Are You Feeling Your Feelings?

Imagine you have just received some bad news. You’ve just been told that you have not been awarded with that promotion you’ve been striving towards, you have just been broken up with, or your childhood pet just died. Picture what you would most likely be doing directly afterwards. Would you be immediately doom scrolling on your phone, grabbing for a bottle of wine, or going into your room and shutting the door? Would you feel better after doing these things, or worse? 

Avoidance

One thing we all tend to do with emotions is avoid them–we distract ourselves with anything and everything in order to not feel the wave of emotion that we know is coming. However, avoidance often leads to more stress later on. And did you know that an emotional reaction only lasts about 90 seconds? Any extra feelings beyond that means that you are probably stuck in a thought loop that may be retriggering those initial emotions. So how can we learn to ride the initial wave of emotion and keep ourselves from getting stuck?

Step by Step

Feeling your feelings as they come is something that a lot of us are uncomfortable with or even unfamiliar with doing. In some circumstances, such as being in the middle of a work day, it is appropriate to delay an emotional reaction until a point later in the day when it is safe to take the time to feel. But for the most part, allowing ourselves to feel and process our emotions as they come is an important and beneficial skill. The following are a few steps to help you through that process.

  1. The first step to feeling your feelings is acknowledging that there is an emotion there. You can’t change a flat tire until you acknowledge that you have a flat tire in the first place. Likewise, feelings can linger under the surface and continue to cause problems until they are called out. 
  2. Next, we need to identify what emotion we are feeling. A feelings wheel can be a tremendous help in this if you don’t know where to start. 
  3. Third step–and this is the tricky part–is letting the emotion come. Sit with the emotion despite the discomfort, and try to stay nonjudgmental and curious toward the emotion. Remember to stay grounded and keep breathing through the discomfort. 
  4. The next step is to ask what you need in that moment: do you need to give yourself validation that it is okay to feel this emotion? Do you need to shake it out, cry it out, or journal it out? Do you need support from a friend or family member? 
  5. Lastly, think about self care and how to decompress from what you just experienced. This can look like taking a mental health day for yourself, going for a walk in nature, or even basic things like eating a snack or taking a nap. It can be helpful to think of treating yourself how you would a friend or small child in your care.

Conclusion

Feelings are a normal part of life that we all experience, and it is beneficial to know how to help yourself through feelings big and small. Feelings are not facts, but they do hold information about what we want, need, or have to do. They are not permanent, and will come and go when we let them, but it is a skill that needs to be practiced. The next time you find yourself on the brink of an emotion, try thinking through these steps to help you through it. If you or someone you know could use help processing emotions, please feel free to contact us here

Priscilla Buentello, LPC Associate

Priscilla Buentello, LPC Associate

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