Emotions carry so much power. They have the ability to carry our internal worlds through a wild adventure, a terrible storm, and into a smooth landing of calm all within moments. Feelings have the power to overwhelm, confuse, exhilarate, infuriate, and provide relief. In the myriad of sensations that emotions produce, it’s very easy to get lost in feelings.
The ability to regulate emotions in a way that feels manageable helps with daily coping and tasks, relationship stability, and a sense of positive well-being. Mental health conditions, prolonged substance use, past or present trauma or abuse, and chronic stress interfere with emotion regulation. When this happens, the capacity to experience emotions can be diminished which leads to feeling “flat” or even depression. Or, our emotions could become intense or erratic in a way that overwhelms a person, and sometimes their loved ones too. If this sounds familiar, talk to a professional to help you understand what’s happening and how to cope.
The best way to understand our emotions is to get back to the basics. Think about how babies experience emotions: they feel them fully and completely. Fussiness happens until it just passes. True joy can be heard in fits of laughter until it comes to its natural end. Somehow, we lose this ability to allow ourselves to just FEEL OUR FEELINGS! It is one of the most important skills to possess for solid mental health. Here is a simple list to help breakdown the foundation for all feelings:
THE 4 BASIC EMOTIONS:
Sorrow, disappointment, hurt, despair, unhappy, grief…the list for “Sad” is long. One of the most important feelings to allow is sadness, yet we avoid this one at all costs. Even with our children, we go to great measures to help our young ones feel better quickly through distraction from the blues. Experiencing despair does pass. It comes to an end. Suppressing or denying sadness can lead to depression, substance use, and other negative adaptations to help avoid this feeling. The best thing to do for yourself (and for a child) is to allow sadness. To simply acknowledge it, and to sit in it until it’s gone. It’s unpleasant, but necessary. The ability to tolerate sorrow sets up success for coping with life’s many disappointments.
Anger provides us with the wonderful tool of knowing when a boundary has been crossed. This healthy emotion can guide us into empowerment and healthy communication. Denying anger or suppressing it can lead to resentment, passive aggressive behavior, verbal or physical aggression, and physical stress. Anger can be felt in our bodies because we hold this emotion in our jaw, chest and neck. Do you clench or grind your teeth at night? Does your chest get tight? Can you feel the heat rise in through your body until your face is flush? Embrace this feeling and reconnect with your personal limits. Use anger as information that something needs to be addressed constructively.
Happiness shows up in many forms: love, excitement, and giddiness. Experiencing joy can physically feel like floating or the sensation of weightlessness. Our faces light up and “beam” this emotion that shines from within. Happiness provides us with moments to which we can cling during darker times. Savor every moment of this emotion when it comes!
Responses to fear are programmed in the most primitive part of our brain: Fight, Flight, or Freeze. Fright can paralyze a person, send them running away, or lead them to throw punches. It can keep us in relationships for too long (freeze), or keep us from committing (flight). Feeling scared has many faces: anxiety, terror, dread, and panic. A good indicator that we feel scared is to check in with our body. If anything moves then that could be fear. GI issues (our stomach literally gets the runs!), butterflies in the stomach, weak knees, or heavy legs (flight and freeze again) are all ways in which fear “moves” in our bodies. Consider fear another great signal that we intuitively produce to alert for danger. Chronic states of fear, such as panic or anxiety, could indicate a mental health issue, or it could be a response to trauma or prolonged stress.
If you or a loved one is in need of support, Low Country Counseling offers specialized therapy for Individuals, Moms, Couples, Families, Children, and Teens. Contact us for any questions you need answered or to schedule an appointment. Help is available. You are not alone!
Hope Starts HERE.