Feelings and Emotions: A Guide to Managing Them
Updated: Aug 30, 2022
Being a new mom was really overwhelming for me.. I'll never forget what it felt like sitting in bed at 3am staring at my peacefully sleeping husband with a newborn baby on my boob.
Imagine it if you will.. waking up to a loud shriek and someone pushing a screaming baby at you then disappearing back into their peaceful slumber. It didn't take long before I started feeling resentful for being put on permanent babysitting duty like that. 😤
I mean… the guy had it so easy. In 30 seconds, he'd get up and grab our son, then he'd hand him off to me and be good to go. I remember staring longingly at him. 😩
I don't like feeling resentful so when I was especially tired one night, I woke my dear husband up and half-asked-half-demanded, "I know you can't help much with the baby while I'm breastfeeding, but can you at least sit up with me so I don't want to kill you?" 😯
Looking back on it now, I recognize that moment was a time when I was true to myself.
Emotions play a big role in how you feel about your life. That's why knowing how to manage them is so critical.
It can be hard to deal with and process your emotions, but the more time and effort you put into it the easier it will be. Don't be frustrated if you don't seem to understand your emotions at first. It takes practice, but the more time you put into it, the easier it gets.
Spend a few minutes describing how you feel throughout the day. You can use a feelings list to help identify what you might be feeling. When you feel emotionally out of control or are heavily influenced by one emotion, wait until the intensity diminishes then try and reflect on what you experienced.
Before you can process emotions, you need to be able to identify them and stay with them long enough to understand and make sense of them.
Phase one. Identifying and acknowledging emotions and feelings 🔎
Ask yourself the following questions while remaining open and curious:
What feelings and sensations am I having?
Where do I feel it in my body?
What thoughts do I have?
Are there any contradictory feelings/thoughts?
Do I have any judgments about my thoughts and feelings?
Do I feel any urge to suppress/move away from these feelings? Why?
Phase Two. Accepting and staying with your feelings 😅
It's hard to tolerate difficult emotional states, but remember that feeling your feelings won't kill you. Whenever you're experiencing a difficult emotion, practice slowly breathing by counting to four as you breathe in, and then counting to five as you breathe out. Feel the feeling with openness and curiosity as you inhale and ask yourself:
Is this feeling intolerable?
Why does it seem intolerable to me?
Do I think something bad will happen if I feel this feeling? What?
Am I experiencing distressing physiological sensations? What/Where?
What can I do to tolerate this state? (breathe / relax / stay still?)
Phase Three. Processing the emotion so you can act on it. In this stage, you're figuring out why you're having a feeling so you can move on. 🤔
Again, ask yourself:
Are there any needs that have not been met? (i.e. Do I feel misunderstood, unheard, or disrespected?)
Has someone violated your boundaries?
Is there a value that's been compromised?
How am I contributing to this?
Am I reverting to old behaviors?
Is this emotional distress caused by distorted thinking?
Are childhood memories triggering this emotion?
Is this distress because I don't accept my feelings or judge them?
Has a series of events led to this distress?
Phase Four. Resolving emotional issues+ being true to yourself 🙌
You don't always know what to do when you feel something. To get a balanced perspective, it's always helpful to talk to someone whose judgement you trust. Emotions are often due to distorted thinking patterns and can be released by reframing. Other times, the emotion is caused by a childhood event or past trauma, but with time and through addressing those emotions, you may be able to move on. However, in some scenarios, we might have to be assertive with someone in our lives when they've violated a boundary or not met a need. Mental well-being comes from addressing emotions and feelings in a healthy way. Depending on what you learn from processing in stage 3, you might have to:
Fulfill a need.
Reframe your thinking
Make your feelings known to someone
Set a boundary again
Allow the feeling to pass
Share your feelings with someone or journal about them
Re-align your actions with your values.
Do the opposite of what you're tempted to do (i.e. if you're tempted to isolate and sleep, go for a walk or talk to someone).
Make amends or apologize to someone
Learning to understand and process your emotions takes time and can be difficult. But when you gain an understanding of how your emotions work, you can start to process them more effectively, which can really transform your life for the better.
If you feel like processing on your own isn't working for you, get help from a professional.