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7 Steps to Prevent Getting Stuck in an Emotion

Stuck-In-Feelings

“Life is a process of becoming. A combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” ~Anais Nin

I bought an ice cream cake for my family to thank them for giving me the time and space to write the first draft of my novel. My husband took photos. I selected my favorite shot as the wallpaper on my computer to remind me of this milestone.

I was happy and joyous for a week. The second week I fell into despair—hard—and stayed there for months and months and months.

I could not edit the novel I had completed and I could not start something new. I was stuck. A terminal sense of doom clouded my days and fogged over my nights.

Eventually, I sought help from a counselor who specialized in treating creative people. Her diagnosis was grief. Some people go through the grief process when they complete a creative project, she explained.

Apparently, I was one of those people.

I had fallen into the trap of believing I could sustain the triumphant joy and deep satisfaction I had received upon completing the first draft of my novel and remain in those victorious feelings forever. When I couldn’t, I fell into depression and stayed there.

I had experienced a kind of death.

The counselor recommended that I allow the grieving to unfold naturally without force. That meant I had to give myself permission to be depressed. I had to sit with the feeling, day and night, and not wrestle with it.

Weeks later, I finally emerged from the darkness of despair into the light of hope. I discovered the strength to edit my novel. When that was finished, I started looking for a publisher.

I had experienced a kind of rebirth.

Since that first bout of depression, I’ve written and published four books. Each time I finish the first draft, I grieve again. But over the years, I have learned how to process my feelings and create again.

Here are seven simple steps to help you move through your emotions without getting stuck:

1. Learn acceptance.

Acknowledge what you are feeling without judgment. Offer yourself reassurance that it’s okay to feel whatever it is that you are feeling, no matter what anyone says or thinks.

If you ignore what you’re feeling or pretend to feel something you don’t feel, the charade will prevent you from moving through the emotion. You will remain frozen in denial. The feeling will take hold and anchor you like a dead weight.

By accepting what you feel when you feel it, you release the possibility of getting stuck.

2. Practice patience.

Some feelings last a few moments. Others last a few hours or a few days. Some feelings can last a whole year or longer.

Let the feeling stay as long as it needs to; don’t force it to leave. It will only come back until it is done.

3. Seek help early.

It’s okay to seek help for dealing with a difficult emotion. If you find yourself overwhelmed, call a friend who can listen and offer advice or hire a professional who can provide expert insight.

It’s better to get assistance as soon as you need it rather than waiting until you are stuck with an emotion you cannot release.

4. Avoid self-medicating habits.

Don’t try to mask the feeling. Drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, and shopping may temporarily relieve you from the pain of your emotion, but they will not solve your problem.

Self-medicating habits create a labyrinth around your emotion. They offer the illusion of freedom while imprisoning you. Eventually, you’ll have to face what you are feeling head on without the benefit of an addiction to cushion the impact.

By refusing to indulge in avenues of escape, you will learn the invaluable skill of self-reliance. You will grow confident in your ability to process your emotions quickly and efficiently no matter how joyful or painful they may be.

5. Develop a routine.

A consistent routine provides the foundation to build a life. Without it, chaos takes over. Feelings will either run rampant or hide in dormancy, both of which are unhealthy.

Wake up at the same time every day. Schedule your meals. Go to sleep at the same time each night.

Make sure you have quiet time for prayer, meditation, or reflection. Include hobbies on a regular basis. Spend time with your loved ones on a daily basis.

The more structured your routine, the more likely your emotions will flow.

6. Introduce something new.

Once you have developed a routine, add something new. Boredom leads to apathy, which can encourage an emotion to take root and not let go.

Variety leads to excitement. Trying something new keeps things fresh and alive.

Take a class or join a club. Visit somewhere you have always wanted to go. Be adventurous.

7. Honor the past, present, and future.

Life is more than random moments. It’s a journey of self-discovery on a continuum of time. You can easily get stuck in an emotion by dwelling on the past or not paying attention to the present or worrying about the future.

Embrace the whole spectrum of your life: the past with its history, the present with its immediacy, and the future with its potential.

If you only think of the past, you’ll be stuck in the mire of what once was and miss out on what is going on all around you right now.

If you focus only on the moment, you will neglect to remember the lessons you have learned through past experience and fail to pay attention to any future consequences. If you only dream of the future, you will become lost in fantasy without a compass to guide you there.

By honoring the past, present, and future, you can truly live each moment to its fullest.

Emotions are meant to come and go, not stay with you forever. By following these steps, you will train your mind and your body to process emotions in a healthy manner, leaving you free to explore the next chapter of your life.

Photo by www.hansvink.nl

About Angela Turpin

Angela Lam Turpin is an author and an artist. Her published work includes three novels: Legs, Blood Moon Rising, and Out of Balance, and a short story collection, The Human Act and Other Stories, published by All Things That Matter Press. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter or her website:  www.angelalamturpin.com.

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  • Yes, learning to accept and welcome whatever feelings show up instead of denying and resisting them was one of the biggest lessons I learned when my dad passed away.
    “Our emotions need to be as educated as our intellect. It is important to know how to feel, how to respond, and how to let life in so that it can touch you.” – Jim Rohn

  • I agree. Thanks for sharing your experience, Patrik.

  • Your second point resonated with me, Angela. That we need to give our emotions time to run their course is lesson I’ll take from this article.

    BTW (1) – I like Terry Pratchett’s approach to finishing a book: he starts the next one immediately in order to maintain his daily word count!

    BTW (2) – I like the Anais Nin quote – a great choice!

  • I read an article in Time, I think, some time ago that Charles Darwin experienced the same grief that you described after having a time of prolific writing and would weep without reason for days and his wife could only hold and comfort him until he came out of that mood. I kind of have bouts like that and Ithink it has negatively affected my attitude towards work. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  • lv2terp

    Wonderful steps/advice!!!! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your experience, and lessons learned! GREAT info! 🙂

  • You’re welcome. It always helps to know we are in this together.

  • Great advice. Recognizing that painful emotions will pass, just as happy ones will, can bring us such comfort. And YES on getting help early… I so wish I had sought help for my depression earlier ~ hopefully your advice reaches people who really need it today.

  • I’m glad you received help for your depression. I also hope this advice reaches those who need it.

  • Thanks for sharing Terry Pratchett’s approach to starting a new book immediately after typing “The End.”

  • RichlyMiddleCla

    I love the message to honor the past, present and future. That is a powerful statement. I love think that people really look at their lives as a journey. That is brillant.

  • I am currenlty finding myself wading in and out of thoughts that I should have listened to my intuition in the past that would not have led me to my current mixed emotions (mixture of frustration and anger). The incidence happened abt 7mos ago involving a scam investment scheme, leading me to having quite a big chunk of money stuck as the organisation remains under police investigation. What angered me the most is that I rely too much on this so called “millionaire” mentor that I let down my guards. Any advice on this?
    Anyway, I have been practising some of the points mentioned above to cope with this issue, including the practice of patience and acceptance as well as trying to let go as much as I can.

  • Dear Mulyadi,

    I’m sorry to hear about your inadvertent involvement in an investment scam. My heart goes out to you.

    I’m glad you recognize you have gone against your intuition. It is normal and healthy to feel anger and frustration and regret. What you need to do now is forgive yourself for going against your intuition, then you need to forgive the “millionaire” mentor who deceived you. Holding on to the anger will breed resentment and build up in your body and your life like a slow toxin. Try turning the tables around and seeing yourself as a friend who has come to you in need. What would you tell your friend in the same situation? How would you respond? That’s how you need to start treating yourself, with the same loving care you would treat your friend.

    It may take a year or longer to work through these feelings and that’s okay. One day you will wake up and remember this whole debacle with clarity and peace and you will have the wisdom to educate and warn others.

    Your friend,

    Angela

  • Angela,

    Thank you for shedding a light on another aspect of grief – I tend to think of it in a context of bereavement. Your story deepens my understanding of grief as well as the creative process.

    It has taken me decades to understand how to approach emotions with openness. And then some more to be able to not cling to them, to know that whatever I experience here and now will pass and give space to something else, and truly accept and appreciate that.

    As for not getting stuck (creatively too): I know that routine works for some people – for others (such as myself) presence (Including being present to my needs) works better at times, and at other times a nice mixture of both. So I guess it’s also about getting to know what works for each of us.

    I’m so glad you continue writing – and publishing! – your books. It’s inspiring!

    Warmly,

    Halina

  • Dear Halina,

    Thank you for sharing your creative process. I agree with you. We must all find what works best for ourselves.

    Best,

    Angela

  • Hi Angela
    thanks for the encouragement in your reply. I shall be mindful of the good points that you have mentioned :).

  • “I like the Anais Nin quote – a great choice!” I totally agree.

  • I generally go with #2 and #6. I sit with the emotion and listen to it. Is it trying to tell me something? If I start to feel too depressed or stressed out or if I feel like it’s time for something new, then I radically break my routine.

    Cellphone off, my feet are moving, and I’m somewhere lost and dancing in the rain and waving goodbye the emotion.

  • Sara

    This is an amazing article that actually relates to many people. I’m going through this thing right now where I feel blocked from meditating and doing yoga, but I’m seeing it as an opportunity to learn from rather than dwell on. Thank you for your time, namaste.

  • I’m glad you’ve found this article helpful, Sara. May you move through your current experience and find the enlightenment that will enrich your yoga and meditation practice.

  • This was it for me. “Let the feeling stay as long as it needs to; don’t force it to leave. It will only come back until it is done.” Feels like I still have a long road ahead.

  • LesAnonymes

    Oh I really liked this. I went through a bad break up and it feels like every other day I’m wallowing in sorrow. However this time I really just tried to sit around and feel it, as uncomfortable as it is. At the very least I don’t feel ripped apart with shock and sadness at the loss anymore, and I’m not being self-destructive. I hope it goes away soon. It was a tempestuous relationship wherein I made a lot of mistakes but was also treated poorly. A lot of “what ifs,” but I think even if I didn’t make mistakes we probably wouldn’t have ended up together.