What do you do when you feel sad, angry, or anxious? Do you take time to sit and process these feelings, or do you try to hide from them? I think our natural tendency is to try to stuff down these feelings. But that is actually the worst thing that we can do.
Our feelings are always there to tell us something. They provide clues as to what’s going on in our subconscious. They all serve a purpose and they all need to be acknowledged. I am the first person to say that it’s best to focus on the positive, but at the same time, it’s unreasonable to believe that you can be happy and positive ALL of the time. It’s best if we stop labeling certain feelings as “good” or “bad” and learn to acknowledge them all. By sitting with our feelings and getting curious about what they are trying to tell us, we allow them to serve their purpose. And once they serve the purpose of teaching us what we need to know, they are free to go. Because that’s all our feelings really need from us: the chance to be FELT.
I was feeling sad and anxious this whole week. In the beginning of the week I tried to ignore it. I busied myself up with activities and filled my schedule to the brim so that I had no time to think. By Wednesday, I was feeling moody and had very low energy. I noticed I was eating really poorly and avoiding most of my usual self care activities. So I decided to get curious about what was going on. I gave myself some space and quiet time to think, and I realized that the 15 year anniversary of my mom’s death was coming up this weekend. Once I had this realization, the way I was feeling was validated. I realized that of course I was feeling sad and anxious; these feelings were showing up to allow me to remember and honor this major loss in my life.
In the early years after my mom’s passing, I came across the idea of something called an “anniversary reaction”, which is the idea that your body and subconscious hold onto the memory of a traumatic event, and every year on or around its anniversary, the body remembers and reacts accordingly. I found it really fascinating and it has always stuck with me.
So I acknowledged that this was what was happening for me this week. I started giving my body the time it needed to process the way I was feeling. I took time to reflect on the many important values and positive qualities I learned from my mom that I am now trying to pass on to my daughter. I took time to grieve the loss of my mom once again, and acknowledged that no matter how many years pass, I will always miss her. I let myself cry when I felt like crying. I talked with my husband about how I was feeling. I stopped trying to hide my emotions. And once I created space to do that, I started to feel better. The feelings went away once I acknowledged them.
The worst thing that we can do when we start to feel emotional is to try to suppress the emotions. Our bodies will always find a way for them to surface. If we give our feelings a chance to be felt, we will find that most times they will go away. No feeling lasts forever. They are meant to come and go.
Here is my 3 step process for feeling your feelings:
Notice your patterns. We all have habitual patterns that we fall back on when we aren’t feeling our best. For me, it starts with my eating habits. I usually eat fairly healthfully, but when I’m stressed I start to crave sugar and simple carbs. For you it might be drinking more alcohol, compulsively shopping, or overworking. Start to notice what your patterns are without being judgmental about them. Once you are aware of your patterns, next time you catch yourself in the midst of these behaviors, that will be your first clue that something’s not right.
Get curious about what you’re feeling. Now that you’ve caught yourself in your pattern and are aware that something is wrong you can take some time to figure out what’s going on. Find somewhere that you can be alone for awhile and think about what is going on in your life. Notice your feelings and get curious about what they are trying to tell you. It may help to get out your journal and write about whatever comes to mind. Another option is to go for a walk while thinking, or even take a bath or shower. Let all of your feelings come up and instead of pushing them away, ask yourself what they are there to teach you.
Get the feelings out. Once you are aware of your feelings and the lessons behind them, it’s time to get them out of your body. You can do this a few different ways, so find the one that feels best for you. Talk to someone you trust, punch a pillow, go for a run, scream in your car, ugly cry, or put on some loud music and dance it all out. Let the feelings come up and then take some action to help ease them out of your body.
So next time you find yourself trying to hide from your feelings by overworking, overdrinking, overeating… stop for a moment. Let yourself feel whatever you’re feeling and get curious about what that feeling is there to tell you or remind you of. Take some time to honor your feelings and seek the wisdom in them. You’ll feel better once you do.
I hope this serves you.