared Heathman, MD

Jared Heathman

Board Certified Physician, Your Family Psychiatrist

Emotional pain and high-stress situations activate the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, which produces the “fight or flight response.” This response shunts blood to skeletal muscles, increases heart rate, and dilates lungs. All of these bodily changes are also ideal for promoting effective exercise.

There are two ways to reduce stress or emotional pain and activate the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. The parasympathetic branch is the “rest and digest response.”

Participate in relaxation techniques

The first way to reduce the sympathetic response is by participating in relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and visualization techniques.

Participate in healthy exercise

A second option is to harness the benefits of the sympathetic nervous system by participating in healthy exercise. This can include jogging, yoga, weight lifting, and sexual activity. After expending significant amounts of energy, the body knows to upregulate the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system to rest and promote the accumulation of more energy to handle future stressors.

Meet with a licensed counselor

To prevent future emotional pain responses, it is recommended to meet with a licensed counselor to work on strategies to treat the cause of the emotional pain.

Rosalind Sedacca, CLC

Rosalind Sedacca

Dating & Relationship Coach, Women Dating After 40 |
Author, 99 Things Women Wish They Knew Before Dating After 40, 50 & Yes, 60!

Monitor your inner dialogue

One important step is to monitor your inner dialogue. What are you telling yourself on the inside?

When we experience emotional pain, we often feel insecure, afraid, anxious. Our self-talk often reflects that low self-esteem. We may be thinking and saying to ourselves things such as I’m a loser, I’m not worthy of love; I’m not a good person, I’m not smart, not attractive, not capable. Those beliefs keep us stuck in a mindset of depression or self-hatred.

By catching ourselves in negative self-talk, we can consciously change those beliefs to be more positive and self-fulfilling. We can negate low self-esteem statements and replace them with more supportive statements: I believe in myself, I am lovable, I am a fast learner, I do things confidently.

This process takes time to impact one’s life, but it moves us in the right direction and helps to negate the emotional pain with higher expectations and more hope for the future.

Bracha Goetz

Bracha Goetz

Author, Searching for God in the Garbage

Go down to your pure and infinite soul

Go down even deeper than the emotional pain to the level of your pure and infinite soul. Provide your soul with as much deep pleasure as possible, and your days will be so full of joy that the blockages from the emotional pain can melt away. That’s how to get your soul shining again, even if you have experienced trauma. And there is a great abundance of ways to bring in that joy.

Addictions provide temporary relief from emotional pain.

When overeating, for instance, we keep eating because we want the fleeting pleasure to last. But what we are really craving is a lasting pleasure, the kind that fills our soul. Food is designed to be pleasurable, but so is spending time in nature, stretching, exercising gratitude, learning ancient wisdom, dancing to music you love, being creative, and spreading kindness.

Related: How to Stop Thinking About Food

When we fill up our days with a variety of the abundance of things in this world that can bring us greater levels of pleasure, the emotional pain gets crowded out. And we are not distracting ourselves by adding more spiritual pleasures to our lives. Addictions, with the temporary comfort from emotional pain that they provide, are the distractions. By letting our uniquely beautiful souls shine, we are joyfully fulfilling our simple purpose here on Earth.

Cortland Jones

Cortland Jones

Author | Speaker | Empowerment Coach | Grant Writer

Emotional pain is an unpleasant feeling or suffering from a non-physical origin. Rejection, loneliness, are some of which can trigger emotional pain. Emotional pain takes time to heal. When there is no foreseeable remedy for emotional pain, its effects can take a toll on one’s well-being.

To cope with emotional pain, one can:

  • Rebuild their self-worth by focusing on their strengths
  • Fight pessimistic thoughts with logical counter-arguments
  • Forgive yourself and know it is okay to re-engage in life without holding any guilt
  • Overcome rumination, replaying and reliving negative experiences, by changing your focus onto new goals
  • Speak about your emotional concerns with people you trust or seek a professional

Richard A. Singer, Jr. MA

Richard A. Singer, Jr.

Psychotherapist |
Author, The Essential Addiction Recovery Companion: A Guidebook for the Mind, Body, and Soul

Using a mindful approach in dealing with emotional pain is, by far, the most healthy strategy.

It allows you to feel the pain and process it at the moment and have very little built up effect that you may have to deal with in the future. Many people wish to go around or escape pain; however, this leads to emotional disorders. Moreover, it still has to be dealt with some time in the future.

Enough stuffed and unresolved pain can lead to anger and rage, as well as depression and anxiety. It comes down to processing the energy of emotions in the present and allowing your being to be free and clear of destructive energy. Mindful approaches to living daily have outstanding health benefits at the moment and of course in your future which is of course only made of nows.

Rae Dylan

Rae Dylan

Interventionist | Sober Coach | Sober Companion

I think most people don’t know what emotional pain is. They aren’t really sure how to articulate what they are experiencing. We often tend to think of pain as something physical, but I think that there is no difference between emotional and physical pain. It is interpreted whichever way the brain is processing and how our body is carrying it out.

Dealing with emotional pain is a life-long practice, whether the hardships we experience in life are abuse, addiction, divorce, death, financial hardship, mental illness, or grief. Once we have an awareness that we are in pain and have suffering going on, we can start to navigate the emotional pitfalls and what we are going to do to get through it.

We all need others

Whether it be family, friend, mentor, spiritual guide, we will feel better to not be alone through it. Barbara Streisand was right, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Heather Z. Lyons, Ph.D.

Heather Z. Lyons

Licensed Psychologist | Couples Counselor | Owner, Baltimore Therapy Group

Decades of university-based research suggests that successful healing occurs when we pair insight with emotion. However, when we’re in pain, we’ll sometimes seek strictly intellectual understandings of our experience without actually feeling our pain because we fear becoming overwhelmed.

What ends up happening is that we compartmentalize emotion and understanding. When this happens, we lose control over our emotions and end up “leaking” sadness or anger at times when those feelings might feel out of place. In other words, our attempt to damn our pain can actually lead to flooding.

Therapy as an effective way

As a psychologist, I’m biased, but I believe (and research backs me up on this) that therapy is a profoundly effective way of bringing together emotion and insight as a pathway to overcoming emotional pain. A licensed therapist is trained to help patients reach manageable levels of emotional arousal while also drawing out and examining the meanings that we attach to our pain.

Katie Ziskind

Katie Ziskind

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Owner, Wisdom Within Counseling

Self-motivation, self-awareness, and self-compassion

Coping with emotional pain takes self-motivation, self-awareness, and lots of self-compassion. If you are in emotional pain, this could be related to a recent drama, big move, life adjustment, or even a recent breakup. Emotional pain needs a healthy place to go, so take a local yoga class, get into painting or take a ceramics class, or join a fitness group.

Related: What to Wear to a Yoga Class

I personally find being physically active to be very effective in channeling emotional pain into confidence and empowerment. By being around other healthy people, getting on your yoga mat, and breathing, you’ll realize that whatever you are going through can make you stronger and wiser!

Charity Collier

Charity Collier

Mindfulness and Meditation Specialist | Licensed Counselor | Founder, Meditating Together

Meditation and self-compassion

When dealing with emotional pain, meditation and self-compassion are your best friends. Meditation is a form of mindfulness. Meditation gives you permission to check on you. Honor your feelings by allowing yourself to remain present to feel them.

As you feel them, be intentional with detaching from the actual feeling, while acknowledging that you have the right to feel how you feel. Many attach themselves to the emotions, which causes the pain to become deeply rooted in the memory of your process.

Adina Mahalli

Adina Mahalli

Certified Mental Health Consultant, Enlightened Reality

Feel and move on

Everyone is different when it comes to dealing with emotional pain.

Some people like to talk it out with friends, some people like to scream and shout, and yet other people seek solitude to meditate and re-center themselves.

When dealing with emotional pain, it’s important to know that there are phases.

A person might be in denial and grief before they get to a level of acceptance. The most important thing is to let yourself feel; you don’t have to be stoic and put on a brave face. Instead, give yourself time to experience the sadness, since repressing it will only make the wounds fester.

Once you have let yourself cry, yell, etc., try to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Consider how you can still enjoy life despite this hurt that you just experienced. Lean on loved ones for support if necessary, and seek closure if you can. Remind yourself that you are strong and resilient so that you can start moving on.