It can be helpful for kids and adults.
Kristen Bell frequently talks about her mental health and the strategies she uses to maintain her mental well-being. And in a new interview with CNBC, Bell shared a great emotional-regulation strategy she uses for dealing with tough feelings—one that is so valuable, the mom of two is teaching it to her kids.
Bell, who has spoken openly about the challenges she faces living with anxiety and depression, explained that she tries to shift the way she relates to difficult feelings when they arise. Rather than treating her emotions as a problem she needs to solve, Bell tries to hold them lightly and let them be. The trick is to remember that they are not “your feelings,” but “a feeling that is passing through you,” Bell told CNBC. “Sometimes, with a mental health issue, you just got to let them live.”
This technique has been so helpful for Bell that she also uses it with her two young daughters, 8-year-old Lincoln and 6-year-old Delta. For instance, when one of her kids starts to get upset, Bell will ask them, “Do you want a solution to this problem you’re crying about, or do you just want to let this feeling pass through you?”
Sometimes those challenging feelings can feel so overwhelming that it’s just too much to think about finding a way to “solve” them or work through them in the moment. Putting a bit of distance between yourself and those emotions—through writing them down or just mentally acknowledging and accepting them in a nonjudgmental way without indulging them too deeply—can help them feel more manageable and, indeed, temporary. With that added distance, some people find that it’s much easier to resist the urge to numb those difficult feelings and to instead process them in a meaningful way.
Bell also talked to CNBC about her proactive approach to managing her anxiety and depression. “I don’t wait for those things to find me,” Bell said. “I have a preoperative list to combat them because I know they’re coming.”
At the top of that list of healthy coping mechanisms is exercising, sharing what she’s going through with other people, and taking a few minutes to herself when she is feeling overwhelmed. “I will go to my bedroom for 10 minutes, just to reset and regulate,” Bell said. She also is not shy about hopping off a work call a little early if she needs to. “You don’t have to give a reason,” Bell said, citing the “framework of putting on your gas mask first, and not being embarrassed about that.”