October 3, 2020

Don’t Bottle Up your Emotions—Here’s How it’s Hurting you (& your Loved Ones).


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Are you afraid to tell people how you feel?

This fear of expressing emotions stems from not wanting to disappoint people, not wanting to burden, and not wanting to appear vulnerable.

The truth is, maintaining a tough facade by not expressing your emotions is only going to harm your mental health.

However, you can circumvent these reasons for not expressing your emotions by learning how to recognize and respond to your feelings properly.

Why “Bottling Up” Your Emotions is Detrimental

Bottling up your feelings and keeping them inside can be toxic for your entire system, yet we often do this to avoid becoming vulnerable to others. However, like anything that is bottled up for too long, you will find yourself exploding at some point.

The result can be devastating to your relationships, not only with others but with yourself as well. Also, having all those pent-up emotions can lead to anxiety and physical stress on your body. This is why it’s important to express your emotions, whether you talk it out with someone or write them down. Holding them inside will only cause harm to your mind, body, and soul.

Here are five ways we try to manage our emotions that are actually harmful:

Apart from holding everything inside, there are other ways you can mismanage your emotions and cause harm to yourself and those you love.

1. Denial

How many times has someone asked you how you are doing, and you automatically respond with “Great?”

We are conditioned to gloss over the way we are feeling to not burden others around us.

This can lead to a constant refusal to accept that your negative emotions exist. Instead, you tuck them away and ignore the core issue.

They say that acceptance is the first step of healing; it’s also the first step in healthily expressing your emotions. If you can admit to feeling something, you can begin to take action to change your emotions and your situation.

2. Withdrawal

Another harmful way to deal with your emotions is to hide away—not just from the feelings, but from others as well. While it’s completely normal and healthy to have time to yourself now and then, withdrawing yourself from the people and activities you enjoy can actually be a warning sign of depression.

This may be caused by avoiding placing a burden on other people or being ashamed of your emotions and not wanting other people to find out how you are feeling. It may seem logical to step back to manage your emotions, but withdrawal can lead to loneliness, anger, and distorted thinking. As human beings, we need to interact with other people in order to maintain emotional balance.

3. Exerting Control

When we don’t feel good about ourselves, we can sometimes lash out at others to gain some semblance of control in our lives. We may put other people down in order to feel better about ourselves. But this sense of power is short-lived and does nothing to address the underlying issues causing us to feel the way we feel.

And, ultimately, we only end up hurting other people in the end.

4. Self-Harm

Sometimes, in order to mask our emotional pain, we turn to physical pain as a sort of distraction. You can’t fix what’s going on in your head, but you can easily harm (or heal) your body. Self-harm takes many forms and can include cutting, starving, overeating, or seeking dangerous situations. This is another way of trying to take control of one’s life, but it only provides temporary relief. These behaviors can become addictive and create greater issues if continued.

5. Substance Use

Using alcohol, drugs, or other detrimental substances is a common way to deal with emotions since it makes the person feel better or even numb. It’s no secret that turning to these types of substances can be harmful to the body and the brain, ultimately making the feelings you are experiencing worse. Like all of the other harmful ways to manage your emotions mentioned above, substance use is a quick-fix but not an overall cure.

Developing Emotional IQ

Emotional intelligence, also known as “Emotional IQ,” is the ability to recognize your emotions, label them, and process them appropriately. Developing your emotional IQ means learning how to be mindful of your feelings and control how you react emotionally to a situation or how you respond logically to it.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling, and there’s nothing wrong with acting based on your emotions. The problems arise when we start feeling too many things and become so overwhelmed that we can’t process our emotions at all.

Emotional IQ gives you the power to sort through your feelings and decide which ones are unnecessary and which ones are actionable. It takes practice, but the more you stop and address your feelings, the more easily it will happen in the future.

To practice developing your emotional IQ, try this quick exercise the next time you feel overcome by emotion:

>> Pause. Give yourself a moment to breathe before addressing the feeling and acting upon it.

>> Acknowledge. Give your feeling a name and permit yourself to feel that way.

>> Think. Take that emotion and decide what your next best course of action is. Should you say something? Do something? Or find a way to feel better?

>> Do Something. Go with whatever course of action you believe will give you the best result.

Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing; simply recognizing your emotion and why you are feeling it can be enough.

Keeping a journal is a great way to sort out your emotions. When you go through the above practice, write down your feelings and why you are feeling them.

You may notice patterns or certain situations that make you feel this way. Or you may even notice that the feeling you thought you had (such as anger) may not be what you are truly feeling (it could be frustration instead).

Expressing Emotions and Better Mental Health

Imagine that your mental health is a window that faces a beautiful landscape. Now imagine that every time you feel something negative, that window clouds up.

How are you going to keep that window clear? You’ll have to address the emotions that are blocking your view. The more you allow your emotions to fog up the window, the less of that beautiful landscape you’ll be able to see. Your view will become dim, gray, and limited. That’s exactly how not expressing your emotions can affect your mental health. But by expressing them, controlling them, and addressing them, you can maintain a clear outlook on life.

You can take on challenges with more direct insight, instead of trying to navigate life through a haze.

It can take time and practice, but the more you learn to express your feelings in a healthy way, the more your overall mental health will benefit.

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