People think Tom never gets angry, but that assumption couldn’t be any further from the truth. In fact, Tom is angry most of the time…he just never expresses his anger. As a result, he has frequent headaches, a bleeding ulcer and a severe alcohol dependency.
Pam always has a smile on her face. Her co-workers say she’s the happiest person in the office. Behind that fake smile, however, Pam is engulfed by feelings of depression. What’s more, she’s paralyzed with fear and afraid to reveal she’s depressed. Instead, she overeats, feels tired all the time and finds it hard to focus on detailed tasks.
Warning: Implosion is Imminent
Like Tom and Pam, when we bottle up emotions, an enormous burden is felt by our minds and bodies. On the physical side, long-term effects can include a weakening of our immune system and illness. Mentally, our suppressed emotions weigh us down and cause us to find other ways to express them (typically unhealthy ways, such as substance abuse.)
The “norms” of our society only add to this turmoil. At a young age, we are often taught to hide our emotions or be ashamed of them. When faced with expressing strong emotions, it makes a lot of people uncomfortable and, as a result, we’re expected to shield them from our feelings.
In the midst of recovery, this is especially dangerous. After all, the emotional turmoil of the recovery process has to go somewhere. If we’re not careful, all roads lead into relapse.
For those who have yet to reach the path of recovery, stuffed emotions will create continual road blocks causing you to stumble over and over again.
Defusing the Ticking Time Bomb
Luckily, our fates are not sealed – there are plenty of healthy ways to release our emotions.
Releasing pent-up emotions helps us process feelings and guides us to recovery – or helps to keep us there. Here’s a look at five of the best emotional release methods and how each encourages us to stay sober:
Go ahead; it’s fun! Playtime will look different for everyone, but the basic idea is the same. Whether you are throwing a ball, skipping rocks, building a sandcastle or flying a kite, give yourself permission to play like a kid once in a while. It doesn’t have to be competitive or full of physical activity; it should simply allow you to express delight and experience enjoyment.
Most of us know the physical and mental benefits of exercise. Well, here’s a way to get those benefits, including an emotional release. Pent-up feelings can cause tension and stress in our bodies. Dancing allows us to work out this physical tension. Feel free to mambo, breakdance, waltz, or hip hop your way to emotional release. This doesn’t have to be public, either. If you’re like many of us who feel less-than-impressive on the dance floor, just crank up the tunes at home and let loose.
Yes, it’s ok to cry. We have those tear ducts for a reason. Crying allows us to release pain. It’s normal. It’s healthy. If something hurts you, have a good cry. Don’t be ashamed. Holding back will only hurt you more in the long-run. You will feel better once you have released those emotions.
This comes more naturally to some than others. Some of us have stacks of journals filled with emotion-soaked pages. Others have never taken advantage of this release. Try it. Don’t worry about creating beautiful poetry or well-crafted tales expressing your anger or fear. (We can’t all be Stephen King.) Simply jot down your thoughts and feelings, especially when you may not be able to express them otherwise. Writing them out helps us slow down, acknowledge our feelings and process them in a healthy way.
This one might be the scariest release for some of us to try. If you are not used to sharing your feelings, it could be hard to make this a habit. But, it’s an important part of living an emotionally healthy life. If you are frustrated, scared, hurt, angry, overwhelmed, or even happy and excited, tell someone. This could be a friend, a counselor, a family member, a pastor, or a sponsor. If needed, it could even be your dog (although human interaction is preferred.)
Talk to Us: Have something to add? Curious to know what others are saying? Want to share how you deal with emotional issues? Find the support you need – join the Recovery.org Community today.
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