As I’ve said before, avoidance may provide temporary relief from anxiety, but it makes it worse in the long run. Like all emotions, anxiety is a transitory state—a weather pattern of the mind—and, sooner or later, it will blow over if you don’t respond to it. But most people can’t tolerate distress without trying to relieve it, so they unwittingly resort to strategies, such as analyzing and reviewing or relying on distraction, that ultimately prolong the discomfort.
One component of emotional resilience is “distress tolerance.” Some people are naturally better at it than others, and they tend to weather stormy moods more easily. But even if your emotional storms buffet you about, you can learn to ride them out more effectively without getting blown off course.
Emotion Efficacy Therapy is a mindfulness-based program for managing strong emotions. You can apply the techniques in any situation that stirs up an intense emotional reaction even without having gone through the full, eight-week protocol. There are four basic steps to practice, first by visualizing a recent situation that evoked discomfort and later, after mastering the skills, in real time when you feel upset.
You may need to repeat this process several times until you notice the physical sensations softening and the urge subsiding.
Emotions, like the weather, change. We have little control over the reactions in our mind and body, but we can know that even the most painful sensations will not last forever. That knowledge can help us navigate even the most tempestuous emotional storm.
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