Ask a therapist: Dealing with mixed emotions

Whether you’re changing jobs, going back to school or have lost a friend, having mixed emotions or mixed feelings is really common. On one hand, maybe you’re sad, frustrated or angry, but on the other, there’s part of you that feels a bit relieved or happy. It can be pretty confusing sitting with these ‘opposite’ feelings so we spoke to Rashida Dungarwalla, a registered psychologist with Flow State Space and The Indigo Project.

Rashida talks about why you might have mixed emotions and what you can do about them. We asked her:

  • Why do mixed emotions feel so hard?

  • Are mixed emotions common?

  • What can you do about these mixed emotions?

Read the transcript.

Experiencing mixed emotions...is what makes us all human beings. It’s very valid and a common experience.

What we learned from Rashida:

  • Mixed emotions are really common when you experience a change in your life. That includes when you lose someone or something close to you. Get more info about dealing with grief here.

  • It’s common to think that you can only feel one way at a time, but we can actually feel two or more things that conflict or don’t match up at the same time. No single feeling is more valid than another – they can all coexist.

  • To cope with conflicting feelings, you can set personal boundaries for yourself. For example, if you want to go out and socialise but also feel like you want to stay home and spend some time alone, it’s okay to say no sometimes.

  • Use a traffic light system to divide up your calendar. Mark events that you really enjoy in green, events that you don’t feel strongly either way about in orange, and events that might be draining in red. Then when you look at what you’ve got on, if your calendar is mostly red or orange, you might try to free some of those up so you have more time for green activities.

Illustration of traffic light characters sitting on top of calendar. The green character is happy and energetic, the yellow character is shrugging their arms and looks neutral, the red character is sitting down with their eyes closed. They have a coffee in their hand and big Zs are drifting from their mouth.
  • If your conflicting feelings are starting to feel overwhelming or negatively impact your day-to-day life, it might be time to talk to someone you trust. This could be a friend, family member, teammate or coworker. You can also check out the ReachOut Online Community to connect with other young people.

To hear more from Rashida, watch her video, 'What to do if you're feeling lonely' here. Connect with Rashida at Flow State Space or The Indigo Project.

What can I do now?

  • Sometimes we have mixed feelings about things we can’t control. Learn how to cope with things out of your control.

  • Want to hear more from Rashida? Check out her tips on dealing with loneliness.

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