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Develop Strategies for Coping With Emotional Distress

Everyone has moments where they feel sad or down. Emotional distress is generally a temporary and natural response to upsetting or stressful events. While causes and signs vary from person to person, symptoms commonly fall under the categories of depression and anxiety.

“A hallmark characteristic of depression is an inability to feel joy. If you’re depressed, you may no longer find happiness in things you enjoy,” said Helen Beaman, licensed clinical social worker with Samaritan’s coastal clinics. “Also, interacting with others can feel like a ton of work, so isolation is common. You may have a shorter fuse and get your feathers ruffled quickly over things that normally would not affect you.”

Apathy, loss of motivation, relationship problems and physical symptoms such as changes in sleep and eating habits are common signs of both depression and anxiety. Anxiety is often accompanied by feelings of uneasiness, being on edge or physical tension. Some may even feel jittery, get tingling sensations in a limb or have gastrointestinal issues.

How can you cope with emotional distress? Beaman recommends calling on skills that have worked for you in the past.

“All of us have tools to manage emotional distress, which can be empowering when we feel scared or sad,” said Beaman.

Common Coping Strategies

  • Listening to music or podcasts.
  • Being active.
  • Journaling.
  • Enjoying distractions like reading, crafting or binge watching a TV series.
  • Calling on your faith.
  • Meditating.

“Do what works for you. For example, being active doesn’t mean beginning an intense exercise regimen,” said Beaman. “Going bowling, taking a short walk, turning on music and dancing around the house — it’s whatever works to get you moving and helps you feel a little bit better each day.”

If symptoms of depression or anxiety linger, getting support can go a long way toward finding relief.

“There’s no need to let yourself suffer,” said Beaman. “If you know you need help, call your doctor or make an appointment with a mental health professional. We have interventions like short‑term medication and behavioral strategies that can help you depending on what you are comfortable with.”

While mental health awareness has increased in recent years, Beaman points out that for some there is still a stigma attached to getting help.

“If someone has a physical ailment requiring medical care, it’s a no‑brainer to see a doctor. If you’re diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, for example, you wouldn’t think of not taking insulin or checking your blood glucose,” said Beaman. “The same is true for mental health. If you need care, it’s okay and important to go get the help you need.”

For some, emotional distress can become so overwhelming and extreme they may begin to dwell on suicide. If you find yourself losing control and feeling suicidal, talk with a loved one and tell them how you’re feeling, get emergency help or call the NationalSuicide Prevention Lifeline 800‑273‑TALK or 988.

If you have concerns about a loved one being suicidal, Beaman stresses the importance of using direct language with them.

“If you ask someone if they are considering hurting themselves, that is not the same as directly asking if they are thinking about killing themselves. Hurting oneself can mean many different things,” said Beaman. “And, without directly asking the question if someone is suicidal, we may miss the mark in terms of getting someone to talk about where they’re really at mentally.”

To learn more about Samaritan’s behavioral health services at