Breaking the Cycle of Emotional Suppression
When you feel a whirlwind of emotions and you're at a loss about what to do, it's pretty normal to just shove those feelings down. Think of it like trying to keep a balloon under water, it's manageable at first. But the longer you try to hold it down, the more effort it requires. Eventually, it becomes nearly impossible to keep it submerged, and it bursts to the surface, often with a lot of force.
That's a lot like what happens with our emotions. We press them down, thinking we can keep them under control, but over time, the pressure builds up. Finally, they just pop up unexpectedly, often in a way that's more intense than any particular situation calls for. People around us can get confused, wondering why we're suddenly so worked up over something seemingly small.
A common example of this, is of course, anger. Anger can fester, grow, and then, boom, it's like a firecracker going off. Afterward, sure, there might be a brief sense of relief, but usually, it's followed by a mix of regret, guilt, shame, maybe self-criticism. And just like that, we're back to square one, stuffing down our emotions, adding another layer to this unhealthy cycle.
This constant suppression is like an ongoing struggle. It seems doable in the short term, but over time, it starts to wear us down. In today's stress-filled world, prioritizing our physical health is ESSENTIAL to prevent this buildup of emotional tension. Because emotional tension will ultimately show up in our bodies - in the form of things like chronic pain, headaches, digestive issues, maybe insomnia.
Our physical state affects how we feel and think - and vice versa. For instance, when you're feeling sick, your mood and mental clarity take a hit. We're more likely to feel irritable, or unmotivated. Or have you noticed how being tired can make you grumpy? The same goes for when you're feeling good – it's easier to be calm and happy.
And the reverse is true, too. A mind full of stress can make your body feel all kinds of bad. It can manifest physically, causing us to feel tense and tired. But when your mind is clear, your body tends to follow suit and relax. This back-and-forth between body and mind really shows why it's important to look after both to keep those emotions in check.
This close connection between the physical and emotional HIGHLIGHTS the need to care for BOTH aspects to maintain emotional balance, and overall wellbeing. When we experience emotional states such as happiness and peace, we feel like we have more energy. Our immune system is stronger. We're better able to fight off disease - and slow down aging.
And so, how do we do this? The challenge lies in breaking the cycle of emotional suppression. Recognizing and acknowledging our emotions is the first step. Instead of pushing them down, we should aim to understand and address them. This can involve various strategies, such as mindfulness practices, or simply talking to a trusted friend or family member.
Mindfulness, in particular, can be a powerful tool. It involves being present in the moment and accepting our thoughts and feelings without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, we learn to observe our emotions without being overwhelmed by them. This helps in managing emotional responses and learning how to process them in a healthier way. This is why mindfulness exercises are at the heart of so many of my programs. Because it's only when we can access this space, can we ultimately create the outcomes we want in life.
Social support is another crucial element. Talking to friends and family about our feelings can provide relief and perspective. These conversations can help us feel understood and less isolated in our experiences.
Finally, self-care plays a vital role. My Chinese medicine teacher would always say, "Self-care is your #1 job." This includes activities that nurture our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, such as exercise, adequate sleep, eating healthily, and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring us joy. Self-care helps build resilience against stress and emotional turmoil.
And so, the mind-body connection plays a crucial role in how we manage our emotions. Recognizing and addressing our emotions, rather than suppressing them, is essential for maintaining this balance. Mindfulness practices help us to be present and experience our feelings without judgment. And, in turn, this influences our physical health, as a calm and clear mind often leads to a relaxed and healthy body. By embracing effective self-care practices, we not only break the cycle of emotional suppression but also enhance our overall health and wellbeing, underscoring the profound impact of the mind-body synergy on our lives.