From the Inside Out
"Tough emotions are our contract with life." I posted this quote by Susan David on my social media on Monday. I had no idea that as I sit here today writing this week's blog about emotional agility that I would be knee-deep in those tough emotions.
We just got back from vacation last night. We didn't get in until late, so our Bella, aka Chocolate Diva, had to stay one more night at puppy camp. This morning I received a call from camp that she wasn't feeling well. I called the vet to make an appointment and went to pick her up. When I got there, I could tell that she wasn't feeling well at all. I struggled to put her in the car because she was too weak to help me. I could tell that she was having trouble breathing. I called the vet back and asked if I could please bring here in now. The vet thinks she has pneumonia, but he needs to run some tests. I had to leave her there.
I am on an emotional roller coaster. My heart is breaking. I am sad, devasted, worried, and scared. How can this be happening? Yesterday she was doing great. We just finished up a wonderful vacation. Today my world is being rocked.
Here is what I know. Navigating negative emotions like sadness, worry, fear, and anger are tough. Many people would instead bottle them up and pretend they don't exist. Negative emotions are a basic part of life, and there is no way to get around experiencing them. You can't have happiness, joy, and excitement without also experiencing the other end of the spectrum.
Your emotions are valuable and offer important data. But emotions can be scary. I think part of that comes from not knowing what to do with them. Think about the last time you experienced a negative emotion. What did you do?
When I experience negative emotions, I tend to eat my feelings. That's right. Give me anything sweet — chocolate, ice cream, cake, etc. My sweet tooth kicks into overdrive. This is called buffering. Rather than dealing with what has made you sad, upset, mad, anxious, fearful, you reach for something to “buffer” those feelings. Buffering can come in the form of food, alcohol, drugs, sex, sleeping, really anything that you do instead of feeling your feelings.
While it is challenging to allow yourself to feel those negative feelings, your emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual health will thank you.
When you are feeling those negative emotions, here are four steps to help you.
1. Pause. This is especially important in those emotionally charged moments when that blast of anger or fury hits, and you immediately want to react. Instead, pause. Take a moment to think things through. Some people recommend counting to 10 or 100 or saying the alphabet backward, but whatever works for you.
2. Acknowledge what you are feeling. It doesn't matter if you are mad at someone or sad because someone hurt your feelings; you are allowed to feel the way that you do. Acknowledge that you are feeling that feeling.
3. Ask Yourself what is going on? Remember, your feelings are valuable and offer you important data. What is really going on? Maybe one of your values is in conflict with what is happening. Or perhaps you're not really mad at the person but mad at yourself for allowing something to happen. Observe your thoughts and emotions and see them for what they are.
4. Make a choice. You have the power to choose how you want to feel. If you want to feel sad or mad, that is totally up to you. The problem comes when you allow your emotions to own you rather than owning your emotions. You get to choose how long you want to feel the way you do.
Right now, I am very aware of what I am feeling about Bella. Yes, I am sad, upset, and devastated. As much as I want to run and get a bag of chocolate or a piece of cake, I know that isn't helpful. Instead, I choose to feel the way I am feeling. I am sad, and it's okay to feel sad. But I am also grateful. Grateful that where she was staying at knew that something was wrong and immediately called me. Grateful that her vet was willing to take her even though he was completely booked. Grateful that I have a support network that has been in constant contact with me and praying with me. I have faith that God has her and is taking care of her.
I wanted to send this out until I had an update. Bella is doing well. She has pneumonia and will be in recovery mode for a least three weeks if not longer. She is home and resting. It has been a stressful day, but we have successfully navigated the rough waters of life.
Don’t be afraid to feel those hard emotions. Lean it to them and discover what they are telling you.
If you like more help leaning into those negative emotions, I would love to help. Send me a DM here or on FB or Instagram and let's get your free session scheduled.
Make today amazing because you are amazing!