Working with difficult thoughts and emotions

In my last post I talked about practicing gratitude and how this can be used as a proven superpower to help boost our resilience.

Today I’d like to talk about working with difficult thoughts and emotions. I’ve heard people talking about having a sense of grief right now. Our situation is accelerating and this virus, which may previously have felt far away is here. It’s real and it’s coming for us at speed.

We hear frightening statistics every day and news stories of what we’re likely to experience in coming weeks as a nation and as communities. At the same time there is a continued sense of confusion about some of the finer points of the virus. For example, the numbers we hear about cases are limited (until testing improves). At the same time we’re waiting in hope that the many measures put in place to limit our social contact will have affect.

So undoubtedly, many of us will be experiencing fear, overwhelming thoughts, stress about loved ones, ourselves and society at large.

A technique used in Mindfulness which is helpful for thoughts like these is: Noticing the unpleasant. Mindfulness is about being more present and tuning into your breathing and body to help you to be still and gain a greater awareness of what it going on right now. We need to work with what is here. But we need to do so in the most helpful of ways.

If you find yourself at any point during the day having negative, difficult or stressful thoughts, take a deep breath and stand back from them, psychologcially speaking. Become an observer of you. Notice how those thoughts are making you feel. Notice any sensations in your body (for example, feeling tense). Have a gentle explore, from a kind of birds eye view of what is going on, without getting pulled into the content or detail. And if you can, just try to breathe slowly during this exploration.

Now as you’re doing this you’re giving yourself space. The space to help your mind slow down. The space to stop your thoughts from progressing into ones which are more negative or more stressful. You’re giving yourself an opportunity to respond as opposed to react.

Now picture a mountain. Think of how still and unmoving a mountain is in the face of all kinds of terrible weather conditions. Think of it’s majestic presence. Now try to gain a sense of the mountain ‘becoming you’. Rather than reacting to difficulties, feel still, solid and strong.

I am not suggesting that this is easy. and it needs practice. We’re just human after all. I’m also not suggesting that difficult thoughts are going to disappear. We have difficult times ahead and we need to work with them.

What I am suggesting, is that by practicing techniques such as these you will hopefully find it easier to cope. You are learning some simple techniques you can carry with you whenever you experience moments of difficulty. And you will hopefully find it easier to work with experiences that can quickly feel overwhelming. You’re giving yourself the space to gain control and respond in the best way you can.

I also have an MP3 of a relaxation session about the mountain which I can send you. Please message me and I’ll email to you. It is of course free. Please email me at

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