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Being in touch with your negative emotions

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During my first year of college, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Ulcerative Colitis. My doctors told me that there is no cure for my chronic disease, and I would have to live with it for the rest of my life. 

With this disease, despite taking very strong medications and following very strict diets, I came to learn that some patients still get flare-ups despite taking all the necessary measures to control them. Fortunately, I have been in remission for the past two years after eating well, exercising regularly, and taking my medications regularly. 

However, having a chronic illness is more of a mental battle than a physical one. Although I was physically healthy, I started to suffer from depression and anxiety

My mental health declined rapidly. Whether it was the side effects of my medication or my desire to live a normal life like everyone else my age, I did not know what caused the abrupt change in my mental state. 

Looking back, I think part of my depression was a result of my inability to accept the reality of my situation and my constant comparison with my former healthy self. By analyzing my behavior, it became clear that I was attempting to find happiness and instant pleasures too hard. 

For instance, I wanted to eat tasty food with my friends and family without getting sick the next day or being unable to get up the next day. I was trying too hard to get rid of the negative mindset. In other words, I was constantly avoiding unpleasant feelings and only wanted to experience pleasant feelings, and I believe this is what caused me to experience anxiety and depression. 

Beth Kurland, the author of the book “Dancing on the Tightrope,” says humans are innately inclined to avoid unpleasant experiences (and seek out pleasant ones). But by avoiding unpleasant emotions, we create psychological distress, rigidity, anxiety, and depression, which negatively affect our quality of life. 

Thus, learning to embrace dark emotions would not only reduce anxiety and depression, but would also allow one to experience life more fully and be more confident in oneself. 

In my experience as a student, it is often difficult to stay on track with my academics and strict deadlines while suffering from anxiety and depression. I realized that a large part of each student’s success in academics and career fields has to do with a positive and healthy mindset. 

According to a study by Autumn Asher BlackDeer and several other researchers, psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression can hinder academic performance among college students. It was reported that when anxiety and depression in students are not treated, their academic success will be severely damaged, so seeking help is essential when needed. 

If you are a student at Seattle Central College, there are in-person and online mental health consultations available to help you overcome challenges that are hindering your academic performance. 

Aside from consultation services, it is important to remember that you have access to additional professional help for free through your student insurance like Lewermark or Lifeworks. You can also download the student support program app on your mobile device and talk to the student support agent directly about your concerns. 

While there are many resources that you can utilize at school, you need to remember that you must undergo a major shift in perspective in your mind in order to cope with anxiety or depression. 

If your first reaction to negative feelings is aversion and you want them to go away, you will only exacerbate the problem. Instead, try to feel the feelings and let them pass, whether it’s anxiety or depression. 

Research suggests that when we turn toward our cravings, we’re less likely to engage in addictive behaviors; when we turn toward our physical pain, we’re less likely to suffer from chronic pain; when we turn toward our sadness, we’re less likely to suffer from depression; and when we turn toward our anxiety, we’re less likely to feel paralyzed by it and can cope with it better.

Accepting our negative emotions can be extremely painful and requires a lot of effort, but acknowledging them is when we begin to grow on an emotional level. If we want to live more fully and be our most authentic selves, we need to turn towards our pain, not try to suppress or avoid it.

Chin-Erdene is an international student at Seattle Central College and a member of the Editorial Board of Seattle Collegian. He is currently pursuing a degree in computer science and linguistics and aspiring to become a linguistics engineer in the future. As he is from Mongolia, he only started to learn English in the latter part of his high school years, from which he developed a deep passion for linguistics and language structures. He wants to use the applications of computer science and mathematics to analyze written and spoken languages from computational perspectives. In his free time, he loves reading science fiction books, baking sourdough bread, and watching action/sci-fi movies. He is a big fan of Goerge R.R Martin and J.R.R Tolkein.

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