Emotions are complicated and can be difficult to manage, especially when they are overwhelming or intense, but there is always one thing that you can do to help; talk about them. The simple act of speaking about how you feel can have a huge impact on your mood, and yet so many people internalise their feelings and avoid expressing how they feel at all costs.
Sometimes how we were brought up and socialised has a lot to do with how we communicate and manage our emotions. Your parents may not have discussed feelings or mental health growing up, so you may be used to dealing with your emotions in private, which is a completely normal and understandable response.
Expressing your feelings however, is an effective way to regulate your emotions and the first step towards finding solutions to your situation. Let's take a closer look at why talking about your feelings is so important and beneficial.
Validation: By talking about your feelings or simply giving a feeling a name, you are acknowledging that you are experiencing something in your body, something very real and important to you. Having a friend or partner listen and respond to your feelings is validating and sends the message that it's okay to feel that way; that you're not crazy. Sometimes, all you need to feel better is to know that someone understands what you're going through, and that your emotions are completely valid.
Acknowledgement: If you're used to keeping your feelings to yourself it may mean that you're ignoring or repressing them, which can be incredible harmful. Talking about your feelings means acknowledging that they are real, and this makes it easier for you to accept them and begin to heal. When it comes to the big and scary emotions, they won't go away until you learn to face them and figure out how to manage them. Talking about them is the first step.
Scientific explanation: There is also a neurological reason to why talking about your emotions makes you feel better, but it's quite wordy so please bear with me! When you start to feel overwhelmed with fear or overcome with a nasty rage-your amygdala is fully awake and active. The amygdala is in charge of processing emotional information and figuring out whether there is a threat serious enough to take action against. Research has found that when you start to talk about your feelings, in a process called "affect labelling", you engage the lateral prefrontal cortex, which when active, diminishes the response of the amygdala. Overtime, as you continue to talk through your feelings, inhibiting the amygdala, events you'd usually find overwhelming aren't as upsetting anymore.
Support: It can be terrifying to open up to someone but once you do you'll benefit from having their help, love, and support. They may also provide an alternative point of view or share knowledge from their own experiences. You don't have to manage your feelings alone, so why not let someone in?
Whilst initiating these types of vulnerable discussion will feel intimidating at first, you will feel so much better after giving it a go. Take a leap of faith and reach out to someone. Remember, you can always talk to us by sending an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or messaging us on our Instagram page.
Here are some resources that you may find helpful when trying to open up emotionally;
Big thank you to Priscilla Du Preez for the wonderful photo!