What do you do when you’re having big feelings?
One common thing we recommend is talking through your feelings (especially with a professional who can help you work through where they’re coming from!) Talking through them can help you get to the root of what you’re feeling: what happened to cause the feeling, why the feeling feels related to that event, what emotional memory your feeling is linked to, what that feeling says about your current emotional needs, etc. But sometimes if we talk through our feelings too much we don’t give ourselves a chance to actually feel them. It’s important to let yourself experience your feelings. While talking is a great way to explore why you felt the way you did, it’s still necessary to give those feelings space to exist before you start to analyze them. Otherwise, you can get into the habit of using talking through them as a way to avoid or suppress the actual feeling. and not just use talking through them as a way to avoid/suppress them. We can get emotional release when we do things like vent to a friend. Exploring your feelings with a professional like a therapist can facilitate personal growth and healing, but when we spend too long talking about them we can get fixated on them.
Why is it important to feel your feelings?
When we ignore what we’re feeling, the feeling doesn’t go away. Instead, it often grows stronger until we a) have an emotional outburst or b) experience some sort of physical expression of that emotion. Headaches, nausea, digestive issues, stomach aches, trouble sleeping, etc. can all be physical manifestations of neglected emotional distress. Giving yourself an outlet and a chance to feel them allows your feelings to safely run their course, passing through you, without being suppressed or fixated on.
So how can you express what you’re feeling without talking about it?
You don’t need to be an artist to use art to explore or express your feelings. Humans have been making art as a way to express themselves and connect with others just about as long as humans have been alive. You can paint or write poetry or use clay or make found object sculptures or use any form of artistic creation to get your feelings out. Not everything has to be communicated verbally! How would you express what you’re feeling if you had to do it visually instead of verbally?
Do you play an instrument? (Is there one you want to learn?) Do you sing? If not, can you play your favorite album loud and sing along? Or better yet, find an album that reflects how you’re feeling and sing along. Finding someone else who has already found a way to express what you’re feeling can help you feel less alone, reduce confusion over what you’re feeling, and (of course) just help you get those feelings out as you sing along.
Move your body:
Sometimes what we need is a physical release for our emotions. Even if you’re not someone who enjoys going to the gym or working out, there are plenty of ways to get your body moving so you can release whatever tension you’re feeling. Dance to your favorite record, play with your pets, go for a walk in your neighborhood, clean your house, work in your garden, etc. Getting moving physically can help decompress and release stress, anger, and other uncomfortable emotions.