The past 7 months or so have been tough on our emotional well-being. In case you were wondering, it’s not just you! There’s been a noticeable increase in challenging emotions, like worry and anxiety, and for some.
Tensions and stress are peaking now that we’re just days from the election. That’s natural and inevitable when so much is at stake.
As natural as it is to have more experiences challenging emotions now, its also important to protect our emotional well-being. That’s what will enable us to navigate the coming months.
Challenging Emotions Can Be Useful
The feelings themselves aren’t a problem.
Just like physical pain, painful emotions can alert us to the need to take action to protect ourselves (and others) or to allow ourselves to heal.
But getting stuck in emotions like fear, anxiety or worry can have a negative impact, over time, paralyzing us or leading to a damaging chronic stress response.
Denying or pushing away those emotions might bring some relief for a while, but when we do that they don’t disappear. They pile up, increasing the chances of negative outcomes like illness or burnout. There’s a better way.
Turn to Your Inner Encourager
Is there a voice in the back of your head asking you why you’re not “being positive?” Or criticizing you for harboring fears and worries?
That’s the voice of your inner critic. It’s a harsh, unforgiving voice that lets you know when you’re not living up to some external ideal about how you “should” be.
We don’t need those messages, now or ever. Even if we make a mistake. Even when we’re imperfect.
Instead of heeding your inner critic, try turning your attention to another voice – your Inner Encourager. Your Inner Encourager is your wisest and highest self, who sees you, accepts you, and holds you accountable for doing and being your best.
Our Inner Encourager can bring the help we need right now, guiding us in taking a restorative break from our ever-present strong and challenging emotions.
Take A Break From Feeling Anxious, Worried and Sad
We can use a 3-step process that allows us to connect, soothe and move forward from challenging emotion.
Accept: Welcome your emotions. Invite them to sit with you. Ask them to share any messages they have for you. Listen with compassion. Think about the messages, and decide which can be helpful and which can be released.
Soothe: Just as you would soothe an upset friend or a crying child, offer comfort to your emotions. Ask them what they need from you. Your emotions are of course a part of you, so in welcoming, listening to and soothing them, showing them compassion, you are doing the same for yourself.
Shift: When you’re ready, shift to thoughts or plan actions that bring uplift, that remind you that joy, hope, compassion and kindness continue to exist.
These 3 steps are simple but not always easy to do, which is where your Inner Encourager comes in.
Activating Your Inner Encourager
You’ll want to set aside some time for this, so let anyone you live with know not to interrupt you, and turn off any devices that might distract you.
Choose a comfortable corner or room in your home, a place where you feel relaxed and safe. Use candles, incense, music – anything that helps create the environment you want.
If you don’t have such a space, create it in your imagination. See what it looks like, and notice how you feel in this space.
Take a few (or more) deep, slow breaths. Notice how you feel, without trying to change anything. Allow yourself to just be, for as long as you wish. Then move on to the visualization described next.
When you’re ready to, ask your Inner Encourager to join you. Picture how they look, move, sound, in as much detail as you can. If their image is indistinct, or if they’re more of a presence than a being you can visualize, that’s fine.
Speak to your Inner Encourager, silently or out loud. Let them know of any challenging emotions you’re feeling, and ask for their help in accepting, soothing and shifting from those emotions. Listen to your Inner Encourager’s kind, compassionate and affirming thoughts and ideas, and add to them if you wish.
Sitting with your Inner Encourager is in itself a break from your challenging emotions. Carrying out one or more of the ideas for shifting to uplift extends the break, allowing you further renewal, restoration and healing.
Handling the Return of Challenging Emotion
Healing has to do with integration of body, mind and spirit, so that what we say and do is in alignment with who we are, and what we most value. While the challenging emotions are likely to return — possibly much sooner than you would like — that doesn’t mean this process doesn’t work! It just means we’re living with a significant level of stress, every day. You now have a new way take a restorative break from challenging when it returns.
Other Ways To Take A Break
Enlisting your Inner Encourager in guiding you through the 3-step accept, soothe, and shift process is one way to get a break from challenging emotions.These previous posts give other ideas on taking care of yourself during this extraordinary time:
- Five Great Ways to Thrive: Have Fun With Them!
- Delight and Joy: Music’s Special Way of Healing
- How to Move Forward With Joy
- How to Avoid Burnout During the Pandemic
- How Being Kind to Others Is Some of the Best Self-Care
Reiki is one of the most powerful ways to shift to uplift. It’s been critically important to my own ability to cope during this time. It’s been my honor as a Reiki Master to share Reiki with others, bringing them deep relaxation and healing during this stressful time. As we continue to need to be cautious about in-person contact,I am offering distant Reiki. It offers the same benefits as in-person sessions, with no concerns of exposure to COVID-19. Learn more here.
Facilitated expressive writing groups offer the opportunity to focus on writing to prompts crafted to promote insight, healing and resilience. My next expressive writing groups start up in December. You’ll find more information here.