I was recently introduced to the concept of processing or "feeling" emotions.
It has been life-changing.
Have you tried it?
If not, allow me to teach you four simple steps to processing your emotions (particularly negative emotions):
1. Name it.
What emotion are you feeling?
Decide what emotion it is and name it.
2. Find it in your body.
By this, I mean describe how the emotion feels inside you.
For example, to me, anger feels hot and fast running through me.
I feel it in my head and in my chest.
And often in my throat.
If anger were a color to me, it would be red.
When you are able to describe how the emotion feels physically, you are instantly taken out of your head and forced into your body.
This automatically makes you the watcher of your emotions.
It separates you from what you are feeling.
Sounds a little woo-woo but it works, sister.
3. Relax into it.
Notice where you are tensing up and try to let go of that tension.
Are you holding it in your shoulders?
Is your stomach tight?
Try to relax.
It sounds cooky, but I picture a Jack-and-Rose "I'm-the-king-of-the-world" type stance.
Like I'm opening myself up to feel all the feels.
This visualization helps me relax into the emotion.
Almost like I'm saying, "come, stay a while, anger/frustration/overwhelm. I can handle you."
4. Remind myself that all of these feelings are happening because of thoughts in my head.
I don't need to know what the thoughts are right now.
I just need to allow the emotion to run it's course.
And it always does.
Usually, processing an emotion takes me less time than it would to find the bag of dark chocolate chips in the pantry and inhale a few handfuls.
It comes and goes pretty quickly if I follow these steps.
And then sometimes comes back again.
But when I process the emotion,
instead of reacting to it (i.e. yelling when I'm angry)
or avoiding/numbing it (i.e. eating my feelings or zoning out on social media),
I realize that negative emotion really isn't that big of a deal.
I can totally handle it.
And so can you.
Here's an example of how I processed shame the other day:
I was at a gas station when a stranger snapped at me about how my minivan was parked.
I responded apologetically as I got in the car, but I almost instantly felt shame wash over me.
Because I have been trying to process my emotions instead of resisting them, I took that opportunity to practice the four steps.
1. 'I'm feeling ashamed right now.'
2. 'Shame feels hot and fast and heavy. I feel it in my chest and my temples, almost like a tap-tap-tapping on my chest. If I could see shame I bet it would be slimy and black.'
3. 'I can totally relax into this emotion. It's not a big deal and I can sit with it as long as I need to. I can relax my shoulders and slow my breathing.'
4. 'It's only happening because of thoughts in my head.'
The feeling of shame came and went several times that day, but just allowing it instead of resisting it helped me release it instead of intensifying it.
Give these steps a try next time you aren't happy with how you are feeling.
It just might change your life, too.