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Originally posted as: Making Emotions Move [November 2016]
Today I want to share a few ideas that you can use to make your day a little brighter. We all have those days where we wake up feeling lower than usual as if our smile has moved out and a scowl has settled in its place. Or days when you wake up fine but storm clouds quickly move in.
Sometimes it happens for a reason; like your dog ran away, it's pouring rain and your supposed to be going to an outdoor BBQ or you're crampy and realize your period is about to start. Other times it just happens…like a dark cloud was passing on by, saw your shoulders and decided to stop for a visit.
When this happens once in a while, it's often a part of the cyclical nature of our lives and while it's nothing to worry about, it is a good idea to collect some tools to deal with it. If this is something you're experiencing on a regular basis then you really want to take note and become aware of what you can do to move out of it.
The other day I was reading a newsletter from one of my guru's Stacey Martino and she shared a Tony Robbins quote that I like and is fitting here, “When times are bad, it feels like they will be bad forever. When times are good, it feels like it will be good forever. Neither one is true. Life comes in seasons.”
Nothing makes a season slow down and take forever to leave then when you're consciously hating on it…so perhaps taking steps to enjoy it as best you can is in your best interest.
Both a low season and regular setbacks such as the Monday blues can be your body's way of telling you something is off. It could be suggesting you slow down and take some time to 'be' or it could be telling you your work situation is draining your tank and you are not making the time to re-fill it. It could even be pointing out that although everything looks like it's fine, it's time to move closer to actual purpose for being here.
Whatever the message, it's important you tune in, because if you don't – even though you might work your way out of the cloud – over time your system will start to shut down and it can result in a serious health or relationship crisis.
There are as many ways to do this as there are people in the world – so as you hear my ideas, feel free to pick and choose the ones that resonate with you…or use them as a launching pad to create your own.
Feel it, guide it, get rid of it
I've mentioned this before – as a general rule we have been taught to ignore, stuff, overreact to or discount our feelings. We all need to feel our emotions and keep them moving – especially women because we are emotional beings first.
So what does this mean? Let me share some of my favorite ways to move energy…
#1) Call it out! Sometimes you just need to name it, locate it and give it the language to express itself in order to get it flowing. I refer to this as calling it out because you are refusing to let it hide or pretend it's not important.
When you wake up and feel low, try to tune in to where this heavy feeling is coming from. The challenge with this tool is we tend to want to go into our heads and think about it. Although thinking can be a good thing sometimes when it comes to feelings there are lots of limitations to doing it this way because we tend to get hung up in logic, our sense of right and wrong, and even our limiting beliefs can get in the way.
If possible, don't turn on your brain, but instead just let your brain be quiet and see what comes up. Trust whatever comes up (even if you think you might have thought it or be making it up!) and see if you can notice where in your body you are feeling this sensation. Put your hand on that part of your body (typically it will be in the lower trunk – solar plexus, belly or pelvic area) and see if you can get your attention to drop to that area of your body (close your eyes; breathe and just imagine you're investigator is down there with your hand).
Ask the question: What's causing this heavy feeling? What am I __afraid__ of? Why am I __angry__?
Allow the responses to arise and give these realizations a voice. When something surfaces don't judge it, censor it or correct it…just allow it by saying them aloud, then respond with a simple 'what else' question. Allow the next idea to come and say it aloud. Continue like this until you feel the weight lift or you feel like you're finished the process. You might find the feeling changes as you go as well – just go with it and allow things to flow.
For example I did this a few weeks ago and found fear in my solar plexus [with my hand on my solar plexus I emptied my mind and asked, what am a afraid of?]
"I'm afraid my life is not what it's supposed to be." What else? "I'm afraid I'm wasting my time." What else? "I'm afraid I'm fooling myself into thinking I'm doing something important when in fact I'm not doing much at all." What else? "I'm afraid I'm lying to myself." What else?
At this point the feeling shifted (sadness) and I realized. "I'm worried that I'm not enough." What else? "What if my ideas aren't different enough – or helpful enough?" What else? Suddenly I felt lighter as I recognized a pattern of mine, "I'm looking for excuses to not move out of my comfort zone." What else? "Nothing – I know I'm enough and will always be enough for the people I'm meant to serve."
Call it out – be honest and be sure to do it without any judgment. Your job is not to argue, contradict, explain or anything but feel and process the emotions. Doing this exercise is kind of like poking a small hole in a balloon. You're not popping the balloon with a loud bang, but you do let the air out just the same.
A variation on this that can be very effective as long as you can find the privacy to totally let go is to #2) Sound it out. This is where you tap in to what you are feeling and just let whatever sound feels right come out of there. You might hiss, wail, tone, chant, puff…allow whatever sound wants to arise to get things moving.
#3) Move it out! Use motion to get the feelings flowing. My favorite way to do this is with dance. Notice the feeling, put on some appropriate music – a tempo that matches what you are feeling - and let it flow. Move around the room, sway, stomp, use your hands to get things moving and to pull out energy – this is not about looking beautiful or elegant, this is about letting things go.
If dancing doesn't cut it you can get movement happening with walking, yoga, qi gong, stretching, breathing, and so on, but you have to be willing to allow the feeling to guide you rather than your thoughts. For example, if you're angry because the plumber didn't show for the third time in a row and you are fed up with not having a bathroom – not to mention having to cancel appointments or miss work – if you decide to move it out with walking, you have be willing to just allow the feeling to flow while you walk. If you start walking and thinking, "What a jerk! I should report him to the better business bureau…he shouldn't be able to treat people this way and get away with it!" then you will be adding to your anger (feeding it) not letting it flow through you.
If this happens (the person is just really in your head), I suggest you might try to, #4)Write it out instead. Write a letter to his boss, to the BBB, to him…you don't ever send this letter, but sometimes expressing your exact thoughts and feelings can help you move the emotion through. Plus, because you are writing it, you're not going to keep repeating over and over what you might if you were just ranting. It can also be cathartic to burn or shred the message after. Just a note: writing is better for this than typing. (journaling)
#5) Talk it out! Put another way, confess what is going on for you. Tell the people around you that you feel really heavy, that you aren't sure why, but you suspect it will make you 'grumpier' than usual. You'll do the best you can to control your actions and would appreciate if they could give you a bit of space as well.
I used this tool with my family when I was going through a really challenging PMS phase several years ago and since then have used it with colleagues, on phone calls and even if my walking buddy Crystal is listening to this she might recognize I've done this with her once or twice at the start of our walks.
Your mission… rather than pretend all is fine when in actuality you have this dark angry cloud weighing on you, let others know so they at least have a chance of respecting your space. You might think it's obvious, but most people will not pick up on it right away and then will think they have done something to deserve your anger.
Phone example: Just a heads up – I woke up feeling really grouchy today…not sure yet what it's about, but I just wanted to let you know in case it impacts our conversation. I'll do my best not to let the B out, but in case she escapes without me noticing I apologize in advance.
Family example: Wow, mommy feels really heavy today – like a dark, angry cloud has settled on my shoulders. I'll do my best not to take that out on you guys okay if you'll do your best not to push my buttons on purpose. Deal?"
Depending on their age I might have needed to explain a little more, but for the most part they understood. Interestingly, in both cases, just saying it aloud, lifted some of the weight off and made it easier for me to be aware of my actions.
The greatest challenge with this process is when the person you are sharing with wants to delve into what's going on for you and fix it. This is rarely what you need at that moment and it's okay to tell them that with a simple add-on such as: "You know what, I didn't tell you so we'd go there in our discussion, but more as a warning so you'd know what's going on. Can we move on to making our plans for tomorrow please?"
The second problem is when they try to lighten the mood with humour. This might be a tool that you normally respond well to if you are a rather optimistic person. Unfortunately, when you're truly in this place you feel fragile and are being super vulnerable by admitting it.
So when someone tries to make light of what you just shared, you'll want to correct them on it. If you don't, you are at risk of letting it fester in your already low state and causing an explosion later. As well, if your kids are watching it happen you are teaching them this is an okay way to respond to this vulnerable confession – and it's not.
I recall my husband modeling this exact error once or twice…where he thought a joke (which would normally be well received) was an appropriate response. "Uh-oh, we better all look out or Monster Mommy will get us."
Since I didn't feel the smile, I didn't pretend what he said was funny, but instead gave him the look of death and told the kids, "That kind of makes it sound like what I'm telling you is a joke – it's not, please do your best to work with me today."
Later, when I was myself again I brought up what had happened. I explained that I was not sharing so anyone could try to fix me with humour or anything else. "I feel very vulnerable when I open up like that, so I would appreciate everyone's understanding and support."
This would not work if I did it all the time or if I thought that by telling them this they became responsible for how I was feeling. In my case, I did this so I would avoid taking my heaviness out on my kids and I'm pretty sure it saved us all a few times.
I remember my son having a teacher in one of the younger years who did something like this. At the start of the year he came home with a fair amount of homework given his age and grade, so we had to start on it early. At one point I didn't understand the task and since he didn't either I suggested he ask the teacher the next day. His little eyes went so round and he said, "Oh no mommy. My teacher is stressed because of interviews so we need to be on our best behaviour."
I could understand that it would be stressful having to meet with all the parents a week or two into the school year, but, when it came up again a month or so later because of a field trip, then report cards, then concert. I realized what had started out as a great tool for the teacher had turned into a manipulation strategy because it had worked so well. Kids need to be able to ask their teachers questions and they shouldn't be afraid to do so because she is stressed.
If you use this tool and find yourself repeating it often, you're probably in need of some other ideas to try. It actually took me a few repeats to recognize the PMS pattern and to realize that this could become a regular thing if I didn't do something about it.
Just a side note…I've now learned that PMS is a sign your progesterone is low and one of the best ways to increase it is to spend some quality time with a girlfriend or two (even a phone call can do it).
So those are 5 ways you can feel, guide and process your emotions: Call it out; Sound it out; Move it out; Write it out; Talk it out. Adopting and practicing tools like this, increases your self-awareness, helps with self-control and provides definite benefits for both your health and your relationships.
I have more tips I want to share with you on this topic, but I feel like this podcast is already long enough. So for this week, I hope you'll try playing around with different ways to get your emotions moving and, if you're actively parenting, start thinking about how you might teach this to your kids. Next week I'll share some other tips including things like channeling your alien… so be sure to tune in!
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