We live in a world in which emotional education still has huge room for improvement. We grow up hearing phrases like “men don’t cry”, “don’t be so angry, it’s not that bad”, “if you express your emotions, others will think you are vulnerable” or “don’t let your emotions affect you”. With this type of messages, I’m not surprised there’s a tendency to be disconnected from our emotions. They’ve become something annoying that distracts us from our busy agendas.
In this article I want to share with you what are the most common mistakes and what we can do instead.
What are the most common mistakes when dealing with emotions?
Thinking that there are “bad” emotions.
Having emotions is part of human nature. There’s no such thing as a bad emotion. It’s very important that we don’t judge ourselves for feeling a certain way. Typically women will struggle when expressing anger, while men won’t allow themselves to cry. There’s nothing wrong if a woman feels angry or a man wants to cry. We might repress ourselves due to limiting beliefs that we acquire when we are young and they can be very harmful.
Ignore/repress our emotions.
Turning a blind eye to our emotions won’t make them disappear. If we need to cry because we’re feeling sad but we stop our emotion (for whatever the reason), that need will still be there. If we don’t let the emotion out, it might cause problems like:
- Lack of concentration
- Physical symptoms
Let them “explode”.
It’s happened to everyone. You have a terrible day in the office, you get home and next thing you know you’re having a massive argument with your partner because they didn’t take the bin out. When emotions are released without control they can be very harmful! They might cause many problems in our relationships. For example, if my way of expressing my anger is by constantly starting a fight, the other person will burn out sooner or later. And I won’t feel much better, most likely I will end up feeling frustrated and confused about why we argue so much.
How can I express my emotions in a healthy way?
If you have an emotion that is making you feel uneasy, try following these steps:
1)Stop for a minute, take a deep breath and connect with yourself.
How do I feel? What do I need?
2) Identify your emotion.
There’s a limitless list of feelings we could name: frustration, procrastination, anger, annoyance, sadness, confusion, nerves, stress, anxiety, panic… But most likely you’ll be able to reduce it to one (or a combination) of the three basic emotions: anger, sadness and fear.
3) Accept and embrace your emotion, give yourself permission to feel it and express it.
This point is key because we tend to judge ourselves and repress our emotions according to our limiting beliefs .
4) Express it in a healthy way:
- For any emotion. Writing is a super therapeutic way of releasing emotions. Write without thinking, don’t worry about the grammar, write whatever comes to your mind. There’s nothing wrong in writing swear words or politically incorrect content. Whatever you write here is for you emotional health and no one else has to see it. If you don’t want to keep what you wrote, you can cross it out, destroy it or throw it away in the bin or in the toilet.
- Anger. Physical exercise is great to release anger. You can add variations like writing the name of what/who is causing your anger on the sole of your shoes while you run, or just visualise it in your body combat class. Be creative! Just remember one condition: do not hurt yourself or anyone else.
If physical exercise is not your thing, try twisting an old cloth while you think or talk about the source of your anger. The cloth won’t complain and you might avoid an unnecessary argument!
- Sadness. I’m not reinventing the wheel if I say that the way to express sadness is crying. I know it doesn’t sound very appealing, but it is necessary if we don’t want our sadness to stay inside us and hurt us. We will normally feel very relieved after crying. However, we don’t necessarily have to cry to release our sadness. Maybe you just need to be alone, in silence and resting. Listen to your body and give it what it needs.
- Fear. Having confidence in our ability to deal with any situation is key to calming our fears. Most times fear takes over because we think we won’t be able to deal with whatever problem we’re worried about. “If he breaks up with me I’ll never get over it”. “If I lose this job I will never find another one”.
Fear can be handled more easily when we share it with someone we trust. It helps talking about it and feeling we have support from someone. But if you don’t want to share it with anyone else, you can also have an inner conversation! What would you say to someone with your exact same fear? Tell yourself you have the necessary resources to deal with the situation. Write them down. Make a list of possible solutions and options you have. Have you dealt with a similar situation before? How did you solve it?
5) Thank yourself for investing this time in your emotional health and appreciate that what you just did is not easy.
Give yourself the credit you deserve!
Emotions and coaching
In my coaching sessions I see many clients who want to learn how to manage their emotions in a healthier way. We discuss their prejudices, their emotional education and we do some exercises like the ones I described above (and many others!). If this is an area you want to improve but you are not sure about how to handle it yourself, maybe doing it with the guidance and support of a professional would be a good option.
I hope this was useful and if you have any questions please share them in the comments below!
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