How do we handle our feelings? Can you relate with these scenarios?
It was a long day and you narrowly miss getting fired at work. At home, things aren’t going so well, either. Nothing seems to be going right in your life lately and there are times you feel like bursting into tears. And yet, as soon as you get through the front door, you head straight to the television, turn on some comedy show, and within minutes, you are laughing.
Or take that time when you keep yourself busy knowing that as soon as you stop, you’ll notice that foreboding, sinking feeling at the pit of your stomach. You don’t want to acknowledge it, so you keep yourself occupied to the point of exhaustion.
Perhaps, you even go as far as convincing others–and even yourself–that things are alright. That you are doing well, you tell your friends with a smile.
These are all but a few examples of how you and most people handle feelings.
What We Do With Our Feelings
We may not even realize it, but you may be running. Running as fast as you can from something inside you, something that is strong and potentially overwhelming. This kind of running is one that is unhealthy.
You dodge, minimize, and escape. You keep yourself moving and highly preoccupied so you won’t have time to sort out what you feel. That’s dodging. You talk yourself out of your feelings as a way to minimize it so it’s somehow bearable. Or you may avoid dealing with it through various distractions, seeking a way for you to escape from your own thoughts and feelings.
These things can happen to the best of people. It’s a way for them to keep up with appearances, or to avoid painful experiences, among many other reasons.
The thing is, these emotional skills, while they suffice for some time, are unhealthy. These minimized, dodged, and escaped feelings don’t go away. Instead, they grow, fester, and bide its time until it can emerge again to catch you unawares. Sooner or later, these suppressed emotions can take a toll on your body and your mental health.
Dodging, minimizing, and escaping stunt your emotional growth. You may even develop unhealthy habits and even resort to destructive behavior such as substance abuse in order to cope and continue bottling up those feelings.
Better Ways of Dealing With Your Feelings
If those ways are all you know, don’t despair. You can still learn new, better, and healthier emotional skills and coping mechanisms. Here are a few examples of how you can deal with your feelings in a healthier way.
- Pay attention to your feelings. Make it a daily habit to give yourself a few minutes each day to just focus on your body and your emotions. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and ask yourself, “How am I?” or “What am I feeling right now?”
- Once you are aware of your feelings, start to name them. Doing this can help bridge the gap between your feelings and your thoughts.
- Remember that you are greater than your feelings and that these are temporary. This will help you be at peace with your feelings while still letting it wash over you.
- Once you have named your emotions, you can then ask yourself: “What do I want?” From here, you can start to see the choices that you have, the things that you can do. You can begin to realize that you can be on top of your emotions and they don’t seem so big and overwhelming after all.
By learning to face and manage difficult emotions, you let yourself grow and become more emotionally intelligent. This also allows you to have a more positive way of dealing with the different challenges you encounter in life.