I wanted to get this out there: it’s ok to feel your feelings. So often we put a brave face on or bury our feelings down so we don’t think about them… but they have a habit of bubbling back up to the surface. I can always tell when our eldest daughter is struggling with her emotions. She is a sensitive soul who really feels stuff, she’s empathetic and kind but she sometimes feels things so deeply she is overwhelmed. Often this comes out as anger, tears, fighting, screaming. Sometimes I find her under her bed, furiously writing in her journal. It usually takes days for her to tell me – so different to our middle child who, like me is hot-headed and wears her heart on her sleeve.
A case of the what-ifs
I want to give you an example if I may. I received an email offering her a place at our not-quite-local rainbows pack. It’s about ten minutes away in the next village over. I’d forgotten I had put her on the waiting list if I’m honest and part of me wasn’t going to tell her. For me there’s the complexity of getting three kids out of the house in what we fondly call ‘the witching hour’ – you know – when everyone’s tired but a little bit hyper. Still, I figured it’s not my choice to say yes and so I asked her if she wanted to start. Immediately her little face lit up and she beamed. Then her face fell and she said she didn’t know. I asked her why and she started asking questions:
- What if she didn’t know anyone?
- What if they bullied her?
- What if no-one wanted to be her friend?
- What if she didn’t like it?
- What if….
They tumbled out of her like a waterfall. We addressed each one and I reassured her that on the whole, I believed that most people were friendly, that there would be lots of other new girls too and, most importantly, it was her choice. As the days went by she asked questions but I could see it was making her anxious.
It came to the day of the meetup and she said she didn’t want to go. I said that was ok but could she explain what was going on. She didn’t know what to expect. With the magic of technology, we found some videos showing what rainbows was and the facebook page of the pack itself. We looked through photos and she suddenly said: “I want to go, it looks fun”. In the car en route, she said “they might like me, they might not, it’s OK” – She was giving herself a little pep talk (proud mama).
I would say that I dropped her off, but that would be inaccurate. She ran in, without a backward glance. An hour later she said she can’t wait to come again.
We all have feelings
Now this story could be subbed in for an adult going to a job interview, a networking event, a new course or hobby. We’ve all experienced trying new things and the emotions that come with them. We feel vulnerable and scared of the ‘what ifs’. We all get nervous. Read that again. We all get nervous and that’s OK.
All our feelings are healthy and are natural parts of being a human. We all get sad, happy, focused, angry, low. We can feel terrified, excited, courageous, invincible – all at the same time. The key to all of this is acknowledging the feeling, but not necessarily trying to change it. Often in noticing and naming the emotion it instantaneously helps us. If you want to (or need to) you can explore it further to find out why you keep feeling angry, noticing if it’s a pattern. Noticing makes us more self-aware, more resilient, more understanding of ourselves and others.
Making a plan
We can make a self-care plan depending on what we’re feeling which might involve:
- Talking to someone
- Wrapping up in a duvet with a cup of cocoa
- A long, cleansing bath or shower
- Removing yourself from a volatile situation and taking a breath
- Finding somewhere quiet to think, read, lie down
- Doing some exercise
- Eating something nourishing
- Having some fun
- Write in a journal
Challenging our feelings
Sometimes we need to challenge our thoughts and feelings with a question – is it true? If not, then looking for evidence. With my daughter, we found out what rainbows was like to help challenge her thought that it was going to be unfriendly. With a client, we might explore a limiting belief.
Sitting with our emotions
Sometimes we just need to sit with the emotion and let it wash over us. How many of us feel better after a good cry? Most of us I would suggest. Notice though that we rarely worry about feeling happy – how many of us notice that we feel really good? We mostly get on with it, only noticing when we don’t feel happy and positive. Experiencing all your emotions and being vulnerable with the people that you trust is a sign of true strength, not a weakness.
Finally, we can look for things to be grateful for. They might be really small (like the sun coming through the window as I type this) or they might be bigger life events (like a newborn or finding love). Noting down something you are grateful for daily helps us emotionally and physically to cope with our feelings and emotions. I have started a daily gratitude practice where I snap a quick photo and upload it into my Instagram stories. It takes less than a minute.