After a breakup, a job loss, or any form or trauma, it can be difficult to get back to our daily routine. There are moments of clarity, moments of sadness, and moments where we just want to escape.
And while many of us know the saying “You need to feel it to heal it,” it's easier said than done. When it comes to feeling our feelings, many of us adopt an all-or-nothing mentality: we assume that our only options are to curl up into a ball for the rest of time or stay busy and distracted.
Many of our more creative and intricate coping mechanisms (like binge watching TV or throwing ourselves into work) might not cause devastation, but keep us stagnant.
And while I love a good distraction, I can attest from personal and professional experience that it only delays growth and forces us to repeat old patterns. Don’t believe me? Let’s do a short-term/long-term cost-benefit analysis of not feeling emotions:
- Short-term impact: Awesome! Don’t have to feel icky, sad, or scared.
- Long-term impact: Ugh! More self-sabotage, poor decisions, and anxiety.
The good news is that you don’t have to stay in bed for a week and cry in order to really feel your feelings. You can feel things gently. Here's how.
1. Notice it.
Bring your awareness off of your iPhone and onto yourself. Are you feeling discomfort? Don’t worry about the “why” behind your particular emotion. Ironically, when we obsess about understanding emotions, we prevent ourselves from healing and moving forward. Simply stay present and notice the feeling instead. Where in your body do you feel it?
2. Name it.
So often we lump emotions into one big bag of crap. Take time to differentiate them. For example, when you think about your job loss, you may say you feel “sad.” But try breaking that down into parts. Is it anxiety about having unstructured time? Is it nervousness about finding a new job? Is it excitement about the possibilities that lie ahead?
3. Accept it.
It seems contradictory, but feeling an emotion actually helps to process it out of you. Notice it and allow it to pass through you. You don’t need to “do” or “fix” anything, just feel it. Often, we jump straight to a distraction or solution to make the feeling stop. By avoiding the feeling, it gets backed up in us (the equivalent of emotional constipation).
4. Be compassionate.
Acknowledge the fact that it is completely normal to have ups and downs. We all do, and it'd be weird if you didn't have variation in your moods!
But also remember that compassion isn’t the same as complacence. In fact, think of compassion as a secret weapon you can use to give yourself the love and care you need. And like most things, developing self-compassion takes practice.
So make a decision to cultivate your self-compassion practice! Whether that be through changing the words you use to describe yourself, staying present, or treating yourself like you’d treat a friend, there are many ways you can begin to add this in.
5. Act on it.
From a space of awareness, take action. It can be going for a walk, meditating, or calling a friend. Sometimes, action can be non-action. It can be not sending an angry text, having patience, or walking away. This is the time to make self-care a non-negotiable.
Feeling our feelings isn’t something we’re taught in school. It makes sense that we suck at it. We've emphasized learning skills that are “marketable,” and ignored the ones that make us happy. Isn't it time we changed that?
Take time to be gentle, be brave, and be compassionate.
To learn more download your free copy of 10 Tips To Become The Happiest Person You Know.
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