I’m the type of person that would rather deal with feelings head on. If I notice a feeling coming up, I am the first to want to talk about it. Well, turns out, this is not a “normal” reaction. In fact, quite the opposite. Many people don’t necessarily like to express their feelings, or deal with understanding feelings in general. But how do we “deal” with these feelings if we are constantly shoving them under the rug? I mean, inevitably we are going to run out of space… or you’ll just be tripping over the giant lumps you’ve created. Right?
How do we get to all that is under the surface, when we are comfortable with only seeing the tip of the iceberg? If you’re visual, like myself, I flash back to the iconic image they would show us all through grade school. I remember it looking something like this;
For those of you who are enneagram fans, I’m a four. Yeah I know, you’re not surprised are you? For those of you who have no idea what that is, first of all, I encourage you to look into it because it’s an amazing tool… but when I say I am a four, I mean I have a natural tendency to sit with my feelings, to process things. Recognizing and experiencing feelings are my own personal comfort zone. However, that does not mean it isn’t hard to deal with the bigger feelings. It can get overwhelming, and sometimes I have no idea where to start. Which is where this post idea is coming from.
More times than not I want to be the “strong” one. I would rather deal with my feelings on my own. And then something happens… I find myself quietly searching for help. Usually in the form of Google. Come on, we have all been there. — It’s late, you can’t sleep, and now you’re five tabs deep after searching, “How to __(enter your current situation here)__?”. I know I am speaking to someone out there!
What’s ironic about this is, while we are seeking help, we are neglecting to help ourselves.
Listen, we can’t all be warriors like David taking on Goliath. Especially when it comes to our feelings. This is where we have to get strategic. We are armed with the wisdom about ourselves already, now it’s time to fight the battle.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but no, we aren’t going to charge, full-steam ahead. Nope. This time, we are going to take it step by step, keeping our footing the whole time. Until we get close enough to stand face to face with that feeling that used to seem too big to handle, and finally be able to shake hands and wave the white flag.
Sounds a whole lot more manageable, huh? That’s because it is.
Like my mom says, “Well, honey, how do you eat an elephant?….One bite at a time”. And she’s exactly right — we can get to the bigger stuff by taking it one small bit at a time. All those feelings that have piled up over months (maybe years), are accessible. Like an onion, as Shrek says, we have layers. We just have to learn how to peel each one back without trying to take on too much.
Step One — Gratitude.
I’m a firm believer that one of the best ways to start processing emotions, feelings, etc. is to start with a grateful heart. Once we recognize all that we DO have to be grateful for, we create a positive environment to more clearly assess what we are feeling.
It sounds small, but mindset makes a huge difference in the way we perceive things. A positive and grateful mindset helps us celebrate the small things. By breaking down ordinary moments into digestible pieces, the bigger things seem less scary, which can help us all keep it
How to Apply This Step:
The practice of sharing daily gratitudes is a nice way to pause and reflect on small “wins”. This can be something as simple as as “the sun came out today” or more significant like “a friend adopted a puppy”. You can create a private Pinterest board, note in your phone, or simply write it down in a journal. By reflecting on things that are going right, we are better able to “deal” with what’s happening under the same consequences, little by little.
Step Two — Grit.
Here’s where we peel back a few more layers. We have set ourselves up by acknowledging the world around us, and being grateful for it. So, it’s time to use this environment to get real with ourselves because, honestly, we would only be shooting ourselves in the foot if we didn’t.
Whether we are experiencing hope, despair, fear, grief, boredom, anxiety, regret, excitement, or anything in between, we have to take the time to identify it and name it. It can be extremely helpful to interact with your emotions as separate from yourself. Why? Because you are not your feelings.
NOTE: It’s also important to remember that you know yourself best. Increased stress on our minds and bodies can leave us feeling drained. If you need to set a boundary for yourself or feel like what you are going though is too much for you to handle on your own, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT ALONE. There are resources available to connect you to professionals and tools to help you;
Call the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) helpline at: 800-950-NAMI or in a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741741.
These are also great resources with information on how to seek professional support:
How to Apply This Step:
Set a timer for two minutes, write down any feelings, thoughts, etc. that come up on a piece of paper. Once the two minutes is up, look at your list.
Next to each item, define the overall emotion. (ex. “I am worried about meeting a deadline.” — This is anxiety.)
Now address that feeling. (ex. “Why do I feel this way?” — Because I have never done this kind of work before.)
Work through each thing and be honest with yourself in the process. Through this exercise you will not only identify what is troubling you, but identify the feelings behind it, and why you feel the way you do.
Step Three — Grace.
Whatever feelings you are experiencing, it is important to remember that they are only temporary… but at the same time, very real.
Sometimes reality is the one thing that feels the most out-of-reach, and when it gets hard to handle, we are left feeling out of control and hopeless. There will be times when all we can do is cry, there will be times when we need a distraction, and there will be times when you feel like you have it under control only to turn around and feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you. This happens to all of us, and I encourage you to be gentle with yourself when it does. Even on the worst days, a little grace for yourself goes a long way.
We are all learning how to deal with the hard stuff. It isn’t easy. Applaud yourself for getting this far, and don’t give up.
How to Apply This Step:
Let go for the need to control your emotions and simply let them come and go. Don’t blame yourself for your feelings. If it helps to keep the list from the previous step and destroy it in some way, do that! You’re only human, tell yourself that and believe it.
When all else fails, give it to God. — Philippians 4:6-7
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds.
At the end of the day, the process of “dealing” with what you feel takes time. Little by little, you will get through it, and you’ll come out on the other side of it stronger than you were before. I’m right there with you, friend.