3 steps to process your emotions
Hands up if you suppress your emotions sometimes? Emotions are called feelings because we experience them in our bodies, we feel them.
And we experience them in our bodies because for most of evolution they were designed to compel our system to mobilise away from a threat and find safety – resulting in effective use of anger, fight, fear, flight etc.
When you repress emotions, you suppress your mobilisation response and we can then find ourselves living in the freeze response. For example, many of you may resonate with a sense of panic when you feel something unpleasant and immediately want to just push it down and make it go away.
I certainly have been there in the past. I used to be the master of appearing calm as a cucumber on the outside, but incredibly anxious and fearful on the inside. It’s a strategy to try and make uncomfortable, overwhelming thoughts and feelings more manageable. And it works, for a while…
But unfortunately if we are consistently pushing down emotions they may not disappear, but instead get stored in the body and build up - which at some point can manifest itself in physical symptoms, a lack of ease (dis-ease), stress, anxiety or more negative thoughts - to name a few.
Another way of looking at emotion is e-motion which is energy in motion... so in essence it needs to move, to be processed, to pass through!
So what do you do instead of suppression to get things moving and to ensure we allow the threat response to come and go?
Here’s a short three step process that you can use anytime, any place to do just that (and it only takes a couple of minutes).
1. Notice and name
As ever the best place to start is awareness - becoming conscious about what you’re feeling and how you’re responding to it. Practice observing your emotions from a distance as they come and them name/label them (i.e. I am feeling anxiety/fear right now) and accept them without judgement – knowing that this is a normal and natural human mechanism. This will reduce their power.
When our emotions are triggered, our body changes, and often our breathing changes with it. For example, if you are anxious, your breathing can become faster and shallow which sends the brain a message that something is wrong. Focus on where you feel the emotion in your body and breathe into that feeling.
Try breathing in for a count of four, holding your breath for a count of two and breathing out for a count of six – repeat this five times. With each exhale you can allow yourself to let go of that unpleasant feeling a little more.
Finding an appropriate way to express the emotion you’re feeling outwardly can be really healthy (to get that energy in motion). That might be verbally to someone you trust by sharing what you’re feeling - remember you’re a human being and others have these experiences too - being open about them can be so powerful. Or it might be through journalling, drawing, singing, shouting, crying or something completely different - it’s really personal, but all are so powerful.
I hope that these three steps are the kickstart that you need in your journey to finding greater calmness and balance your life. Be kind to yourself, enjoy the process and make it your own!
If you’d like to go a step further and gain even more powerful mind-body tools to overcome stress and anxiety - please visit my profile, I’d be delighted to support you.
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