July is the month of dog days – the hottest days of summer. Historically, they were considered to be an unlucky period, when local dogs were more likely to fight, unexpected thunderstorms came and went, and the combination of heat and lack of rains made crops and their farmers suffer.

Can you recognise that sensation? A heady mix of uncertainty, out of control, lots of important things to take care of plus overly hot nights meaning extra tiredness and heavy heads.

This month’s I want to talk about emotions, recognising them, allowing ourselves to feel them, and stepping through them with a few helping hands.

INSIGHT

Have you ever been told to leave your emotions “at the door”, or to “get a grip” or even to “suck it up”? Yep, I have too. Compartmentalising emotions, locking them away for later, can be seen as the done thing to do at work and in family or personal situations.

Yet we find ourselves at a time where skills in emotional intelligence and resilience are valued more and more. Where medical experts are seeing the impacts of unprocessed or repeated emotional experiences on our physical and mental health. Where workplaces are finally addressing the emotional impacts of grief and loss, as being more than the standard 3 days leave and introducing miscarriage policies for mums and dads.

How do we show up authentically, with our emotion needs fully met?

When we get hurt physically, we know to clean the wound, disinfect it, dress it and pay attention to it, until it heals – simple first aid practices, right? No one would think twice about you doing just that for a cut. Yet, it’s not uncommon that we brush off emotional hurts or discomfort – perhaps it might be embarrassing, shameful or “just not what we do in our family”. 

Whilst some forms of emotional pain require formal therapy, we can all practice daily emotional hygiene. They clear the negative and make space for the positive emotions. Here’s some ideas to consider:

  • 1) Recognise and acknowledge your emotions – you might find using an emotions wheel a helpful prompt to effective articule what you are feeling.
  • 2) Listen to your body – so often we get physical accompaniments to our emotions: tense shoulders, joint aches or funny tummies. Pay attention and ask yourself what is behind this sensation?
  • 3) Be compassionate towards yourself and replenish. Do something that makes you feel better.
  • 4) Don’t ruminate – distract yourself with uplifting things: a kitchen boogie, get outside, bake a cake for someone else, call a friend
  • 5) Move your body – release some happy hormones to trick your brain into feeling better. Exercise is a proven pick me up – whether full on sweaty workout or a short gentle stroll. 
  • 6) Seek the lessons and learnings that can take you forward, rather than the stinging nettles to shame or guilt yourself with.

Take a moment, looking back over the last week or so how have your emotions impacted your behaviour, your mood and your reactions or decisions?

I know for me facing my emotions takes courage – to look at the big hurts, significant losses and especially the places where I feel I let myself down, in my choices, reactions or behaviours.

For me, it seems like three types of courage is needed.

First, the bravery to recognise we have emotions which we are repressing and causing us to not be at our best. Taking a step to change our relationship with our emotions and find ways to sustain our mental wellness can feel daunting or overwhelming. A helping hand from a coach, Mental Health First Aider, GP or Therapist can all provide you with ways to achieve 

Then we need the guts to meet our emotions face to face and dig into them, knowing that this is going to be hard in the moment – it might stir up long forgotten moments, shake up our moods or sleep for a few days each time we dive in and further emotions may surface. Ones which we’re ashamed to share or we fear being judged for. Any professional practitioner will hold you in reassuring confidence and with compassion, not judgement.

Lastly, we need a dose of daring to embed the wisdom and learnings into what and where we go next, as well as with who. Most often at this stage, I hear anxieties about what will people make of this “totally different new me”? Then they try new behaviours, like holding boundaries with others or making career or life decisions to affirm their values, rather than diminish them, and anyone who truly cares is simply overjoyed for them.

Which stage do you need courage for? How will you find it?

COURAGE

LIBERTY

We have the choice to make emotional hygiene parts of our day to day, or not. We have the choice to seek professional help, or not. We have the choice to stick with our unprocessed ugliest emotions and keep sitting on them.

When you’ve had enough of their impacts, when you’re sick of their pervasive interference in many parts of life, when you’re exhausted having to hold them in, please take a small step to resolve them.

One of my favourite experts in this space, Annie Stoker uses a lovely metaphor for this. She describes it as trying keep everything happening and trying to hold a beach ball under the surface of a pool – the ball keeps trying to pop up to the surface and it reacts to the waves and the wind.

You can keep your hands on the ball, but its gets slippery and unpredictable. Then when you least expect or at a super inconvenient time, your grip will fail. Pop! Up that beach ball comes…….

Being able to tune into your emotions with ease is a skills developed through reflective practices, such as dynamic mediations, embodiment work and journaling.

Each of these allows us to safely peel away the layers to uncover what we’re feeling, where are you feeling it, what triggered these sensations and also the meanings you’re giving to it. Then once we’ve gained space to breathe and for our brains a chance to step back from the fight, flight, freeze or fawn response, we can beginning to connect with our inner wisdom to find new ways forward.

Connection might look like surrendering to our Sorceress powertype’s insights or bringing out Lover’s self care or wrapping ourselves up in Mother’s unconditional nurturing. It could also include focusing on alignment with Queen’s vision for ourselves or our realm or firing up our feisty Warrioress to defend our needs.

How well do you know your Powertypes? Can you access them with easy, stepping into full embodiment to create synergy between your emotions, your thoughts and your physical actions? How can you enhance your access this month?

CONNECTION

JOY

I should point out not all emotions are negative. Joy, the inner appreciation of our  life’s uplifting moments, is not to be forgotten!

For me, it’s different to happiness, an externally manifested sense of contentment and pleasure. It can contribute to feeling joy, alongside others elements like gratitude, beauty, good fortune, or satisfaction with life.

With so many things that can contribute to feeling joy, it can be hard to feel. We might feel ashamed, guilty or even that our “definition” of joy isn’t in tune with others.

We sabotage our joy with comparison with others and judgement of our worthiness to experience such an emotion. 

What I do know is the power of feeling joy in self acceptance and self trust is not to be underestimates. Similarly, the skill to bring joy into your life, your work, your family and friends or your communities makes a significant impact on a sense of belonging and being valued.

So next time, joy pops up, ask yourself two eye opening questions:

  • 1) What other emotions is joy evoking right now and why?
  • 2) How can I create more of this and share it with others?

And that’s your opener for July Shares – emotions. Love them. Hate them. Part of the human condition is having them – goods ones and tough ones.

Over the remaining Mondays, I’ll be focusing in on different elements of understanding, learning and tackling emotions. If there is a particular angle, theme or challenge you’d like me to write about, drop me a message (sarae@saraepratt.com)