Q: I’ve been struggling with my photography business due to a change in my circumstances. I feel really depressed about not having enough work, and even though I try to portray a positive attitude, I’m afraid my feelings are catching and are making my situation worse. How can I pull myself out of this funk?

A: I’m sorry to hear you’re having a hard time! We all go through emotionally difficult times, and it definitely makes it harder to keep up a positive front for our business. Often negative feelings stem from negative thoughts, and once you’re feeling bad, more negative thoughts come up, so it can be a vicious cycle trying to pull yourself out of a funk. First of all, I’m going to give you some ways that could help you deal with negative emotions, and after that I’ll give you a little exercise to try to help you turn negative thoughts into something positive. But first, here are some thoughts on negative feelings.

1 Negative feelings are an invitation for growth
Negative feelings can help pinpoint the places in ourselves we need to do work on. Try taking feelings such as irritation or fear as signs of the areas you need to tackle, instead of trying to ignore them.

2 Let go of the perfect plan
If you’re trying to live in a constant state of pleasure, avoiding any pain, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. You’ll be always looking over the fence and thinking others have it perfectly together, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

3 Don’t try to control everything
This is a hard one for me personally. I’m constantly trying to learn to let go and not try to control the outcome of situations in order to feel much happier.

4 Don’t blame other people
Blame is like an invisible wall, which prevents intimacy or authentic communication. It’s so ingrained in our society to find people or issues to blame, that we do it instinctively almost all the time. Placing blame and responsibility for how we’re feeling on others is such a distinctive way of trying to protect ourselves, that we don’t even notice when we turn even our closest relationships into blame games.

5 Feel your feelings
As much as I believe in trying to change your thinking in order to feel more positive, I also believe that if you are feeling down, don’t try to escape from those uncomfortable feelings. It’s such a common thing to do, as no-one wants to feel bad, but if instead we try to stay in the present and embrace the raw feelings for what they are, we can hopefully learn something. Try to connect with the physical side of bad feelings, the tightening of your chest, a throbbing head or a tight throat, stay with it and remember, everyone with a body feels these feelings sometimes, this is a part of being alive, this is going to pass.

6 Own your dark
In order to be able to offer compassion to anyone else, we have to know our own darkness. We have to be able to connect to that shared part of humanity, of being honest about having these dark days, so that we can be fully present for others when they need us, or so that they could be there for us.

So, I promised to give you an exercise, which can help you change your focus by turning negatives thoughts into positive ones. It ties up with the first point on my list, which talked about negative emotions pinpointing things that need to be worked on. Think of fear or discomfort as a compass, or perhaps like the battery display on your mobile phone. You see you’re running out of battery, what do you do? Do you sit there watching the percentage getting lower, feeling depressed it’s happening and fearful of even using your phone, or do you take action and try to find a way to charge your phone? In fact, you might even carry around an emergency battery pack for situations such as this. Think of having a tool for trying to harness your negative thoughts into something positive and manageable, as always having an emotional emergency pack with you.

This exercise is based on theories established by Prescott Lecky, who developed the concept of self-help, and it can be a powerful tool in overcoming self-doubt or fear. First of all, take out your notebook or a piece of paper. Draw a vertical line in the middle, and on the left write down any negative thoughts that come to surface. Read through them, and really analyse them, seeing how you might be blowing some things out of proportion. Then, on the right hand side, substitute all subjective negative thoughts with an objective positive thought.

As quick example:
Negative – I will never be successful.
Positive – I don’t have to measure success on someone else’s standards. As long as I concentrate on taking steps that excite me, I am going in the right direction.

Negative – I’ll most likely fail.
Positive – I don’t need to be perfect. I might learn something new, and I’m allowed to enjoy the journey.

Negative – I don’t have enough self-control to be self-employed.
Positive – I have done well in other areas of my life, so I must have self-control. I’ll just work on it as best as I can, as long as I can. I have as much self-control as anyone else I know. I get to do something I enjoy as a job, which makes time management a fun problem.

Negative – I will never have enough clients.
Positive – I can’t predict the future, but I can work hard and I can learn new things. The thing I need to learn in order to turn things around might be just around the corner. It’s exciting to think how many possibilities there are out there if I’m willing to explore them.

I hope some of these things might have given you a little spark that could enable you to turn your current situation into a learning experience. Just remember, this too shall pass.

Marianne Taylor is the creator of Beloved Magazine and founder of Her Lovely Heart