Here are a couple of things that have proven very helpful to me during times when my emotions feel more difficult to control.
1. Willfully being social. Even when I feel like a mess, sometimes I can get it together and “act opposite” to my emotion by heading out to see a friend. I think of it like being in a play and “faking it ’til I make it,” acting like fun company until I really am having fun and forgetting my troubles. Sometimes I will also be deliberately vulnerable with a friend, acknowledging that things aren’t going well in a controlled way, but only insofar as I feel like it helps in creating a genuine friendship. I am so not the one to be giving friendship advice, so feel free to chime in about what you think about this point.
2. Working alone in a public space. Even if I feel like being with friends would be embarrassing or difficult because of my anxiety or sadness, I find it tremendously helpful to be in a public place. I pack up a book or a laptop and head to a comfortable coffee shop or deli (I’ve even scoped out some 24-hour ones for late night “company”) and work. Inasmuch as it helps me focus on my work or reading, it helps distract me from my negative thoughts. I also find it really healing to look around at other people enjoying their food and conversation — it almost provides a realistic plumb line that helps me calibrate my feelings. I usually feel more balanced and capable after spending some time out in the world.