This is an excerpt from the non-fiction book I'm working on called Bouncing Back Stronger.
It’s 9:30 PM. One hand is deep inside a Cheddar Jack Cheez-It box - and the other is holding a full wine glass. An empty bottle of Chardonnay rests on the side table, and Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles is on.
I come to at 3 AM bloated and anxious. “Why can’t I stop doing this?”
This used to be my Thursday night routine – and still would be if I hadn’t started tracking my food intake and noticed this unhealthy habit cycle.
Why did it keep happening?
Because by Thursday, I was so exhausted keeping the wheels on the work and mommy “bus” that the stuffed feelings of frustration, fear, and anger would erupt. Not knowing any better, I numbed the uncomfortable energy with junk food, reality TV, and wine.
Does anyone relate to this?
Why can’t we let our feelings out instead of bottling them up?
At some point, we learned it wasn’t safe to - maybe because our feelings threatened or embarrassed others.
Where did you learn how to handle your feelings? How are those teachings affecting your career, life, work, and relationships today?
How might we embrace our emotions and express them safely? We can start by using them as a clue instead of stuffing them down.
One of my clues is saying, “I’m fine.” Whenever I say it, I know I’m hiding my feelings.
What does “fine” even mean?
The definition of the word is “very well.” But is that what we say when things are very well? No. We say everything’s “excellent,” “amazing,” or “wonderful.” Not “fine.”
Maybe a more appropriate definition of the word is “Feelings Inside, Not Expressed.”
Keeping emotions in is harmful not only to our health (they can cause increased blood pressure, ulcers and other digestion complications, muscle pain, anxiety, and depression) but also to our relationships.
People can tell when we're upset. We give off energy when angry that is undeniable. In the recent Oscar-nominated movie Otto (more below) – the title character is grieving the death of his wife – but he isn’t managing his feelings. He’s stuck in grief – and grumpy and difficult as a result. His tone is sharp, his words short, facial expression dark and wrinkled. He is rude to one woman - but she sees he is hurting - and she puts her foot in the way when he closes the door on her. She won’t turn away- and that’s where his healing begins.
These unspoken emotional behaviors put people off and derail us at work or home. If we continue to keep those emotions inside, they can lead to isolation and illness. We probably don’t express our feelings because we’re afraid we’ll get into trouble or not have friends. But not expressing them can lead to the same outcome – with the addition of possibly getting fired, divorced, or ill as well.
What can we do? Give ourselves a break and look for ways to nurture until we can deal with the feelings healthily and constructively. What does this look like?
1. Walking away from a situation that is too intense. You can always say you must go to the bathroom if you’re in person or have to answer the door, or the connection is terrible if you’re on a virtual call. Sometimes just cutting off the conversation for a few minutes is enough to let the feelings dissipate so we can better address them.
2. Setting boundaries. When I first got divorced, people would ask me inappropriate questions about the settlement or how I felt about my ex-husband or who I was dating. I learned over time to say, “That’s not a question I’m going to answer.”
3. Meditating to let the feelings wash over our bodies and down into the earth or along an imaginary river.
4. Some other ways to navigate our feelings include:
- Journaling, and if acceptable, sharing our feelings constructively.
- Engaging in energy-releasing activities – yoga, singing, dancing, massage,
- Giving ourselves time to sit with them, and then notice how they ebb over time.
- Talking them over with a therapist, life coach, or friend.
- Working with a Reiki Master or EFT practitioner.
- Actively reframing our self-talk.
That brings me to one of my favorite words - yet.
Sometimes when going through difficult times, we catastrophize. I will never be happy. I can’t find love. Career success is not in the cards for me. My kids will never be settled.
Find a way to add the word “yet” to those sentences. Hope is the key to survival. We have to keep the door open just a bit to the possibility that it will all work out - and then it will.
We don’t have to suffer from our emotions or unhealthy habits. We can embrace the feelings as the helpers they are and look for where we can healthily accept what is happening – which is the next step in the Bouncing Back Stronger journey.
If this discussion resonated with you, and you're looking to live a healthier, more joyful life, join the May 19th “How to Make Lasting Habit Change” workshop. Click here to register (only a few spots left).
Hope to see you there.
P.S. Please let me know if you found this piece helpful and how you safely navigate your feelings. I would love to hear from you!