It can be easy to mask what you’re really feeling.
When you’re experiencing negative emotions, who really wants to sit there and feel bad?
But if you turn to the nearest pint of Ben & Jerry’s, or shot of Grey Goose, or reality television program, or gossip topic, or any other vice every time negative feelings arise, you’re missing out on valuable information.
Our negative feelings exist to alert us to something that needs our attention. If you experience pain in your body, that’s your body trying to let you know something is wrong. Taking 800 mg of ibuprofen to “muscle through it” might get you some short term gains, but it could be very damaging to your body in the long term if you don’t investigate the cause of the pain.
Take it from me as someone who had to undergo two major back surgeries by the age of 23. I remember the exact moment that my issues with my back reached a breaking point. I was doing hill sprints with a friend, and on number 7 or 8 out of 10 sprints, I felt a popping sensation in my lower back, and lightning pain shot down my left leg. But rather than stopping to pay attention to what my body was trying to tell me, I finished the sprints. And kept trying to exercise with what turned out to be a pretty serious injury. As a result, I had to reframe my relationship with exercise and learn to take it easy on my body.
The principle of paying attention to negative feelings doesn’t stop at the physical. It applies to emotional distress as well. If you’re feeling sad, angry, stressed out, or defeated, those feelings are there to alert you to conditions in your life that may require your attention. It can be unpleasant to acknowledge these feelings, and the situations that are causing them, but ignoring them can be even worse.
Because of my experiences, when I start to feel negative stuff bubbling up (whether in my body or in my mind), I pay attention to it. If I’ve overdone it at the gym and need to take a rest day and let my body recover, I do that without feeling like a slacker.
If I’m experiencing negative emotions, I find the time to sit quietly and journal, or do yoga, or meditate, or talk things through with someone I trust. Sometimes I come out the other end of this process with a decision, or an action I need to take; other times it’s just about acknowledging the feelings that are coming up and why I’m feeling that way.
Listening to the information that is presented to you through your feelings isn’t “a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of wisdom,” as my fav SkyFit yoga instructor Ceasar Barajas is fond of saying when he encourages us to take the modifications in a challenging pose. It means you’re smart enough to know that there’s something to be learned from what you’re feeling.
Personally, I’m much better off in all ways because of giving myself the space to feel my feelings. I no longer punish my body, either through extreme exercise or through unhealthy eating, when I have negative feelings that I’m dealing with. Instead, I let them come to the surface and try to learn what I can from them.
Listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Feel what there is to feel, and see how your life transforms!
Check out the #healthyatanysize community to find support and connect with other women who are working on this, too!