Learning how to sit with anxiety and uncomfortable emotions has been my greatest lesson this past year. In my post, ‘the 4 Ways we Deal with Anxiety‘ I talked about how accepting anxiety instead of resisting, avoiding, and reacting to it, is the only way for the feeling to pass.
Feelings are meant to me felt. In my experience if you try to avoid them or shut them down they intensify. Energetically, emotions that you don’t process or allow yourself to feel get stuck in your body and will show up again later. Creating space for your emotions and giving yourself time to sit with them helps you process them and will allow the anxiety to pass. Eventually, anxiety becomes less consuming and you feel more confident in your ability to handle it when it comes up. In other words, it’s a practice and it does get easier.
There are two parts to accepting discomfort:
1. Notice any resistance and let go
2. Give yourself permission to experience it
What does resistance look like?
- For me resistance comes up as frustration. The more progress I make with my personal growth and development, the more intense and frustrating anxiety is. It can feel like I’m taking ten steps backwards because I’ve already worked through it, I’m annoyed at how I’m feeling, and I don’t want to be feeling that way.
- Wanting to change the emotion. When I get anxiety I immediately want to analyze my thoughts and feelings, look for the lessons and insights, and then try to shift out of it. I have realized now that over-analyzing my feelings and trying to control my emotions only intensifies the anxiety and creates more frustration.
- Ignoring it or pretending that your feelings are not there by burying them or distracting yourself in order to avoid them. When I get anxiety I often throw myself into being busy or productive, but this doesn’t make it go away. If anything the feeling will linger and manifest later.
The first step is to let go of this resistance and accept that you feel the way you do.
What does non-resistance look like?
Non-resistance is giving yourself time and space to experience your anxiety or whatever uncomfortable emotion is coming up. We can’t avoid conflict, uncertainty, pain and discomfort in life because it’s a natural part of human existence. If we can’t avoid it then all we can do is learn to manage it in healthy way and let it pass. I always remind myself that all feelings are meant to be felt.
The second step is to create space for your feelings and give yourself time to sit with it.
I do this by journaling and writing down how I’m feeling, observing my thoughts, sitting in a meditation, and practicing self-care without trying to change how I am feeling.
I came across an episode on the Awaken Radio Podcast by Connie Chapman called ‘Feel Your Feelings & Honour Your Emotions‘ which gave me so much clarity on what it means to create space for your emotions and let go resistance. Instead of judging our experience and trying to get to the bottom of it right away Connie explains how to accept our emotions by being present and allowing any anxiety, heaviness, resistance, and funkiness to be there.
I wanted to summarize the key takeaways from this episode because it gave me the breakthrough I needed to learn how to honour my feelings.
- If your struggling to shift out of negative or heavy emotions and can’t seem to get the clarity you want, its because you’re resisting your emotions by trying to control or rush them. We tend to go into a space of judgement where all we want is to make it go away or fix it but the body is asking us to listen.
- There is always a reason these feelings are arising. Something has triggered them and we haven’t listened to what it is. It could be stress, overwhelm, negative self-talk, critical thinking, or even the detoxing and clearing of emotions that have been stored in the body. It is NOT because we have done something wrong, or are not being grateful or positive enough.
- It is our job to go inwards, be present, and feel the discomfort instead of judging it, over thinking and analyzing it. We can only shift an emotion if we explore and experience it first.
- Identify where in your body you feel the emotion and be present to the feeling and sensation/emotion. While you shouldn’t over analyze or judge the emotion, you can explore it and be curious about it. It’s sometimes helpful to ask things like, “what is this feeling and emotion? When did this begin? What triggered it?”
- It can take a full day or even a week to process everything before you can see what its about and what its trying to show you about yourself. Don’t rush ahead to the outcome. The negative emotions you experience arise in the body and they need to be processed in the body through feeling before our mind can grasp it.
- Sitting in a negative feeling will not make it worse. When you go into the emotion fully it tends to lighten, shift, and unblock.
- The more love and self-care you can give yourself the better. Amp up your self-care practice.
- Non-resistance is allowing things to be as they are. It’s saying, “Ok this is happening. This is here. This is my current experience” and letting things be even if it feels uncomfortable. When we release our expectations and trust that it will eventually make sense we feel instant ease and relief!
What does resistance look like for you? Create a plan for the next time you find yourself in a state of resistance.
What can you do to create space for your emotions and how can you allow it to be there without judgement?
Allowing myself to feel my emotions has been life changing. If you have any tips or tools for accepting challenging or difficult emotions I would love to know!