Gulp…how you doin’ mama? If you have a kid leaving for college (or kindergarten, or preschool, or his first year at middle or high school…), you are going to be full of big and often conflicting emotions. Your logical mind can tell you that everything is “fine”; that your child is supposed to be going to college or kindergarten; that this is actually a magnificent opportunity. Yet, your emotional mind will give your rational mind the finger and run for the box of kleenex. I’m here to tell you that you’re not losing your mind. Rather, you’re human!
You have poured your heart and soul into this little being (who’s not so little anymore) and it’s time for them to step out in some way. Of course this is scary. Your child is starting a new chapter that doesn’t revolve around you. Of course you’re going to feel some strong emotions. You might feel sad, excited, lonely, proud, worried, apprehensive, guilty, regret, grief… Might some of these be difficult to feel? Yes. Has something gone wrong? No. Are all of these easy feelings to feel? No. However, feel them we must. Depression is the suppression of emotions. Let’s learn how to feel and process these strong emotions.
Imagine yourself surfing and the waves are your emotions. They come and go. Some are stronger than others but every single one has an end point (the shore). The goal is to surf the wave all the way to the shore. Don’t hop off mid-ride because your legs are aching. Ride it all the way in.
We get into trouble when we resist feeling the strong emotions or run away from riding the big waves. Why do we resist? Fear. Deep down, we think we won’t be able to handle the strong feeling. We are afraid that if we allow ourselves to feel the sadness or loneliness that we’ll go down a deep dark hole and not be able to climb out. The opposite is true. Depression is caused by suppressing your emotions. When you resist feeling emotions, you do fall into a dark hole. However, when you allow yourself to feel, physically feel, your feeling, the feeling will pass. Emotions are energy in motion. There is an energy that needs to be processed. You might cry. You might rage. You might feel pretty crappy as you ride the wave, but it will pass. It is only when we suppress our emotions that we run into trouble.
How do we process our emotions? There are many tools (journaling, meditating, working with a coach, etc) but they all follow this same path:
1) Name It: Name your feeling. Name your emotion. A feeling is one word. Here is a list of some of them. Put a word to what you’re feeling to begin the process.
2) Describe It: What does your feeling feel like? Feelings are energy in motion and are physical sensations in your body. Where do you feel it in your body? Does it feel hot or cold? Sharp or soft? Do you feel short of breath? Nauseous? Get specific.
3) Allow It. Keep your mind on the physical feeling. Breathe. The feeling will pass, usually within 90 seconds. Stronger emotions are less comfortable to feel but don’t jump off the wave mid-stream. You can handle any emotion or feeling that comes your way.
Each of these steps is equally important yet in my experience, people tend to skip step 3 and choose instead to resist the emotion. How do we resist? We all have our personal favorites. Some of us resist feeling our emotions by getting really busy, filling our life so full we don’t have time to notice what’s going on. Some of us eat to shove the emotion down instead of feeing it. Some of us drink or shop or clean to numb out. Others use Netflix, Facebook, or get over-involved in our kids’ lives. As a whole, we spend an awful lot of time and energy avoiding our feelings. I am here to assure you that it’s actually easier to feel the darn things than to spend all this time avoiding them.
Back to the water analogy: think of a beach ball as your emotions. Try holding that beach ball under the water (to avoid feeling it). Think of the energy you use as you push against the ball. When you allow the ball to surface, there’s a sense of release and calm. The same is true when you allow yourself to be sad or angry or disappointed. Go back to last week’s blog where we discussed being a kind observer of your life. Be kind to yourself as you observe what you’re feeling. Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. I like to remind myself that my feelings are here to teach me something and that “nothing has gone wrong here”. I love my son. He is leaving for college. It is normal for me to feel a wide range of emotions.
Here are some helpful things you can tell yourself while learning how to process emotions:
We create drama in our lives when we resist feeling our feelings.
Ride your wave all the way to the shore.
Nothing has gone wrong here.
Yes I can handle it.
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