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Struggling to manage your emotions in lockdown? This simple exercise could help

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Lauren Geall
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Are your emotions all over the place in lockdown? The STUF method could help you to make sense of it all.

It’s no secret that lockdown has been an emotional rollercoaster for many of us. Whereas one day we’re feeling optimistic about the future and motivated to exercise, the next we might feel sluggish and overwhelmed by the current situation. We’re more aware than ever of the broad range of emotions we’re able to feel.

It’s one thing experiencing these difficult emotions, but another thing entirely responding to them. Our natural instinct is to respond impulsively – to consume all the coronavirus information we can get our hands on in order to quell our feelings of overwhelm, for example. But doing so may not always be the best way forward.

Instead, the best course of action when we find ourselves being controlled by our emotions may be to simply step back and take note of what’s going on – and that’s where the STUF method comes in.

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Writing in a new article for Psychology Today, clinical psychologist Joel Minden explains that, when we’re in the middle of an emotionally charged situation, the best course of action isn’t always clear to us. Instead, he says, we should take the time to make sense of the difficult emotions we’re experiencing, using the acronym STUF.

“I like to think that emotional experiences have four elements that are easily remembered with the acronym STUF: sensations, thoughts, urges, and feeling labels,” he writes. “When a strong feeling emerges, you can focus on what your body is doing, what’s going through your mind, your impulse to do something or not do something, and the labels you use to make sense of it all.”

A woman feeling stressed
Feeling overwhelmed, sad or angry? Try the STUF method before you respond.

According to Minden, when we slow things down and try to make sense of our emotions using the STUF method, we’ll be in a better position to respond in a measured way.

“At times, what initially seems like a meaningful emotion turns out to be just a false alarm that’s better left alone,” he explains. “But even when your STUF suggests that your feeling should be taken seriously, it’s still helpful to use the available data to decide whether to change your perspective, solve a problem or go easy on yourself for struggling with an uncomfortable emotion.”

In this way, when we take a step back to analyse where our emotions are coming from and what we’re telling/not telling ourselves about them, we can think more rationally about our response.

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If we found ourselves feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the coronavirus pandemic, instead of impulsively checking every news source and worsening our anxiety, the STUF method might make it easier for us to identify our anxiety and try some self-care activities to alleviate those symptoms.

If ever there was a time to sit back and give our emotions some space before responding, it’s now. Everything feels like a lot at the moment – give yourself the time to analyse and understand those feelings before launching into action. 

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