Sometimes focusing on food — such as undereating or overeating — or our bodies — such as pursuing thinness — is easier than dealing with negative emotions, particularly sadness.
But we can learn to release and cope with sadness. Feeling our feelings is actually a skill, not a talent that only some of us are born with.
Here are a few ways to deal with sadness.
1. Consider your current coping strategies. How do you deal with sadness today? Do these practices genuinely help you feel better? Are they healthy? Do they truly nourish you? It helps to know what’s working for you and what isn’t.
2. Cry. According to Lisa M. Schab, LCSW, in her book, The Bulimia Workbook for Teens, Crying “is your body’s natural way of releasing sadness. Stress hormones come out in your tears.”
3. Practice articulating sadness. Sometimes, we’re so out of touch with our emotions that we don’t even realize when we experience sadness — and what that even means to us. Schab suggests completing each of these sentences 10 times in a journal: “I feel deeply saddened when…”; “I felt sad when…” (In the latter, think back to your childhood.) She says that you can read your responses out loud to yourself or to a friend.
4. Jot it down in your journal. Release your feelings by writing in your journal. For instance, when I need to release my sadness, I put on my big headphones and listen to slow songs (anything with the violin or cello really gets me! It’s like the strings are playing out my emotions, and I can feel every note).
5. Create a poem. Channeling our emotions into creative projects can be a great release. That’s one of the reasons I love writing. According to Schab, “Poetry is simply creating a picture with words.” (Don’t you just love that?) She suggests printing out your poem and painting colors or images around it — whatever captures the sadness that you feel. Then you can take out your journal and write “…what it feels like to place your sadness outside of you,” she writes.
6. Show yourself support. Find a quiet place; put your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your stomach; then gently say to yourself “Your name, I am here for you, I care about your suffering,” Schab says.
7. Talk to a love one. Sharing our feelings with our loved ones not only helps us release them, but it can put things into perspective and even give us good ideas to solve the situation. And it always feels great knowing that we’re supported.
8. Take a walk. Physical activities trigger those feel good endorphins. Being outside can also feel very freeing — and if you’re surrounded by trees, plants, flowers or other types of nature, it can be especially soothing. (If you’re in a bustling city, try going to a park or garden.)
9. Take a bath or hot shower. I’m not a bath person, but I love taking steaming hot showers. They just warm my heart and soothe my soul. There’s just something calming and refreshing about water cascading down your skin.
10. Think about what truly soothes you. It’s important to have a variety of helpful techniques by your side. This way, you can reach into your toolbox, and take out the technique you need to process your sadness. Make a list of all the things that are truly calming and let you release your sadness healthfully. That might be anything from curling up on the couch with a good book to watching your favorite funny movie to petting your cat.
Maybe the above suggestions don’t work for you. And that’s totally fine. Find activities that soothe you, and experiment away.
After releasing your sadness, it’s helpful to consider whether you can solve the situation. In other words, can you improve the actual situation that triggered your sadness? If it’s a fight with a loved one, can you talk to them about it? If it’s a problem at work, can you fix it?
And, above all else, please remember that the sun will always come up the next day.