After facing a traumatic event, people often experience intense and difficult emotions. They feel tense and wound up. Even after the danger has passed, distressing emotions may continue. This can be exhausting. There are some useful techniques to use when experiencing difficult emotions, for example, deep breathing.
Watch the following videos to learn more about managing distressing emotions.
Learn controlled breathing exercise to help manage your emotions.
Most people tend to take quick, shallow breaths (or hyperventilate) when they are feeling anxious or distressed. Unless you are in a really dangerous situation, it’s probably not necessary to breathe like this as it sends a signal to the body to prepare for danger. It can really help to get some control over our breathing when we can’t directly get control over the way we feel.
- Take a normal breath in through your nose with your mouth closed.
- Breathe out slowly through your nose or mouth and very slowly say (out loud or in your head) a word like, “calm” or “relax”.
- Count to four slowly, and then take another breath.
- Practise this a few times a day, taking 15-20 breaths like this.
Learn a grounding technique to manage your anxiety.
It’s not unusual for difficult and stressful situations to make people feel ‘unreal’ or disconnected from what is going on around them. This can be a risky thing to have happen, because it makes it difficult for us to stay connected with the here and now. We may have learnt this as a way of coping with unbearable situations, but like lots of reactions, it can outlive its usefulness.
This grounding technique is about focusing on what is going on around you in the here and now.
- It can help to sit down to do this exercise – or to hold onto something solid.
- Really feel the sensation of being connected to the floor, the chair, the wall.
- Take a moment to notice three things you can feel – like the feeling of your clothes on your skin, or the sensation of your chair under your legs.
- Take a moment to notice three things you can see – like the picture on the wall, or birds eating crumbs on the ground.
- Take a moment to notice three things you can hear around you now – like the leaves rustling on trees, or laughter of children in the distance.
- Remind yourself where you are and what you are doing.