It’s the mature thing to do to “feel your feelings” and then develop healthy coping skills accordingly, right? The truth is, this is difficult for everyone — especially independent, strong-willed and stubborn women who tend to want to avoid anything that might make them seem weak. Chances are, you know, on paper-like, that feeling your feelings is the strong thing to do — that vulnerability is courageous, and that compassion for yourself and others is powerful — but all that is way easier said than done. Here are some pointers to help you embrace the messy process of confronting your feelings and bouncing back:
- Make a real effort to take care of yourself. It’s important to do what you need to do to bring your best (or most “OK” at any given time) self to the world. Whether it’s scheduling enough alone time, making time to read or time to journal every day or going to the gym — these are our basic health-maintenance needs. When we neglect them, life just feels a lot harder than it needs to be. Take time to take care of yourself and feeling your feelings when stuff goes down is way more do-able.
- Commit to fully “feeling it as it comes.” Know that feeling pain is always better than avoiding pain, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. It’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking that continuing to deny a painful experience (like, downloading Tinder the night of a breakup and distracting yourself from pain with another lover), is going to be less painful than feeling it when it happens and just dealing with it. This is a lie we tell ourselves. Truth is, you’ll be a lot more likely to feel a lot more pain in the long run when you repeat patterns you didn’t “get” the first time. Take it as it comes.
- Take self-criticism out of the equation. There’s the pain of a loss, a disappointment or other let down, and then there’s the added pain of self-judgement that can creep in on top of it. When you’re having a tough time, go easy on yourself. This is not the time to add to your pain by beating yourself up about what you did, what you could have done differently, etc. Let go of any “need” to justify your feelings and give yourself a break. Your feelings are always valid. Accept them.
- Do what you need to do to get it out. Take the energy of your feelings — anger, sorrow, whatever it might be — and give it a physical expression. Revisit your punk rock days and blast some Bikini Kill (and make a zine, while you’re at it), write a sharp-tongued email to the person you hate most (but don’t send it … yet), go to kickboxing… whatever. Let it move through you.
- Do a little soul searching, as cheesy as it sounds. Being really aware of how you tend to distract yourself from feeling feelings is your secret weapon. Partying or working out excessively? Shutting down and not leaving the house? At the end of the day, those will just make you feel even worse. Support yourself by recognizing when you’re doing them, and knowing what will help pull you out of that cycle. Maybe it’s a run, a yoga class, hanging with your best friend, calling your sister, making soup and listening to motivating podcasts… you get the picture. Support yourself with small moves that help build up the momentum to get you going again.
- Gain some perspective. Remove yourself from your daily life or routine by meditating or taking a long walk and let yourself process. Without trying to “think your way out of anything,” just let your mind catch up. Removing yourself from familiar territory in any way is helpful for gaining perspective on your situation, which will bring clarity. Clarity is key in this murky process.
- Listen to what your emotions are actually telling you. They are, after all, the most accurate indicators of how things are going in our lives and how we might want to adjust. Emotions help keep us on the right track by making sure that we’re led by more than the intellectual faculties of thought and reason. They help us live a rich, full life that we choose. Knowing this, you can “use” your feelings to help steer you into a new direction. Take control of the situation. What do you want to do to adjust? What can you learn from this? It’s all up to you.