Getting in touch with your emotions and what they feel like for you when they show up is the first step in relating to those emotions in healthy and productive ways. How can we manage our emotions in ways that support our goals and benefit our relationships if we don’t even know what it is that we’re feeling?
One place to start is labelling the emotion you’re experiencing – can you find the words to describe what’s going on for you? Some people find this fairly easy, others not so much – perhaps you haven’t learnt the language to do so or felt comfortable to express this to yourself or others.
If we go beyond basic labels like sad, mad or glad, there are so many nuances to describing emotions. For example, if you dig a little deeper into that feeling of sadness, do you find that you’re feeling vulnerable or ashamed or disappointed or maybe all of those things? The same goes for feeling “great” – if you turn your attention to that feeling, do you find you’re elated, excited, energised?
When getting to know our emotions better, it can be helpful to tune into any physical sensations that show up along with emotion. You might have heard someone say their stomach dropped when they heard some unpleasant news, or mentioned butterflies in their tummy when nervously anticipating something, or that their blood was boiling when angry.
Once we know what it is that we’re feeling, it’s easier to identify helpful ways of managing those emotions. There are a number of ways to get started with enhancing your awareness of your emotions, including jotting down some notes on what you notice about feelings that pop up throughout your day.
Psychologists and health professionals often call this process – “emotional regulation”. Everyone can benefit from these basic skills. Being able to adapt the way we experience and express emotion has been shown to be important for a range of areas in life – not just mental wellbeing and relationships with others, but even factors such as financial security. Making time to speak with a psychologist can help to unpack those feelings and plan a path toward greater emotional wellbeing.
Daisy Prowse, Registered Psychologist, BPsych(Hons), MPsychClin