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Identifying What Helps You Cope with Tough Emotions

flower in hand, Roman Kraft, Unsplash

Connecting to our feelings is vital. Recently, I came across this quote from the new book The Danish Way of Parenting, which is simply spot on: “How can we know what we want when we don’t know what we feel?”

Wow. Right?

For years (yes, years), I barely tuned into my emotions. I focused on other things. I simply glossed over them. What? That? No…I ate them. I distracted myself away from them. And when I actually did identify them, I quickly brushed them aside. I felt shame. Or I did the complete opposite of what my emotions were screaming.

Of course, this is not helpful. In fact, I’ve realized that it’s disrespectful to dismiss our feelings. Even more so, it’s cruel.

Yesterday, I shared 36 prompts you can journal about to explore your emotions, to get inside them, to better understand yourself. Today, let’s talk about coping with tough emotions and soothing ourselves (after we’ve felt what we needed to feel). These are also in the same format as yesterday’s prompts.

  • These are the words my emotion needs to hear ______________. For instance, here’s a beautiful, inspiring quote from Scott StabileMy fear whispered to me, “I am just trying to protect you.” I whispered back, “I know, but I’m stronger than you think.”
  • My favorite way to soothe my exhausted, stressed out body is _____________. Maybe it’s taking a hot shower or bath. Maybe it’s listening to a guided meditation. Maybe it’s practicing a few stretches or a yoga DVD. Maybe it’s taking a nap. Maybe it’s getting a massage.
  • My favorite way to invigorate or rejuvenate my mind and body is ____________. Maybe it’s through taking a walk or a strength training class. Maybe it’s through swimming or swinging your hips. Maybe it’s through playing a sport or gardening.
  • This _________ usually makes me laugh. A lot.
  • This is the kindest thing I can say to myself right now ____________. If it helps, think of what you’d say to comfort a loved one or child.
  • I can always talk to this person ____________ whenever I’m feeling lonely, ashamed, sad. If you don’t have someone you really trust, that’s OK. Consider working with a therapist or coach.
  • I can channel my emotion into this creative project ____________. For instance, maybe you create a painting that illustrates your sadness or anger. Maybe you create a collage filled with images that comfort you. Maybe you pen a poem. Maybe you spin a story with sadness as the main character. Maybe you let the landscape convey sadness. As Natalie Goldberg writes in Writing Down the Bones, Writing “is an opportunity to take the emotions we have felt many times and give them light, color, and a story. We can transform anger into steaming red tulips and sorrow into an old alley full of squirrels in the half light of November.”
  • Picturing this place, person or thing puts a smile on my face ___________________.
  • If the emotion is connected to a situation I can do something about, this is how I’ll focus on my part __________. Since we can’t control what others do, what is your role in solving the situation? How might you meet your needs in this situation? What can you do to support yourself?
  • Smelling this __________ calms me.
  • Hearing this __________ calms me.
  • Touching this _________ calms me.
  • Doing this _________ helps me to breathe better.
  • My favorite ways to play are _____________. Play is a powerful way to soothe ourselves. What is fun for you? What do you love to do simply because it’s enjoyable (whatever the outcome)? Maybe it’s doodling or finger-painting. Maybe it’s reading a children’s book or watching cartoons. Maybe it’s making up silly dance moves.
  • This always relaxes me (no matter where I am) ________________.

What helps you cope with difficult emotions? What soothes and comforts you? 

Photo by Roman Kraft.
Identifying What Helps You Cope with Tough Emotions

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2016). Identifying What Helps You Cope with Tough Emotions. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2019, from


Last updated: 29 Sep 2016
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