A friend of mine once advised me to wallow in negative feelings rather than fight them.
I tried it many times – I just didn’t realise I had misinterpreted his advice.
When difficult emotions overtook me, I made no effort to do anything to feel better. I let my thoughts bodyslam me and didn’t even bother to pick myself up. I made no effort to put on a brave face for those around me and I forgave myself my bad behaviour. I was “going through something”.
This morning, I woke at 4.15am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I could have gotten up and used the time productively but I just lay there, wallowing in overwhelm – the same overwhelm I took to bed with me last night. By 6am, I felt worse. I knew I could shake it off by exercising or doing some of the other things I know make me feel better but considering I’ve been searching for these deep rooted feelings for such a long time that felt like a squandered opportunity. That said, wallowing clearly wasn’t working either and it probably wouldn’t set me up for a particularly good day. Wallowing makes me a crappy mum and a crappy wife – and feeling crappy makes me do crappy things which makes me feel crappy… Not super useful and I needed to make it useful.
Wallowing is about immersing yourself in something. That’s not what I needed to do. I needed to extract the lessons and value from the feelings.
I needed to juice them!
Although the concept made sense to me – extract the value – I had no idea how to “juice” negative emotions so I did 3 things.
- I contacted a psychologist friend to ask for advice on strategies I could use to extract the value out of tough emotions
- I did some yoga (I don’t really get yoga but I know that one of the best routes to the subconscious mind is through the body so it seemed a good idea)
- I did Wim Hof breathing (it makes my mind and body feel more connected – I guess a bit like yoga) followed by a cold shower (my daily code for “I am strong enough to cope with anything”)
After completing these activities, I felt calm and in control. The gremlins that usually accompany the wallowing weren’t there but the emotions were, which meant I got to observe them without reacting to them.
I think the key to “juicing” difficult emotions is to calm the body. When your body knows you’re not under threat, your subconscious mind knows it too, which makes a massive difference to perspective and the ability to learn from tough experiences and emotions.
I imagine these difficult feelings stay with us in some form or another no matter how much we learn but I guess if we have good strategies for juicing them every time, we always come out the other side feeling a tiny bit stronger and a tiny bit safer in our own minds. That’s certainly how it felt today.