"People try to bottle up their emotions, as if it's somehow wrong to have natural reactions to life.”
― Colleen Hoover
Here's a fact. When we are unable to regulate our emotions we'll struggle to be effective in our lives. We end up saying and doing things that get in the way of living the life we want to live and being the people we want to be. We get so caught up in the busyness of our days, we might not even notice we're out of touch with ourselves. We find ourselves snapping at others, feeling angry over things we usually wouldn't care about. Maybe we're tearful and the smallest thing can set us off. Maybe we just shut down and go numb. These are good signs we need to stop and reconnect.
There are several steps involved in developing emotional regulation skills, but the first one is to notice and feel our feelings and then name them. That's what we're going to spend a couple minutes paying attention to today.
What are you feeling?
Reconnecting is really very simple. We feel. Nothing fancy, or difficult. We just start inviting and feeling, allowing feelings and paying attention to them. You can practice anywhere, as much and as often as you like.
You can feel right now. Just stop, close your eyes, take a deep breath in, and feel. Start by noticing physical sensation – my back feels a bit sore from being hunched over the keyboard, my arms are chilly, my chest feels a bit tight.
Then, take another breath or two, and tune in to what you feel inside – that tightness in my chest, it doesn’t release when I breathe, it makes me feel anxious, like there is a feeling there, I don’t want to feel. I am anxious that I can’t quite get to the feeling…. Oh… I feel sadness. Yes! It’s sadness …
You don’t need to do anything with your feelings
You don’t have to censor your feelings, or worry that the feeling is inappropriate, or that something must be wrong with you because you are feeling it. You don’t need to worry you will lose control and say or do something terrible.
Feelings aren’t actions, they are just feelings
It’s okay if you are angry, or afraid or very, very sad. No one melted because they were feeling a feeling. You don’t have to worry that if you start feeling a feeling that it will never stop or go away. Feelings are energy, and they tend to move through us in waves. You can ride the wave and get to the other side.
Keep your awareness right here, right now. Acknowledge the feeling. Oh, I am feeling sad. Don’t get in a dither about it, just notice it, name it, feel it, then let it move through your body … energy + motion = e-motion. You can think about your feeling, but you don’t need to hyper-analyze it. Stay with the feeling, breathe into it … notice it in your body… feel the emotional“wave” rise, crash, ebb away. Stick with it, breathe with it until it slips away.
We do so much better when we make time to stay connected to ourselves. It doesn't have to be a big deal. Five minutes in the morning, five at lunch time, five before bed. Breathe, notice, ask.