“Sorrow is one of the vibrations that prove the fact of living.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery. This blog looks at ways of coping with sadness. My recent blog looked at how, from an early age, we tend to bury our sadness. Avoiding feeling this sadness means that we can lose touch with our real self. We find all kinds of unhealthy ways to keep the sadness buried, such as addiction, avoiding getting too close to other people and really going for what we want in life. Put simply, numbing pain also means numbing joy.
Our fear about accessing sadness
The thought of uncovering our sadness, parts of which may go back many years, can be frightening for people. They ask how can they start to access the sadness without it overwhelming them. It’s really important to stress that feeling emotions doesn’t mean dwelling on them or by feeling victimised by our circumstances. To exaggerate or ruminate in our sadness or to engage in self-pity can be very destructive and maladaptive.
Emotions are like waves
On the other hand, if we let ourselves feel our real sadness about real things, the emotion can move through us like a wave, reaching its peak, then washing over us and eventually dissipating. That’s not to say all the pain will be smoothed over or gone forever, but we can learn to feel it when it arises and then continue to live our lives, feeling more vital, truthful and balanced within ourselves.
If we choose to feel our emotions – to let them move through us – we make better choices about our actions and lead a more goal-directed life. We can learn to accept that we need our pure and real feelings, because they connect us to ourselves, what we love and what we want.
Healthy ways of coping with sadness
Here are some ways to experience normal sadness in a healthy way and to allow this emotion to enrich our lives:
- Simply allow yourself to be sad. It’s normal, it’s natural. We ALL experience it. Denying such feelings may force them underground, where they can do more damage with time. Cry if you feel like it. Notice if you feel relief after the tears stop.
- Set aside some time to “wallow”. This isn’t self indulgent – plan a day or evening or just half an hour to be alone, listen to gentle, even melancholy music, and observe your thoughts and feelings. Write down your observations if this helps. Planning time to be unhappy can actually feel good and can help you ultimately move past the sadness into a happier mood. Try to uncover the context of the sad feelings. Are you sad because of a loss or an unhappy event? It’s usually not as simple as discovering the cause of the sadness, but understanding why you’re sad and exploring those feelings can help you feel better.
- Go for a walk. Sometimes some fresh air and a little quiet time can change your perspective.
- Talk to a close friend or family member. Very often just talking things through and being heard and validated can help you feel better.
- Be kind to yourself. This is no time to put yourself under any extra pressure – take things easy, if you can, have plenty of quiet down time.
- Let yourself laugh. Even when we feel sad, we can still enjoy watching a favourite comedy.
- Consider starting a gratitude journal. Focusing on the positive, even if you can only think of one thing to be grateful for per day, helps you to shift away from the negative, sad feelings.
- Does your sadness signal the need for a change in your life? Not always, but this can sometimes be the case after a relationship ends or a job finishes or if you’ve moved to a new area and are missing old friends. If you’re sad because you need to change something, think about the steps you can change to make your life more joyful.
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541
Book a counselling session today!