How Does That Make You Feel?

If you’ve been following my other blog posts, you would know that emotions are a big deal to me.  The reason why is the topic of this blog post: My failure to acknowledge my emotions on a daily basis has been the ultimate source of my anxiety.  For a long time, I kept my emotions bottled up inside of me, afraid to show others how I felt.  I was scared that no one would understand–or, even worse, that no one would care.  As a result, my anxiety became the only thing that I would let myself feel.  On the outside, I became quiet, reserved, and stoic.

I would have random moments where I would not be able to control my emotions.  My friend would invite me to hang out, and I would angrily scream that I was always busy and I could never hang out with anyone!  My mom and I would go out to eat, and I would start crying.  I would apologize and then become irritated because I would not know why I was crying.  I would have a great day at the beach with my friends, then come home and have a bout of depression.  I believe that this chaos of emotions is due to the fact that I did not deal with my emotions on a daily basis.

As a result of my inability to control how I felt, I would feel more and more anxiety because I did not know what was wrong with me.  I even developed psychosomatic symptoms (physical symptoms caused by mental or emotional stress) because I was not emotionally healthy.  There was a period of time where I could not eat anything; everything I ate made me sick.  I would also randomly get headaches.  These physical sicknesses, as well as the episodes of emotional outburst, were red flags that something needed to change.

This last year of college, I learned how to identify my emotions.  I discovered the value of my emotions, and the freedom to express them whenever I needed.  When others told me to stop overreacting and just calm down, I stood firm in my ability and entitlement to feel what was in my heart.

I am finding a balance between expressing when I feel sad and forgetting about all of the blessings that I have. Today, I read some insightful advice from Tommy Newberry’s 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life.  He made it clear that it is okay to feel emotions, but it is also important not to let those emotions justify negative thinking or behavior.  I realized that my negative emotions (irritability, feeling unloved, and feeling belittled) come from my refusal to take responsibility for my emotions.  I justify my emotions by blaming others or saying that I’m entitled.  I have a right to feel irritable because I did not sleep well last night.  I would feel happy, if she did not look at me the wrong way this morning.  Well, now that I am an adult, I am now responsible for how I feel and what I think.

You are responsible for your emotions.  You could either suppress them or dump them onto other people.  It is important not to justify your emotions but to validate them.  You can start by writing a journal entry, maybe something like this:

Today, I feel (emotion) because (reason why you feel this way).  I know that this is a valid emotion, but it does not have to control how I live.  In order to be happy today, I can (practical ways that you can feel joy again, whether it is talking about it with a friend, changing your perspective about the situation, or doing something fun to distract yourself from it for a little while).  Today is going to be a great day, filled with joy and peace rather than anxiety and negativity.

It is difficult to sort through your emotions when you have a lot of them. However, identifying your emotions can dispel anxiety and cause long lasting peace.  I can honestly say that identifying and learning how to express my emotions has been the most helpful exercise in overcoming anxiety.  Because of the support of other people, the grace of God, and the many hours I spend a day writing in my journal, I do not have any more stomach problems or headaches.

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