What’s going on in your mind can strongly cue you to use if using has been part of your response to particular negative emotions. Remember, anger, depression, anxiety, fear, frustration, stress, boredom, and loneliness can all be cues to use. Emotional cues are rarely managed with a single action. Just like your car needs a tune-up and your body needs regular physical exercise to stay in shape, your mind also needs tune-ups, to recognize, decrease, and manage emotional cues. Take a few minutes now and list the negative emotions you commonly felt before using.
To learn to recognize your negative emotions early and label them accurately as cues, practice listening to the thoughts running through your mind. There are many actions you can take right away to increase your skills in managing your negative emotions. Learn meditation. Buy and read informative mental health books to increase and test your understanding of emotional states. Search the internet for articles or websites that help you increase your understanding. Use quality screening tools for anxiety, depression, anger and relationship problems that can be found in evidence based books such as “The Feeling Good Handbook” by Dr. David Burns, to check in with yourself. Use the exercises in self help books on anger management, depression and anxiety. Sharpen your thinking and reasoning. Seek feedback from a professional or friends on how they see you manage negative emotions and to review your progress.
Use physical activity to proactively reduce the frequency of occurrence of your emotional cues. Use physical activity to reduce the impact of an unavoidable negative emotional state, such as when you don’t get the job you applied for or your dog dies. Take a walk outside or go for a bike ride when you feel yourself getting angry or blue. Scan your emotional state daily and take action when you notice you are beginning to frequently experience negative emotions.
Use the internet and other sources to learn relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. There are many different techniques, so you can try them out and choose the ones that work best for you. Don’t wait until you’re angry or sad to use relaxation techniques. Start using them every day. Remember, you can become your own best relaxation therapist. Try reading and completing workbooks such as “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook,” by Martha Davis, Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman and Mathew McKay.
Now take ten minutes and do page four of your “Personal Cue Inventory and Strategies to Manage Cues.” Make sure you start to fill in your strategies to manage each emotional cue and identify those you need more information about effective ways to manage.