Ever wonder how you can manage your emotions in a healthier way? This post today is all about emotions and the basics to get you started.
How are you? Truly, if you were to pause and check in what could you name? Are you tired? Sad? Excited about something? A mixture of something else? Most of us rarely pause throughout the day to check in with ourselves and ask the question "how am I doing?". More so, most of us have never been taught the skills to notice what emotions are present and what to do with them. Most of us travel through our day on autopilot. But emotions offer us an amazing tool. They are information for us to understand whats going on inside of our bodies, our minds and our brains so we can guide our life better.
Emotions versus Feelings
An emotion comes from a judgment of an experience we have. It stems from how we interpret the current situation. Which is why one situation may present as excitement for one person while it may provoke fear in another. Emotions are typically short lived and have a somatic response along with them ( such as tension in the body, feeling hot, blushing, racing heart).
A feeling is our internal response to the emotions. So, experiencing excitement about my new job is an emotion and with that excitement "I can't wait to get to work and start my day or share the news with those I love" that's the feeling. It's all very nuanced and in the big picture they tend to both overlap. When someone tells you how they are doing it's typically a blend of emotions and feelings right along with them.
But I don't do emotions.....
For those of us who "don't do emotions", I always love to reference Brene Brown who shares "If you don't do emotions, they will do you". Emotions are a continuous flow that we ALL experience throughout our day whether we are aware of them or numb to them. Our emotions are like waves, ebbing and flowing as we move along. Rarely do we ever just experience one emotion at a time. Likely there are multiples emotions present that can change in an instant. When we "don't do emotions" we can typically see emotions manifesting in other ways. This might look like irritability, anger outbursts, social media scrolling, increased drinking or other numbing behaviors just to name a few. But here's the deal, as long as we're human we're going to experience a range of emotions which is why becoming an expert of OUR own emotions and regulation can be a worthwhile journey.
Are there bad emotions we should try to avoid?
We tend to label emotions as good and bad. You know all those social media posts that say "good vibes only" and "just be positive"? Well, although good intentions, they are actually doing a disservice. Unless you are a robot, there will be times when you aren't experiencing "good vibes". In fact, many of us have different baselines of happiness levels due to genetics, among other factors. ALL emotions fit. Yes, some are more uncomfortable than others, but the more we try to push those uncomfortable emotions away the more difficult they become to manage. The healthiest thing we can do is begin to develop skills to navigate all emotions (because as long as you're human, you will experience them all on a regular basis).
Beach ball analogy
I love to offer this analogy as a way to sit with emotions.
The Beach Ball analogy: Choose one emotion that you have a difficult time sitting with. Let's say it's sadness. Now, imagine that sadness as a beach ball floating around a pool with you. If you constantly try to hold that beach ball under water so you don't have to see it anymore, eventually it's going to pop out and splash you in the face. If you leave the beach ball floating on top of the water, every now and than it may come and bump into you, however it's not there long before it floats away again. It also takes a lot less time and energy than pushing it away. The key is to work towards accepting all emotions (aka the beach ball) will be a part of your life. You have the options of trying to push it away and having it pop up and splash you time and time again or work towards accepting it is there and learning how to care for yourself when it does come up and bump you.
Fun Facts about emotions and your health:
These stats come right out of the book Permission to Feel from Marc Brackett, Ph.D (highly recommend!)
The first step is to be able to recognize what we are experiencing. When we are on autopilot there is typically no space between an event and a reaction. Example: we're late to work (event) and we become irritated, short tempered and rush through our day to make up for lost time (reaction). Our first goal at becoming emotional experts is to pause between an event and our reaction so we can recognize and identify what is actually going on. Example: we're late to work (event) we pause and notice we are anxious, feeling rushed and pretty stressed. We're worried our boss will be upset or we will be judged by our co -workers (recognizing).
When we turn off autopilot we become more capable of choosing how we want to respond to a situation. More on this to come in a future post! For now, I encourage you to practice pausing as often as you can. When an event happens take a moment to check in and see if you can recognize any emotions or feelings coming up for you.
Rooting for you in your emotional health journey,
Hanna Kuyper, M.A, CIEC. is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT 109748) under the employment and supervision of DaLene Forester, PhD, LMFT, LPCC MFC 33095, LPC 629. ) Hanna see’s clients out of her private practice in Redding, CA. Hanna is also a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.