“Danger! Danger! Emotions approaching! Run, hide, push them away, do anything, just make them go away!”
I know I have had this dialogue in my head more than a few times. Have you ever experienced the previous panic or something similar before? Emotions can be a scary and hard thing to handle, but hopefully I can help you see emotions in a new light and clear up some misconceptions for you.
Today we hear about all the mental health diagnoses related to emotions. Depression and anxiety are the two diagnoses that we hear spoken about regularly. Diagnoses are typically emotions left untreated. Yes, diagnoses are real, and no, I am not here to minimize the impact they have on people all around the world. Emotions are made out to be a very scary idea, and we are taught that to be strong we are supposed to suppress emotions and show the world that we are “happy and productive”. Emotions get a bad rap, and what I want for you to understand is: emotions are important and essential to living a well-rounded life. Here are some reasons why emotions are fundamental in life:
- Emotions help create purpose and meaning: When we allow emotions to surface and take time to experience them, our body, mind, and world come alive. In this state we are able to make meaning out of what is going on.
- Emotions create connection between ourselves and the world around us: When we allow emotions to show we are able to connect with people on a deeper level. This gives us richness and fulfillment in our relationships.
- Emotions help us adapt to varying situations: When we allow our emotions to surface we are able to explore areas in our life that may need attended to. Areas that are lacking or areas that are too full and need to be cut back in.
- Emotions offer an understanding of our inner working: Every experience we encounter leaves us with an emotional imprint. That emotional imprint can either help or hinder our growth, and it will help us understand that experience and how to move forward from it.
Emotions communicate very important messages that we need in everyday life. Sadness, fear, anxiety, loneliness, anger, and hurt, all represent some need that our body wants us to interpret in the moment. Each individual will have a different interpretation of emotions based on past experiences, current situations, and genetics. Here are some reasons why we should explore emotions instead of push them away:
- Having emotions (even the “bad ones”) is a good thing (it allows us to do the previously mention fundamentals).
- Emotions tell us what we need in the moment.
- Emotions help fight off danger.
- Emotions help us feel alive and connected when we acknowledge them.
- Emotions provide a sense of stability when they are understood.
We have been taught to push emotions away because it is what society says is needed to be “lady-like” or a “manly-man”. The problem with suppressing our emotions is our body is not able to get what it needs and therefore typically goes into survival mode. Many times, due to suppression, emotions become overwhelming or we learn to turn them off. People then typically start to create maladaptive coping skills (which then creates symptoms) that can call for a mental health diagnosis. Sometimes people turn anxiety into repetitive behavior, fear becomes panic attacks, sadness becomes isolation, loneliness becomes thoughts of suicide. It is when we get stuck with overwhelming emotions that the world tells you that there is something “wrong” with you.
Here are some effective coping skills to help you work with current symptoms:
- Grounding– grounding is a skill that utilizes our five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch). It can help slow down the emotional side of the brain and pull into the logical one so that our full brain can begin to work so we don’t get swept away by emotions.
- Deep Breathing– deep breathing is a skill that has been proven that when practiced consistently over a period of time changes the chemicals in the brain to maintain a more level state of being. Deep breathing also offers us time to gather our thoughts before we react to our emotions.
- Nature and Exercise– There have been studies that have shown getting out in nature releases good chemicals in the brain, and in turn give us a more positive sense of well-being. Exercise does the same thing, and if you make these things a habit you will start to create more level states in the brain.
- Tolerance- This refers to making emotions more bearable. Emotions can be difficult to handle, but learning the skill to sit with emotions will help with becoming familiar, understanding, and building tolerance. When we build tolerance, each time we encounter the emotion the sense of overwhelm becomes less intense and the emotion becomes more bearable. Learning to build tolerance in long-term helps us build resilience to specific situations that used to create intense reactions.
Our body works endlessly to protect us from the outside world. Emotions are just one way that our body alerts us to what is happening around us. Sometimes, when we leave emotions unattended to our body kicks into overdrive to help us understand the importance to what is happening around us, and we develop unwanted symptoms. If you would like some help with where to go next, mastering skills, understanding the importance of your emotions, or how to move forward after you have explored the previously held ideas then please contact me. Understanding, knowledge, compassion, connection, and love are what makes the world feel complete. I offer each of those critical components into my time with you in order to help you find the passion you want for your world.