Emotions are part of us as humans. Most of the times, we take decisions based on our emotions but as much as it is a very important part of our life it is good that we have control over it and not let our feelings control us.
The way we feel at certain points is quite difficult to manage especially when we have reached our breaking point. It may sometimes lead to bottling up emotions which serve as the best poison to mess up your perfectly healthy relationship, work life, and even casual friendships.
How then do we get a handle on our feelings when we have reached our breaking point? How do you stop bottling up your emotions? It’s a tough practice, but I’ve got a few answers. Let’s try them out.
- CHECK IN WITH YOUR FEELINGS DAILY
Feelings can get the better part of us sometimes but it is important that we put a check on our emotions. Ignoring emotions make it consume you the more which is the opposite of what you want.
A lot of times the reason we explode is because prior to that time we didn’t take out time to know exactly what we are feeling; it could be jealousy, anxiety, fear etc.. And when we aren’t even aware of how we are feeling, we have little control over how we process or express ourselves.
The first step to taking control of our emotions is to acknowledge them.
So if you haven’t done a feelings inventory in a while, now is a good time to start. Get to know yourself. You could start off by doing one once a week, then once a day, then even once an hour. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your feelings can shift, and how your more dominant feelings tend to stick longer. Knowing that you’ve been feeling angry for a week is some crucial information that could easily stop you from going off on a random sales associate who is trying to gently push the new fall line when all you wanted was a pair of socks.
Some shortcuts to identifying feelings:
Is your body tense?
What words are popping up in your thoughts?
Is your inner dialogue happy?
Are you being nice to others internally?
Do you have extra energy?
Are you feeling the need to talk to someone?
What’s on your mind right now?
What’s been your most common thought?
If you had to use a feeling word to describe your past week, what would it be?
Again, these are just little shortcuts. Everyone may have different ways of identifying or labeling their feelings – and that’s not entirely important. What’s important is that you are correctly and consistently acknowledging how you feel.
One more thing: If you use the word “like” after “I feel” – that’s not a feeling. That’s a thought. For example, “I feel like I want to punch someone in the face” is not a feeling. “I feel ANGRY” is a feeling.
- GET IN THE HABIT OF COMMUNICATING FEELINGS
Once you get the hang of identifying your feelings, it becomes second nature. By now you know that your morning coffee makes you feel excited, run-ins with your coworker make you feel anxious, daily meetings with your boss make you feel motivated, and your nightly walks make you feel relaxed. Boom. You’re an expert.
Blurting out your feelings around the clock seems odd. Not everyone wants to know that your stress level spikes whenever you hang out with Karen because you know she’s going to start talking about her recent promotion and how she walked 578348387939 steps yesterday. I get it. But in order to not hold everything in, you’re going to have to start letting some out.
You can start slow. Karen might not need to know that you have high blood pressure because of her fabulous long walks, but you can say “Girl, let’s talk about something else – I’m getting stressed out.” Your boss might not love a suck-up, but saying something to the tune of, “Thanks, I feel motivated now” is simple and to the point. And who knows – your barista might love it if you exclaim “Yay! Love this morning coffee!” before your first sip. You don’t have to share every single feeling that you discover, but getting in the habit of sharing a few a day will prep you for when it really counts.
- ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS
Okay, so this is where things get a little tricky.
In order to stop bottling up your feelings, you have to stop feeling so ashamed of them.
Feelings are feelings. They aren’t dirty, they aren’t pathetic, they aren’t meaningless and they definitely aren’t stupid. They’re just feelings. They are born for a reason and they exist for a reason. You might be used to the idea that feelings aren’t “logical” and guess what? They aren’t. But just because they don’t follow the rules of logic does not mean they aren’t RATIONAL. Feelings are very rational. They are legitimate. So we have to start treating them as such.
Whenever you come across an icky feeling that you really don’t want to share (think: jealousy), explore it. Sit in it. Pick it apart. See if you can investigate and get closer to the origin and the workings behind it.
Some shortcuts to understanding feelings:
What was the trigger?
What’s the ongoing fuel?
Why can’t it be released?
Is there something that continues to contribute to it?
What residual feelings or behaviors has it inspired?
How strong is this feeling? Is it taking over my day or a passing thought?
Is it overflowing into other aspects of my life?
Am I projecting?
I could go on and on.
I know that feelings of shame, embarrassment, anger, sadness, and jealousy aren’t fun. I know that society pretends like they don’t exist half the time and prefers everyone to wear their “game face.” I also know that sometimes we have to oblige because those are the dumb rules we have created for ourselves. But I do not want you to get in the habit of pushing these feelings aside because these are the very feelings that will bite you in the booty at the most inopportune time.
And when that happens – just like that – your night is ruined.
I can guarantee you that whoever is on the receiving end of these feelings either 1) has NOTHING to do with it in any way, shape or form, or 2) is so bombarded and overwhelmed that they have no idea how to make things better. And their silence probably sends you into even more of a tailspin.
So what do we do!??!
Just like everything else, start small. Take your time with these feelings before you communicate them. If you practice daily, there might be times when your icky feeling works itself out and doesn’t need to be communicated anymore. Yay! Other times, you might have to engage in multiple discussions to release the feeling. (Semi-boo!). The great news is the more you process internally, the less of a hot mess you will be whilst communicating. You will have such a firm handle on what it is that you are feeling, why you are feeling that way, and the underlying mechanisms that your communication is going to be crystal clear as opposed to your typical mumbles of “I don’t know!” and “stop asking!”
You’re going to be a PRO. And before you know it, you won’t have a reason to bottle up your emotions, because they’re already going to be out in the open.
- USE BUFFERING TECHNIQUES
So not every conversation you have has to be this big ominous thing. It’s not like every time you experience a crap feeling you have to dim the lights and sit down face to face for a fun filled hour long fight.
Try to put your style of communication into the mix. Personally, I like humor. I’m not, like, exceptionally funny (Ok I’m not that funny at all) and I also did not come up with this technique on my own, but it works. I use a lot of self-deprecating humor or small jokes to communicate some not fun feelings sometimes. If I constantly expressed every one of my blah emotions in a serious tone, no one would ever want to be around me.
So instead, I prioritize my not-fun feelings and decide on their level of importance. If my scale is 1 (a passing mood) to 10 (GET OUT OF MY FREAKING WAY I AM COMING FOR YOU) then feelings between a 1 – 7 are most likely going to be bundled in some sort of a joke. Something like “One of us is better at hanging up our towels than the other” or adding a fun voice to “are you trying to make me jealousssss?” will suffice. Some might say this is masking or deflecting, and whatever. Maybe it is. But we can’t sit here and be so serious all the time. You are allowed to communicate your crummy feelings in a light-hearted manner as long as you make them reasonably clear.
Always remember that your friends, your family, and your significant other are not mind readers.
They don’t know what pushes your buttons and what upsets you. They have no idea what other circumstances you might be dealing with (or they might forget!). They can’t have a pulse on your inner feelings 24/7. It is your job to express them and it is your job not to explode in their face when you do so.
Not bottling up your emotions will unlock a world of tranquility, openness, honesty, and connection that you haven’t experienced before. Not every conversation will be so charged. You, nor the special people in your life, will feel the need to walk on eggshells waiting for the other shoe to drop. You will have a handle on yourself and a handle on what makes you tick. It’s a beautiful thing. And it all starts with acknowledging your emotions.