Turning Your Emotions Into Positive Actions

Elissa Burdick

Behavioral health coach at Ginger. Master’s degree from Naropa University. Focused on bringing mindfulness to relationships with others and with yourself.

Turning Your Emotions Into Positive Actions

2020 has been a challenging year so far in more ways than we can count. Nod with me if you find yourself mentally and emotionally affected and needing more compassion than ever. I’m with you. The COVID-19 pandemic is said to be the worst global crisis to have hit since World War 2 — and the fear has been palpable. While we gradually recover from this, a fight against police brutality and injustice toward the Black community has emerged. And as we attempt to celebrate Pride month this June, transgender healthcare rights are being reversed. On the other hand, the Supreme Court recently ruled that LGBTQ workers are protected under civil rights law from workplace discrimination.

Fighting for justice and equity — especially in the midst of a global pandemic — can create intense feelings, from guilt and anger to sadness and grief.

As a behavioral health coach at Ginger, one of the key things I work on with members is how to make sense of feelings and emotions, and turn these emotions into positive actions. If you’re looking to understand how to respond to these feelings of overwhelm, here are some tips to get you started.

1. Take time to process your thoughts and emotions, and educate yourself.

Emotions affect how we act in response to an event, but not everyone reacts in the same way. In the face of chaos or trauma, some might take a direct approach by confronting the source of frustration, confusion or hurt. Others might be unsure how to handle the overwhelm, and instead withdraw. But both extremes — making rash decisions or bottling up emotions — can cause more harm than good.

A great practice that allows you to process these different thoughts and impulses is judgment-free journaling. The simple act of putting your thoughts down on paper provides you the opportunity to take a step back, gain perspective, and express yourself. This will give you time to ground yourself and find calm in the midst of chaos.

You can also spend time equipping yourself with facts regarding the events taking place. And at the same time, having too many sources of news, especially when they aren’t reputable, can add unnecessary fear and anxiety. Managing your media consumption can ensure you are properly educating yourself while staying in control of your emotions.

2. Identify simple steps you can take toward change.

While it’s helpful to acknowledge and process the emotions we’re feeling, there are also actions we can take to create meaningful change in our lives and for those most directly affected by current (and historical) events.

Give yourself time to reflect on your capacity each day to adjust your workload and commitments as necessary. With all that’s going on, it’s important to remember that we need space to cope and time to heal.

Check your privilege and use your voice to be an ally. If you’re hurting and are affected by the racial injustice that continues to take place, please check out this list of actions you can take to deal with racial trauma.

And although Pride festivals and parades this year aren’t taking place in-person, you can still celebrate wherever you are and continue to nurture resilience in your community.

3. Practice self-care

At Ginger, we like to say, “You can’t pour from an empty cup” which holds true in times like these. No matter what action you’re taking, standing up and advocating for others start with caring for yourself. Self-care is essential, now more than ever. Keeping a gratitude list and practicing kindness meditations are a couple of the many ways you can look after your mental and emotional health.

Having a support system is also a great form of self-care that can help you reduce stress and feel more connected to yourself and the communities you’re a part of.

There’s no denying that these last few months have been confusing and even devastating for many. And focusing on self-care and turning those feelings into action can be a way to cope. So start small, stay consistent, and you just might come out more resilient than you thought possible.