Ten years ago I had a horrible bout with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
I lost 10 pounds off my already tiny frame, had chronic migraines and was so fatigued, I could barely walk from one end of the room to the other.
This lasted for months. For someone who prides themselves on working out every day and having a ton of energy, this was an incredibly difficult thing to go through and I was determined to have it diagnosed by a doctor and “fixed” ASAP.
After rounds of tests and blood work everything came back negative. There was no medical reason for my symptoms and no answers as to why I was feeling so fatigued. But the body never lies, and my body was telling me something was seriously wrong.
Our emotions, especially deeply stored ones that haven’t been dealt with often manifest in physical symptoms. When you don’t release emotions regularly, they often get stuck and eventually can create illness. Therefore healing is always a combination of emotional, physical and spiritual work. True transformation involves not just saying “I’m angry” or “I’m sad,” but getting at the core of those emotions and then changing our thoughts and behavior patterns that keep us connected to these emotions.
We all have a right to our feelings. But, the fact that we are entitled to feel anger, hurt and grief, doesn’t mean that carrying it around works for us. After my divorce, I carried around feelings of deep grief, anger, shame and sadness. I started acting out these feelings in my relationships with other people—my parents who were just trying to help, my friends and even the men I dated… because I hadn’t healed all of the pain in my heart yet.
5 Steps to Releasing Unhealthy Emotions
There are many things I did right in my process of healing and continue to do so that I don’t go backwards. But there were also some things I did wrong that kept me “stuck.” These simple things helped not just in processing the emotions I was experiencing but empowered me to start owning my feelings and letting the ones that didn’t serve me go.
1) Talk, talk and talk some more.
Get the feelings out. Acknowledge every one your feelings even if they seem unjustified, wrong or unproductive. We feel what we feel. Getting them out and talking about them to a therapist, a friend or a family member helps diffuse them so they don’t feel so intense and release them. I talked to my closest friends about what I was going through and sought out people who had gone through what I was going through at the time.
Processing my emotions with people I trusted were key in allowing me to let it out and then let the negative ones go.
2) Don’t stay the victim.
Talking about a trauma or painful experience in your life over and over again can be helpful to process the emotions, but there’s a point where you need to let go of your victim story and move forward or you will stay stuck. There is no timeline on when you need to be “over” something, but asking friends to tell you when they feel you still “stuck” in the story is telling as to when you’ve hung out there a little too long. My parents were the ones who were hardest on me and would say, “Don’t let this experience define you. Don’t let a person take away all that you are. Pick yourself up like a fighter in the ring and move on.” Their words got me out of victim mode and into “Power thru it and become better for it” mode.
3) Don’t blame others for your feelings.
This is one of the biggest lessons I learned. They are your feelings, and nobody else’s. I often found myself saying, “He makes me feel like…” or “They make me feel like…” The truth was, “he” and “they” only had the power to make me feel anything if I allowed it. Own your own feelings and start asking yourself when those difficult feelings come up. “
Can I accept I feel upset and angry about this today but tomorrow I can choose to feel differently about this situation if I want to?” We have way more power than we think when it comes to how we are feeling about any given situation. Owning our feelings is the key to healing them.
4) Write, meditate or pray.
We all have something we do that helps center us and connect with ourselves amidst the chaos. I write. I get all of my emotions out on paper and the ones I can’t share with others I burn. I imagine all of that anger, resentment and negativity being burned up and released so I can let it go. Journaling is an excellent tool for expressing emotions you might not be able to say out loud to people.
I also have a deep and regular meditation practice. People are surprised to hear I meditate in the car on my ride to work. I keep the car silent and focus on what emotions are there for me that day. I ask for guidance and any info I need to know that will help me make decisions for my highest self and then I listen to that quiet voice that answers. One of my favorite mantras to stay grounded is “Breathe in the good shit, breathe out the bullshit.” I know, not very “spiritual” but I swear it works and helps me not take things so seriously.
5) Forgive and let go.
There is a great quote, “Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of harming another; you end up getting burned.” So true yet we all do it believing if we release our anger and forgive, the other person is “getting away with it.”
Forgiving isn’t about condoning another’s behavior but about shifting your own perspective. When people know better they do better. And often another person’s treatment of us is a reflection of their own inner state and how they feel about themselves. If you can replace anger and resentment with compassion, you can release the toxic emotions and move on with your own life.
When my marriage ended, I was filled with anger and rage over the circumstances. I said I would never forgive my ex. But I was surrounded by people who patiently taught me the power of having compassion for him and his choices. The only person who truly hurt over holding onto the anger was me. When I was able to let go of my judgments and see him as a human being who did the best he could in the moment, I was able to let it go.
I can’t tell you what a huge relief it is to not carry that around anymore and be in a place of neutrality so I can now move on with my own life.
Inner peace, physical, emotional and spiritual wellness comes from an absolute commitment to taking personal responsibility for the quality of your life. This includes the willingness to release any unresolved emotions we are holding onto.
Anyone, no matter what traumas they may have experienced, has the ability to get there.
How to work with emotions:
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Renée Picard