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8 healthy ways to cope with your emotions

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Some days you’re so sleep deprived, stressed out and overwhelmed that you feel like you might just lose your cool. But instead of having your own meltdown, read on for eight simple and effective ways you can deal with your feelings and find your inner Zen.

1. Realize that emotions are natural.

As a child, you probably learned that expressing emotions wasn’t acceptable behavior with messages like “big girls don’t cry,” or “I’ll give you something to cry about.”  Yet “emotions are just pure physiology in the body,” said Jude Bijou, a licensed marriage and family therapist, educator, and author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life.  And all feelings are rooted in just three emotions: anger, sadness and fear. Expressing them is perfectly normal, even healthy, Bijou said.

2. Have a Plan B.

Tantrums, meltdowns and sibling fights are inevitable, but if you anticipate and plan ahead, you’ll be more equipped to handle tough situations, according to Nicole Knepper, a licensed clinical professional counselor and author of Moms Who Drink and Swear: True Tales of Loving My Kids While Losing My Mind. Some ideas: throw your tantruming tot into the bath and let him or her play while you take your own time out or take a trip to the park during the witching hour.

3. Adjust your expectations.

If you’re trying to be the perfect mom and follow every piece of advice you hear, you’ll only set yourself up for frustration and disappointment. Instead, reevaluate and do what’s realistic for your family.  “Don’t think about how it should be; look at how it is,” Knepper said.

4. Check out.

Stuck at home with the kids on a rainy day? Set the kids up with any activity and take a 20 minute break to read a magazine, take a bath or call a friend. “Any way that you find brings you comfort and support, take it,” Knepper said.  

5. Laugh it off.

According to a recent Oxford University study, a good belly laugh releases mood-boosting endorphins and can even help relieve pain. “It’s OK to see the fun in the dysfunction,” Knepper said, “because if you don’t, you will set yourself up for an absolute crack up.”

6. Release the energy.

Counting to 10 or taking deep breaths are surprisingly ineffective ways to deal with emotions, but moving the energy out of the body in a physical way—much like a child does—is. “It breaks that grip that the emotions have on you,” Bijou said.

So if you’re angry, push your hand against the door jam, stomp your feet on the floor, pound your fist into the mattress or just say, “Ughh!” If you’re feeling blue, have a good cry. For fear, instead of tightening up your body, shake and shiver it out. Are the kids around?  Go into another room or explain that you’re upset and that it will pass in a minute.

7. Learn acceptance.

It’s hard to discipline your child when your emotions are running high, but if you accept his or her behavior in the moment, it will be much easier to communicate the way you want him or her to act.  “Rather [than saying] ‘She should be different,’ say, ‘That’s the way she is.’ Re-orient your thinking into acceptance rather than expectation,” Bijou said.  

8. Get help.

Twenty-eight percent of stay at home moms and 17 percent of working moms say they’re depressed, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. If you feel like you just can’t get a handle on your emotions, reach out to family or friends for support or seek professional help.

Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women's issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.