By Anna Borges of SELF
I’m not going to lie to you—I love numbing out. When a wave of feelings comes my way, I take one look, say “Nope,” and reach for my Nintendo Switch. Or Netflix. Or my bed. Or a glass of wine.
But, “When you’re busy numbing out your feelings, your feelings are in the other room doing push-ups,” Caroline Fenkel, D.S.W., L.C.S.W., executive director of Newport Academy, tells SELF. “Then, when you’re done smoking weed or watching Netflix or whatever you were doing to numb out, and you walk into the other room, you’re like, Wait a minute. These feelings are worse than they were before. That’s because you gave them all that time and space to do push-ups.”
So what’s the alternative? Well, to start, feeling our feelings is shorthand for a multistep process of acknowledging and dealing with your emotions in a healthy way, often known as emotional regulation. There’s the emotion coming up in the first place, and then there’s the choice you make: Do I want to deal with this emotion or do I want to ignore it?
Developing ways to give time and space to our difficult emotions is especially important right now. There are a lot of feelings going around. To help, consider these therapist-approved tips for tackling your emotions head-on.
1. Know what your go-to numbing behaviors are. Basically, it’s anything you do intentionally or unconsciously to avoid facing your feelings. It’s often in the form of some sort of distraction, but not always.
Immersive entertainment (like video games and streaming) are classic choices, as are alcohol, drugs, and food. But there are some sneakier behaviors that you might not realize you’re using to numb out your emotions. “Busyness is a big one,” says Howes. “Packing your calendar full and saying, ‘I’m too busy to feel anything right now, I’ve got too many things to worry about,’ or chronically putting your nose into other people’s business, offering support and advice to avoid facing your own stuff.”
2. Start with identifying your feelings.
3. Resist judging your feelings.
4. Ask, “What are these feelings telling me?”
5. Find a way to express the feeling mindfully and safely.
Do you need to talk about it with a friend? Do you need to write it out in your journal? Do you need to have a good cry? The list goes on: Paint something. Rip up a piece of paper. Dance around to a cathartic song. Hell, try anxiously scrubbing a bathtub (don’t judge me). Whatever helps you feel like you’re working through the emotion. “So many people try their hardest not to feel something,” says Howes. “They don’t realize the relief that comes with not having to suppress it any longer.”
6. Focus on physical sensations instead.
7. Remember it’s okay to hit snooze on a feeling.
8. Be smart and intentional about using distractions.
9. Practice, practice, practice.
If you are struggling, you must read the entire article. It contains more actionable steps that you can use to overcome the worry, anxiety, the dread that some thoughts cause us in denying their existence. But they are there, doing pushups while we procrastinate. Take control, click here to learn more: