How to handle unwanted emotions

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated January 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Sometimes, when we feel certain emotions that make us uncomfortable, we might want to do anything to escape them. Have you wished that you could get rid of anger, frustration, sadness or regret? 

In many cases, however, our emotions might be there for a reason—and even if an emotion feels “bad” or otherwise uncomfortable to us, it may have something to tell us. Sometimes, a useful way to “get rid” of emotions that we don't want might be to switch our perspective, so we understand them for what they really are and can then release them. You might alternatively acknowledge them in a healthy way. Speaking with an online therapist can help you do this in a way in which you get the most possible benefit. 

Below, we’ll explore the relationship between thoughts and feelings, how to address your emotions in a healthy way and how you can find additional help. 

Need help handling unwanted emotions?

The relationship between our thoughts and our feelings

While it can be very difficult to change our feelings, it may be more manageable to change our thoughts and perspective—as well as the meaning we might attach to specific events, conclusions and expectations. 

Sometimes, much of the feelings of disappointment, hurt, offense, sadness and anger we can experience may be a result of unmet expectations or a specific perspective on how an event unfolded. 

If we can adjust our expectations or shift our perspective, we may be able to decrease the negative feelings that result from experiencing unmet expectations or see the situation in a new light.

With this in mind, it can be helpful to understand that thoughts can inform feelings, which can then lead to actions. This is why managing your expectations and thought processes can be so impactful. 

While it can be difficult to tell ourselves not to feel the way we feel, it may feel easier to change the thoughts we entertain and the way we talk to ourselves. 

How to address your emotions in a healthy way

Feeling intense, unwanted emotions can be uncomfortable, but there are strategies you can use to try to manage them. Below, we'll discuss tips for handling your emotions in healthy ways. Some of these may work better for you than others, so you may consider trying some of these suggestions or other ideas to figure out what might work best for you. 

1. Write down your emotions

Sometimes, the simple act of writing your thoughts and feelings down can produce relief. So, you might try setting aside time each day for you to write about your emotions—even just a couple of sentences or for a few minutes—to release what you are thinking and feeling onto paper.

This can serve the immediate purpose of transferring your thoughts and feelings from your head onto something more tangible, which can allow you to go back and read your content later. You may notice a reduction in both the volume and intensity of unwanted thoughts and feelings throughout the rest of your day, as the exercise might feel validating to you. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh

2. Spend more time doing things you enjoy

If you want your emotions to change, you may want to look for changes that you can make in your actions. A simple place for many to begin is to work to intentionally notice what things leave you feeling great and energized, versus the activities that might leave you feeling cynical and drained. Then, you can try to fit more of the things into your week that can produce more positive and fulfilling results for you.

3. Spend more time with positive people

If you are experiencing a lot of negative emotions, it may also help to consider who you are spending time with. You can then try to spend more time around people who encourage you and lift you up. For example: It may help to reduce the time you spend around those who are negative, discouraging or are otherwise unsupportive. Instead, you can spend more time with your friends and family who are positive, affirming, uplifting and encouraging. You may find that the shift of spending more time in the company of others who are emotionally healthy can create a positive change in your emotional landscape.

4. Take up a new hobby

Finding a new hobby you enjoy can have many potential benefits. It might serve as just the distraction you need to focus less on painful emotions. You could also find yourself feeling pride in what you are accomplishing through your hobby—regardless of the specific activity you choose. 

Getty / Maskot
Need help handling unwanted emotions?

5. Maintain healthy habits

Another area to consider on your emotional journey can be your daily habits and self-care routines. It can be helpful for many to create intentional opportunities to care for yourself, which can promote feelings of health and relaxation. 

Caring for yourself can generally look different for everyone. Common places to start for many can include: 

  • Eating healthier
  • Exercising regularly
  • Taking appropriate measures to get enough high-quality sleep
  • Adding some regular pampering to your schedule as you see fit, such as a massage, manicures/pedicures, facials, bubble baths, or a movie night with good friends.

6. Meditate

Meditation can be another great way to foster positivity. It can help you find a sense of calm that might complement the other techniques we've mentioned on this list. Through meditation, you can learn to balance your emotions and deal with them more effectively. You can also seek a higher level of mindfulness that can help you to have a more fulfilling general experience.

In a more specific sense, meditation can help you learn how to not hold onto thoughts and feelings as they arise, choosing instead to live in the moment and intentionally let the feeling float through you. 

For example: Has an idea ever caught your attention, and suddenly you were overthinking, worrying, and overcome by your nerves? With meditation as a part of your daily routine, you might find that these thoughts may get less overwhelming—especially as you learn that you don't need to react to them, simply letting them come and go.

Can online therapy support those experiencing difficult or unwanted feelings?

If you would like additional help, you might consider seeking support through online therapy. 

An online therapist can help you understand your emotions, the things that may prompt them and ways to manage them. While traditional, in-person therapists can do this as well, it can be especially difficult for those living with these emotions and feelings to leave the home—especially if you’re experiencing feelings of overwhelm. 

Online therapy can be a more convenient and available option for many who may find themselves in this situation, possibly being a more viable choice to empower you in your current state or season.

For example: If you’re experiencing frequent bursts of unwanted emotions, you may find it helpful to reach out to a therapist in the moments when those feelings rush up. For example: With online therapy through BetterHelp, you can use in-app messaging to reach out to your therapist at any time, and they will respond as soon as they are able.   

Is online therapy effective? 

Many may be wondering if online therapy is truly as effective as in-person therapy. Many studies have been conducted on this subject, specifically since the beginning of the COVID-19 historical era. 

Leading research currently suggests that online counseling can be an effective way of helping people with high levels of difficult emotions find relief. For example, one such study explored the effects of an online cognitive treatment for individuals experiencing problematic anger. It found information that suggested that the individuals who received the online intervention “showed a substantial decrease in anger,” allowing the researchers to conclude that “brief online cognitive treatment can be effective for reducing problematic anger in adults”.


You may not be able to talk yourself out of difficult emotions, but with the strategies in this article, you can learn more about their purpose and how to gain control of them. If you’re experiencing high levels of unwanted emotions, you may consider trying approaches like writing down your emotions, doing things you enjoy, spending time with positive people, trying a new hobby, maintaining healthy habits, or meditating. For additional help, you can connect with an online therapist. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.
Learn to strengthen your mental health
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started