Most of the time, I like eating. Food is delicious, and it’s extremely varied; it can even bring relationships closer together. There’s a reason dinner is such a popular option for dates, and it’s the same reason our favorite holidays often involve a big family feast: sharing a meal with someone is a powerful, beautiful thing.
Still, I wish I wasn’t required to eat. Hunger hits me at inconvenient moments. The process of getting food inside me, whether by cooking, ordering takeout, or sitting down at a restaurant, takes up a significant amount of my time—time I could be using to not write blog posts. If I could have any superpower, I would seriously consider the ability to get nutrients from photosynthesis and therefore only eat the food I wanted, whenever I so chose.
I think about emotions in much the same way I think about food. Curry? Chocolate? Real mashed potatoes (as opposed to the abomination that is powdered Ore Ida)? Awesome. Joy? Love? Schadenfreude? Even better. But when it comes time to eat the Brussels sprouts of psychological experience, I would just… rather not. I distract, I obsess, I attempt to convince myself that whatever EXTREMELY UNNECESSARY AND INCONVENIENT thing I am feeling just isn’t there. I don’t have time for that nonsense, darn it.
… except I have to make time. I we all do. If you go too long without eating, your body starts shutting down. If you bottle up your feelings for too long, bad juju happens. You could blow up at your best friend, stop making progress at work or school, or even start an eternal winter in the middle of June. Don’t run away from your loved ones and create your own ice palace of solitude. Follow these steps to emotional honesty instead.
What is not sucking? Not sucking is defined in the world of conscious perception as being able to accurately define your emotions, release them, and begin to feel better, without destruction of self, others or property.
- Sit with your feelings. Get comfortable with accepting what you experience. Get close to your emotions. Look at them. Scoot right up to their faces and peer into their souls. At first this might sound like snuggling with a smelly stranger on a park bench, and it never gets more pleasant, frankly, but you get used to it.
- Question your feelings. Anger, for example, is easy: quick, visceral, not complicated to explain. However, it’s also a handy mask for other feelings that suck more—sadness, anxiety, hurt, guilt, or insecurity are only a few possibilities. Before you make a hasty decision about how you feel and what to do about it, ask yourself if there are any other options.
- Deep breaths. Two counts in, one count held, three counts out. Repeat as many times as you want until you’re calmer. If you’re in the
throes of an anxiety or panic attack, jumping jacks, counted out loud, can help too. (Just one of the many things I’ve learned from Orange is the New Black. Another tip: you can make fashionable shower shoes out of duct tape, if you’re Laverne Cox.)
- Release. Crying sucks, but sometimes it’s what you have to do to get your feelings out of your system. Just make sure you have tissues on hand to take care of the aftermath (read: snot). If you’re all cried out, or don’t feel like you can cry at all, writing, drawing and making noise (screaming, singing, playing an instrument) are other effective forms of emotional detox.
- Add a little helium. Do something, anything that will lift your mood. Make art, read a book, go for a run, laugh at your favorite television show, discover a new hobby, call your mom. It might take time to get back to happy, but at least for now you can be okay.