How Do You Cope With Negative Emotions?

So, a couple of nights ago, I had a minor fender-bender. I was coming home from work, driving down a hill, and accidentally accelerated instead of braking. I ended up driving over a curb and ended up with the car three wheels deep in a bush. Had to call aaa to maneuver the car out. It took over an hour and the guy actually had to get two other guys to help. The car ended up with a dented fender and some scratches from the bush, so I got pretty lucky that there wasn’t much damage. However, the car is still technically my dad’s. So, between feeling like an idiot because I made that kind of mistake while driving his car, (and yes I was sober while I was driving), the guilt because of how hard the guys had to work to get the car out, and the fact that it was actually a pretty scary feeling to realize I had lost control of the car in that moment, I couldn’t handle the emotions I was having. So, after almost 3 weeks, I relapsed.
I am back on day 1, again. For the rest of you, how do you cope when you start to feel overwhelmed by negative emotions?

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That’s the million dollar question. Life is eventually gonna serve us a shit sandwich and we’ll have to wash it down with something. It’s bound to happen.

I haven’t had that sandwich yet, so I guess the best answer I have is to have a strong sober network to lean on in tough times, friends, family, AA members etc. Reaching out as soon as possible too, like immediately. Sending a group text as soon as that sandwich appears, let people know you’re in trouble, and accept the help. That’s all I have.

Great question though.

Good luck, hope everything works out for you. :blush:


I’m glad you’re okay, that sounds scary.

This sounds to me like “I couldn’t handle my emotions in a healthy way so I tried to handle them with alcohol because that seemed like the best remaining option.” I’m not rephrasing to be annoying, I’m rephrasing to emphasize we always find a way to handle emotions - some are healthy, some are harmful. And they don’t necessarily work as we want them to. Telling yourself “can’t handle” sounds like a thought that if believed enough, will erode your confidence in being able to navigate your emotions effectively.

So you’re looking for healthy coping and that’s great, exactly what you should be doing if you’re struggling with it (and don’t we all, from time to time?). There’s lots to say on the topic, so I’ll list some techniques off the top of my head and elaborate as requested. I’m probably going to miss a bunch, but here’s a start, from what I use:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Sensory grounding techniques
  • Prayer/connection with your higher power
  • Journalling (this can be a routine thing, or ad hoc as needed for specific situations)
  • Distraction
  • Talking or spending time with a friend/loved one
  • Self-actualization or improvement activities: hobby, art, developing a skill, etc.
  • Selfless acts
  • Gratitude lists
  • Seeking a more positive perspective of the situation (can brainstorm or talk to others, etc.)
  • CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)
  • Spending time around people not involved with the situation that is prompting negative emotions. Sit at a coffee shop, play with kids in the park - seeing others remain positive when your world is upended can help you do the same
  • Address HALT symptoms - Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. All of these can exaggerate your emotions or make you more impulsive in response to your emotions.

I’m sure others can add more…