Pro tip: Stop bottling up your emotions.
Period. Dot. The. End.
Aggressive way to start a blog, I know. But we gots to make this a new regimen in our life.
Here’s the skinny: bottling up emotions is the best poison to royally mess up your perfectly healthy relationship – regardless if it’s professional, romantic, or completely platonic. But I am sure you already know this.
At some point or another, we have all succumbed to the fickle and fussy nature of our feelings. They have decided to retreat when we really needed to unleash them, they have decided to bust out in the worst possible moment in the history of mankind, and they have probably caused a lot of us to chase them around like a loose toddler in a grocery store on more than one occasion.
I get it.
Emotions are difficult. But that doesn’t mean we get to let them run our lives.
So how do we get a handle on our feelings when we have reached our breaking point? How do you stop bottling up your emotions and barfing them up a few days later? It’s a tough practice, but I’ve got a few answers. Let’s try them out.
1. Check in with your feelings daily
I know feelings are unpredictable and messy and sassy little brats that deserve to be put in a corner sometimes. But ignoring them only makes them scream louder. And that is exactly the opposite of what you want.
A lot of times the reason we explode our feelings all over the place is because we haven’t done a good job taking inventory of them. We haven’t realized that we might be feeling resentful, jealous, disheartened, scared, or anxious. And when we aren’t even aware of how we are feeling, we have little to zero control over how we process or express ourselves.
The first step to having a handle on our emotions is to acknowledge them.
So if you haven’t done a feelings inventory in a while, now is a good time to start. Get to know yourself.
You could start off by doing one once a week, then once a day, then hell, even once an hour. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your feelings can shift, and how your more dominant feelings tend to stick for a while. Knowing that you’ve been feeling angry for a solid week is some crucial information that could easily stop you from going off on a random sales associate who is trying to gently push the new fall line when all you wanted was a pair of socks.
Some shortcuts to identifying feelings:
Is your body tense?
What words are popping up in your thoughts?
Is your inner dialogue generally happy?
Are you being nice to others silently?
Do you have extra energy?
Are you feeling the need to talk to someone?
What’s on your mind right now?
What’s been your most common thought?
If you had to use a feeling word to describe your past week, what would it be?
Are you trying to tuck an uncomfortable thought in the back of your mind?
Are you scratching your palms? (My trademark move)
Can you easily relax right now?
Again, these are just little shortcuts. Everyone may have different ways of identifying or labeling their feelings – and that’s not entirely important. What’s important is that you are correctly and consistently acknowledging how you feel.
One more thing: even though I use thoughts to lead me to feelings, don’t cheat and use thoughts as feelings.
If you use the word “like” after “I feel” – that’s not a feeling. That’s a thought. For example, “I feel like I want to punch someone in the face” is not a feeling. “I feel ANGRY” is a feeling. Ideally you’ll get to the place where you can skip the thought scavenger hunt, but for right now thoughts can be a good tool to lead you to feelings if they come easier to you.
2. Get in the Habit of Communicating Feelings
Once you get the hang of identifying your feelings, it becomes second nature.
By now you know that your morning coffee makes you feel excited, run-ins with your coworker make you feel anxious, daily meetings with your boss make you feel motivated, and your nightly walks make you feel relaxed. Boom. You’re an expert.
Ok so now what?
Welp. Now you gots to communicate them.
I know, I know. Blurting out your feelings around the clock seems odd. Not everyone wants to know that your stress level spikes whenever you hang out with Karen because you know she’s going to start talking about her recent promotion and how she walked 578348387939 steps yesterday and how her rent costs $2,500/mo and now you’re thinking about your career and health and finances and YOU’RE STRESSED THE HELL OUT.
Again, I get it.
But in order to not hold everything in, you’re going to have to start letting some out.
You can start slow. Karen might not need to know that you have high blood pressure because of her fabulous long walks, but you can say “Girl, let’s talk about something else – I’m getting stressed out.” Your boss might not love a suck-up, but saying something to the tune of, “Thanks, I feel motivated now” is simple and to the point. And who knows – your barista might love it if you exclaim “Yay! Love this morning coffee!” before your first sip. You don’t have to share every single feeling that you discover, but getting in the habit of sharing a few a day will prep you for when it really counts.
3. Accept your Feelings
Ok so this is where things get a little tricky.
In order to stop bottling up your feelings, you have to stop feeling so ashamed of them.
Feelings are feelings. They aren’t dirty, they aren’t pathetic, they aren’t meaningless and they definitely aren’t stupid.
They’re just feelings.
They develop for a reason and they exist for a reason. You might be used to the idea that feelings aren’t “logical” and guess what?
But just because they don’t follow the rules of logic does not mean they aren’t RATIONAL. Feelings are very rational. They are legitimate. So we have to start treating them as such.
Whenever you come across an icky feeling that you really don’t want to share (think: jealousy), explore it. Sit in it. Pick it apart. See if you can investigate and get closer to the origin and the workings behind it.
Some shortcuts to understanding feelings:
What was the trigger?
What’s keeping the feeling alive?
Why can’t it be released?
Is there something that continues to contribute to it?
When is the last time I felt like this?
What residual feelings or behaviors has it triggered?
How strong is this feeling? Is it taking over my day or a passing thought?
Is it overflowing into other aspects of my life?
Am I projecting my feeling onto others?
I could go on and on.
I know that feelings like shame, embarrassment, anger, sadness, and jealousy aren’t fun. I know that society pretends like they don’t exist half the time and prefers everyone to wear their “game face.” I also know that sometimes we have to oblige because those are the dumb rules we have created for ourselves.
But I do not want you to get in the habit of pushing these feelings aside, because these are the very feelings that will bite you in the booty in the most inopportune time.
And when that happens – just like that – your night is ruined.
I can guarantee you that whomever is on the receiving end of these feelings either 1) has NOTHING to do with it in any way, shape or form, or 2) is so bombarded and overwhelmed that they have no idea how to make things better. And their silence probably sends you into even more of a tailspin.
So what do we do!??!
Just like everything else, start small. Take your time with these feelings before you communicate them. If you practice daily, there might be times when your icky feeling works itself out and doesn’t need to be communicated anymore.
Other times, you might have to engage in multiple discussions to release the feeling. (Semi-boo!). The great news is the more you process internally, the less of a hot mess you will be whilst communicating. You will have such a firm handle on what it is that you are feeling, why you are feeling that way, and the underlying mechanisms that your communication is going to be crystal clear as opposed to your typical mumbles of “I don’t know!” and “stop asking!”
You’re going to be a PRO. And before you know it, you won’t have a reason to bottle up your emotions, because they’re already going to be out in the open.
5. Own the Feeling
So in my opinion, owning and accepting are two different things.
Accepting a feeling means you are acknowledge it exists and not trying to push it away.
Owning a feeling means you don’t try to blame it on somebody else and take it as your own.
Blaming is bad. Bad, bad, bad. When you have a feeling, it’s YOURS. It did not originate in another person and then leap frog on over to you. It was born, bred, and aged inside your lil body all by itself. That is YOUR emotion and you cannot play hot potato with it.
So when you are communicating, make sure to own that feeling fiercely and leave no room for blame. “I statements” are lovely because they 1) own the feeling but also 2) let others know how to help.
Something to the tune of, “I feel hurt and dismissed when I’m left out. I would like to be considered for plans in the future.”
Notice how I didn’t use the word “you” once?
Sometimes that’s a hard thing to avoid – people can be buttheads and need to be called out from time to time. But in an ideal situation, you never use the word “you” when discussing your feelings.
You also managed to deliver a solution. You would like to be included. A text on a Thursday evening about Friday night plans would be swell and probably avoid these feelings altogether.
And – whether you know it or not – you also created a boundary at the same time! Woop! You communicated that you appreciate considerate friends, and being friends with you means having a high standard for inclusivity. And if this other person doesn’t hold it in the same regard, then you don’t have to be super close friends anymore. You can appropriately manage your expectations when it comes to being included, and move on.
Wow. So much accomplished in one little sentence. Isn’t communicating feelings grand?
4. Use Buffering Techniques
Ok… so let’s slow it down a bit.
It’s good to note that not every conversation you have has to be this big ominous thing. It’s not like every time you experience a crap feeling you have to dim the lights and sit down face to face for a fun filled hour long fight night.
Try to put your style of communication into the mix. Personally, I like humor. I’m not, like, exceptionally funny by any means – and I also did not come up with this technique on my own – but it works. I use a lot of self-deprecating humor or small jokes to communicate some not fun feelings sometimes. If I constantly expressed every one of my blah emotions in a serious tone, no one would ever want to be around me.
It’s just too much.
So instead, I prioritize my not-fun feelings and decide on their level of importance. If my scale is 1 (a passing mood) to 10 (GET OUT OF MY FREAKING WAY I AM COMING FOR YOU) then feelings between a 1 – 5 are most likely going to be bundled in some sort of a joke or super casual manner.
Something like “One of us is better at hanging up our towels than the other” or adding a fun voice to “are you trying to make me jealousssss?” will suffice. Some might say this is masking or deflecting, and whatever. Maybe it is. But we can’t sit here and be so serious all the time. You are allowed to communicate your crummy feelings in a light-hearted manner as long as you make them reasonably clear.
And whatever you do, just don’t be passive aggressive. Because there is NOTHING WORSE than being meany-nicey (Parks and Rec please come back for another season!).
Even saying something as quick as “Ouch” when someone says something rather nasty is good enough. It’s not HEY YOU HURT MY FEELINGS AND I DESERVE AN APOLOGY AND I WILL NOT LET IT GO UNTIL THAT HAPPENS – but it’s definitely a quick statement that whatever was said did’t sit with you right.
You always gotta remember that your friends, your family, and your significant other are not mind readers.
They don’t know what pushes your buttons and what upsets you. They have no idea what other circumstances you might be dealing with (or they might forget!). They can’t have a pulse on your inner feelings 24/7. It is your job to express them and it is your job not to explode in their face when you do so.
Not bottling up your emotions will unlock a world of tranquility, openness, honesty, and connection that you haven’t experienced before. Not every conversation will be so charged. You, nor the special people in your life, will feel the need to walk on egg shells waiting for the other shoe to drop. You will have a handle on yourself and a handle on what makes you tick. It’s a beautiful thing. And it all starts with acknowledging your emotions.
Want to stop bottling up your emotions?
Then follow these steps and work with a Blush life coach. She’s your expert on how to get to know yourself better, become more confident with your emotions, and use tailored techniques that fit your personality. Don’t guess when it comes to bettering your relationship – get the right advice. Sign up today and your relationship will thank you later!