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Dealing with Emotions Mindfully

Updated: Feb 26

Emotions can be such a dirty word. Many people are uncomfortable with feeling emotions. Lots of us feel uncomfortable with feeling our emotions and most of us will do anything to avoid feeling them, we find ourselves burying them deep, trying to keep busy, using drugs or alcohol to numb them, throwing ourselves into our work, finding other unhealthy coping mechanisms of various forms of self harm. To support someone who is expressing emotion is also uncomfortable. How often have you uttered the well-meaning statement of, 'oh don't cry!' or 'Come on lets have a drink to make you feel better?'

We need to reframe how we think about our emotions. Emotions are not a sign of weakness but are just our body's way of trying to communicate to us what it is we need and what is important. We can use our emotions to drive us into positive action and to guide us into the right decisions for our lives. If we try to ignore how we feel we can continue down a path that is not right for us.

Suppressing our emotions has a profound effect on not only our mental health but our physical health as well. It is all connected. Notice you're more susceptible to colds and viruses when you've been going through a difficult time? That's no coincidence.

Ways to manage emotions

First of all, you need to find the emotion you are feeling. Often we find ourselves feeling low, snappy, tired, and generally unhappy but pushing through because of our commitments and the daily grind. It's important to take time in the day to sit down and ask yourself. 'How am I today?' and answer this question honestly to yourself. Don't judge the answers that come to you, take on both positive and negative answers without analyzing them or judging what you have said. I remember suffering from depression in my early twenties. I was standing in a queue in the supermarket and asked myself why I felt so bad. I couldn't come up with a 'good enough' answer in my mind and I then felt guilty for feeling depressed. I was working in social care at the time and I knew lots of people that were much worse off than I was. Thinking in this way is counterproductive and very unfair. We all experience and react to situations in different ways. There is no competition or hierarchy for who has had it worse, or who is entitled to feel bad. How we process our feelings and experiences is all deeply personal and unique to us.

Then if we can it's good to name the emotion. For example, "I am feeling angry" Where am I feeling it? I can feel my heart racing, I feel hot, my jaw is locking, my fists are closing. Work through each area of your body and notice and name all the feelings and sensations you are experiencing. We then need to process this emotion, there are lots of ways to do this and what works for one person may not work for another. The processing is unique to the individual and can only be found through trial and error.

Ways to Process the Emotion

#Journaling/Talking It can be done by talking to a trusted friend/therapist or journaling. Getting it out helps to release it from our heads and takes away some of the power of that emotion.

#Exercise It may be doing something that gets your heart pumping, going for a run, cold water swimming, a brisk walk, a HIT workout. Science has proven exercise to be mood-enhancing. It releases endorphins which are the body's natural pain killers and mood elevators.

#Sleep You may just want to sleep, how often has someone told you to 'sleep on it' or 'things will look brighter in the morning.' It's because quite often they do! Sleep by nature recharges us and helps us process our emotions with dreaming.

#Meditate Try meditation, I find this is one of the hardest things to do when I am stressed, anxious, or low in mood but if you can meditation is a good place to process your emotions and as meditation can be used to not think and blank your mind giving yourself a break, it can also be used as a time to think. I have found a compromise in yin yoga, if you are like myself and struggle to meditate when experiencing high emotions yin yoga may be just your thing.

#Cry Naturally we want to cry when we experience high-intensity emotions. As we grow up we are encouraged not to cry and we learn to supress it. But nature is clever! Crying acts as a release. It releases oxytocin and endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that help ease both physical and emotional pain thus restoring emotional balance and promoting our well-being

#Punch something/scream Notice I said something, not someone. Punching someone gets you in trouble, but punching a pillow or screaming into a pillow can allow us to feel a sense of release.


#Gratitude List When allowing ourselves to feel emotions it can be overwhelming, being grateful for what we have and the things that are going well no matter how small can help us get things more in perspective and feel more balanced. When I was at my lowest my friend made me a beautiful book (pictured above, thank you Sophie). I still have it to this day and add to it when I feel I need to.

#Distraction Although this seems a contradiction to everything I've said staying with emotions all the time and becoming engrossed by them is not good either. Give yourself a break from feeling sometimes, whether that's sitting down to watch your favourite film or a bit of Netflix. I find watching something I've seen before and that I know the ending to is very calming and comforting. Sometimes familiarity with no surprises is very much needed in the chaotic world we are all trying to navigate.

I hope this has helped, if anyone is finding themselves in a situation where their emotions are overwhelming and feel unable to cope support is available via your GP or 111. If you feel your life or someone you know life is in immediate danger please go to your nearest A&E department or call 999.

Did you know I offer support work to help you achieve your goals, raise your self-esteem, reframe thoughts, advice, and support with anxiety management and managing stress levels? Click below to ask about my availability for one-to-one sessions. These can be arranged face-to-face or on Zoom.

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A thought provoking and empathetic blog Rae. Excellent suggestions for processing emotions :)

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