The Power of Acknowledging Emotions

Friday, November 30, 2012

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Part of what fuels the flames of intense emotions is our attempts to squash them down. Ironically, the harder you try to push them aside, the bigger they become. Sometimes simply giving voice to the feelings—in your head, out loud, in a journal, or to a friend—is all it takes for them to get down to a more tolerable level. This might feel uncomfortable at first, but with practice, you may find that those feelings aren’t so big after all.  

Take an active, powerful step toward facing emotions with these three steps: 

  1. Remember to breathe
    Just like with stress, emotions don’t just exist in the head or the heart. Your body responds to them too! When your physical responses take over—like a raised heart rate or increased breathing—the emotions can feel even more intense. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to connect with and calm your body.

  2. Name and reclaim
    Identify the emotion you are feeling. Are you sad? Angry? Lonely? Anxious? Focus on just identifying what the feeling is and not whether you think that’s how you “should” be feeling. Naming the emotion is the first step in reclaiming your response to it. Then you can learn more about what happened in the situation to make you feel that way.

  3. Just be
    Whether you can take a few moments to just sit with the feelings when they happen or you need to wait until later that day, give yourself an opportunity to experience and explore those emotions. Describe the feelings, consider why you felt that way or what triggered it—was it something directly in that circumstance or something else that has been bothering you? Whether you use a journal or just give yourself some quiet space, spending time with your emotions will keep you in the driver’s seat so your emotions aren’t taking the lead.


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