How To Cure A Painful Emotional Hangover In 5 Steps Or Less

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How To Practice Mindfulness Exercises & Control Negative Emotions When Feeling Overwhelmed

In addiction support group meetings, we always circle back to the root cause of why we have allowed addiction to take us down — to ruin years, and sometimes decades, of our lives. It’s all about the feelings. It’s a recovery cliché, but it’s also true.

When people put down alcohol and drugs, they tend to realize rather quickly that the substances were just a symptom or a manifestation of a bigger issue and there’s that aha! moment where we come to terms with the fact that it is that emotional pain that needs to be dealt with.

We all face external situations that affect us internally and leave us feeling overwhelmed. A deep uneasiness that can sometimes even manifest as physical pain, in what could only be described as an emotional hangover. You know, when you experience something so raw that you get stuck in a loop of foul emotion for a while.

Everyone has their own ways of dealing with uncomfortable feelings — unfortunately, sometimes we look to unhealthy forms of controlling our emotions, whether that be substance abuse or simply ignoring the negative emotions, leaving them to fester.

Mindfulness, which at its simplest can be defined as "a state of active, open attention on the present," is an optimal way to recognize your negative emotions, even the subconscious ones that are often the root of emotional hangovers.

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In Pema Chödröns book When Things Fall Apart, she discusses the attributes of “leaning into” our pain in lieu of running from it or fighting against it. Essentially, she gives a great argument for being present and really feeling despair when we get to that point. She suggests we should allow it to teach us and inform us.

Right now in the United States, many people are in pain.

Whether it is the feeling that the government does not care about women, or the small children who will never see their mothers again, or the fact that democracy itself is being dismantled brick by brick — you scroll through social media and you can’t help but to feel like we are in a lot of trouble.

We need to consider: what would a teacher like Pema advise us to do right now?

Here are a few tips for practicing mindfulness exercises to control your emotions and spend more time in the moment.

1. Awareness.

Get quiet and “plug into” your body for a moment. How is the current emotional pain manifesting physically? Is it making your stomach hurt? Is it making your pulse quicken? Take an inventory of what is happening and just sit with it quietly.

Take note if internal movie reels are running without your permission. Are you back to being 10 years old and left alone? Really try and get in touch with whatever seems to be triggering you.

2. Move into the pain.

This might sound ridiculous initially, but there is a really good reason for it. It will help you move through the stages that you need to move through arrive at a more holistic resolution.

So, greet the pain or discomfort with equal parts love and curiosity. Love, because the pain is a part of you — and curiosity because it will allow you to detach from it for a minute. This is the crux of what is referred to as “leaning into the pain.”

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3. Expand into what is painless.

This may sound a lot more challenging than it is, but I remember a cancer patient who was enduring excruciating pain from her illness, speaking about this. The nurse came into the room and went about the task of changing the sheets on her hospital bed. They felt so clean and so fresh that she allowed herself to drift away into an appreciative state for the new bedding.

What she was doing, in essence, was expanding into what at that moment was pleasurable and painless. It really helps.

4. Allow co-existence.

You might be able to “become a bigger container” as Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck explained. This is done in a pragmatic way by discontinuing the need to be in a state of pain or a state of pleasure at any given time. Instead of the two-dimensional hurdle of living in an either/or world, you can begin to move yourself into an and world. You feel pain and you feel pleasure.

5. Response instead of reaction.

I cannot think of a better example of this step than to take the pain of what women have experienced recently. When our current administration said very loud and clear that it doesn’t care about women’s subjugation at the hands of privileged white men, the reaction might be to post angry rants on social media or to yell at government officials when you see them in restaurants. Response would be to not only make sure you are registered to vote, but to drag two of your friends who stopped caring to the post office to register. Think constructive outcome.

Like I said, we are experiencing some tough times lately. Instead of allowing it to eat us alive, we can follow the advice of the great teachers: Pema Chödrön, Brené Brown, Charlotte Joko Beck, and Dr. Wayne Dyer.

Together, we can learn to lean into our pain.

RELATED: What You Need To Know About Taking Care Of Yourself Emotionally

Billy Manas is a poet, singer-songwriter, and truck driver from the Hudson Valley in New York with a degree in literature. For more, follow him on Instagram.

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This article was originally published at Elephant Journal. Reprinted with permission from the author.