6 Crucial Steps To Help You Control Negative Feelings
“Being a positive person doesn’t mean you don’t feel negative feelings. It means you have faith in your ability to get through tough situations, hope for better days and the willingness to see beyond the drama.”~ Leticia Rae
Has being a clean freak ever got the better of you? If you resonate with it, you might want to read this. I love cleaning and can clean like a maniac, especially when I feel particularly low or unsettled. I guess I do it because it makes me feel good, clean, controlled, and orderly- it almost feels like I am sorting and cleaning out the negative feelings that I want to purge, cleanse, and make sense of. There is something about clearing the clutter, which is therapeutic, and that’s why it has always been my go-to or a default reaction.
Much later, I realized it also drives me to overwhelm. It is not surprising because the things we love evoke both positive and negative feelings, and when we do it in excess, it can lead to resentment and anger.
“I hold this as a rule of life: ‘Too much of anything is bad'”~ Terrence.
Even though I enjoy it, I feel unappreciated when the onus to clean is only on me or when I am cleaning after everyone. I also struggle because some people are ok with being messy while being messy makes me feel disoriented, not good enough and out of control. So how do you avoid turning the love to hate or annoyance or resentment and irritation? Here I find the ‘Law of the backward bending supply curve’ that I learnt in Economics useful. The law, in simple terms, meant when wages increase, people work more to benefit from the rise in income. But when it increases too much, people do not work more because they meet their required income level and instead want to use their time to maximise leisure.
From that law, I learnt that there is a limit to everything. Using the law in context, I realized that we do more of things as long we benefit positively from a particular task. But beyond a certain point, an excessive amount of it causes its utility to diminish, and it is essential to do other things. If we don’t, we run the risk of it going to negative feelings because the slope turns backwards. Here are the six steps I’ve found that help to correct this.
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6 crucial steps to help you control negative feelings
1. Understand where on the curve you are
It is crucial to know where on the curve we are. Are we sloping upwards and feeling positive, or is our slope bending backwards?
2. Are we doing too much of the thing we love?
If we do things in excess, we end up side-lining other things, which makes us resentful and angry. Taking the time to pause gives us a break from the situation and forces us to look at it differently.
3. What would you like to do instead?
After pausing and taking a break, it is helpful to ask yourself - What would you rather do? When we get your answer, spend time doing the other things you love.
4. Investigate what is driving tour behavior
It is important to know what is driving you to clean - Is it fear, or is it, love? Are you cleaning because you cannot bear to see the mess, disorder, and fear of it or because you love and enjoy the experience? Is there anything else at play? If fear is driving the show, it is time to introspect what are you afraid of. Many of us are afraid of what people would think of us if we were messy. We are fearful of them thinking that we are unclean, untidy, and out -of -control and hence did not want to associate with those feelings/attributes.
5. Listen to reason
The next step is to listen to reason.
When we do that, we realise that some of our fears have no basis. It is all in our head. When I started listening to reason, I realised that I do not care if people think badly of me. We can’t let other’s perception of us hold us to ransom. It is essential to live life on our terms and do the things that enriches us and makes us happy instead of letting opinions control our lives.
6. Introduce mess
If you want to dig deeper, challenge yourself by introducing small doses of ‘mess’ into your life. Try consciously to rest or maybe force yourself to not clean for a short while. Notice the thoughts and feelings that come over you. All the negative thoughts, fears, anxieties come to the surface. It’s important to feel and own them as part of your own. As a society, we have done a good job of labelling all our negative feelings and emotions. It is time to allow bits of it in our life without letting it consume us. When all those negative feelings come to the surface, doing the things you love can help you feel safe and grounded. It prevents the situation from consuming you. In such cases, I do some of the other things I love, like read, write, short walk…make yourself a priority or give yourself a break during the overwhelm to get perspective.
Most of the things we love have favourable and unfavourable feelings associated with them. The important thing is to make sure that we know the point to stop and pause and not let it overwhelm us. By being aware of our tipping point, we don’t run the risk of being excessive, obsessive, burnt out or dragged down. It is a subtle way of drawing a boundary with yourself.
Gerard Manley Hopkins said: “Your personal boundaries protects the inner core of your identity and your right to choices.”
Start doing that even to the things you love, or else it will end up sloping downwards causing all sorts of negative feelings.
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