As the holidays approach, we encounter big feelings such as excitement, stress, grief, disappointment, worry, you name it. But in this busy season, it can be so easy to stuff those feelings down and say the all too common lie of “I’ll deal with that later.” But later doesn’t come. Life doesn’t slow down. Next week proves to be just as busy as the last. And just like that, we never finished our feelings. Stress is a biological response and with all biological responses there is a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is the triggering event and the initial release of cortisol in our system. The middle is the resulting emotion. And the end, well, that’s where we usually get stuck.
Emily and Amelia Nagoski point out many ways we can finish our feelings in their book Burnout: The Secret To Unlocking The Stress Cycle. When we encounter emotions, it is necessary to process those feelings and also to finish those emotions. There are four ways I like to cover in my own life that Emily and Amelia state.
- Cry it out. I know, no one really wants to cry, and I’m not entirely sure we can force ourselves to cry. However, if you feel that this emotion or stress can bring a tear to your eye- go with it.Reflect on the feeling causing distress and allow yourself to accept it and release it from your body. Run a shower, and have a good cry.
- 20 second miracle hug. If you have someone you trust and feel safe with this could be a good exercise. If you need to, set a timer for 20 seconds and allow yourself to hug a loved one. Notice how it feels to put some of your weight on them and feel their arms around you.
- Laugh, no really LAUGH. I’m talking about the cheeks hurting, snorting, can’t breathe kind of laughter. Watch your favorite comedian, reflect on a funny memory or the last time you remember laughing really hard, and laugh.
- Physical activity. Before you roll your eyes, I get it. Everything always comes down to the stupid “drink water, move your body, eat healthy and everything will be alright.” By moving your body whether it’s a walk, yoga, lifting weights- just 10 minutes will do.
Next time you notice yourself becoming stressed, irritable, anxious, or burned out try one of these four things. You don't always have a resolve to the situations that cause you stress. However, at the very least, you can allow yourself to finish your feelings.
Caitlyn Hannum, MA, LLC