What gives you mental PEACE?
The other day I had a rare opportunity to sleep in. I could sleep for another hour, but my mind wouldn’t let me. My head was just too full of spinning thoughts to have any chance of falling back to sleep. So I went downstairs to the treadmill and ran. The rhythmic motion of my body and the exertion of elevating my heart rate moved my anxiety out of my head, through my legs and arms, and OUT. After my run I was able to look at my to-do list with a solution driven-mindset, instead of looking at it through a lens of anxiety. None of my problems went away. What DID go away was the anxiety that was blocking me from taking the next step toward my goals.
I don’t love to run. I’m not an athletic person. But I have realised that physical activity is ONE of the ways for me to process my emotions so that I can have PEACE of mind. When I haven’t exercised, I start feeling worried and stressed.
This awareness did not come to me overnight. It wasn’t until I started developing a mindfulness practice that I became aware of the signals that my body and mind were sending to me that I needed to process my emotions. I needed to NOTICE my emotions (and not just hide them) before I could learn how to process them. By learning to take small moments to actually BE in the present moments, I’ve learned to notice what I’m feeling. Before mindfulness, my emotions were like a beach ball that I was trying to hide under water. It took a lot of energy to keep pushing my emotions under the surface, and inevitably, I would get tired, and POP! Up surfaced all the emotions I’d been trying to hide, usually at a time when I was NOT prepared to handle them. When my anger and frustration and resentment popped to the surface, EVERYONE noticed my emotions, I would cry, or snap at my kids or my partner, or internally fume with resentment. Yikes! I’d think. How did I get here? Why did that one little thing set me off?
Practicing mindfulness has helped me to notice how I’m feeling at multiple points throughout the day so I can acknowledge my emotions and take care of them before they build up. It’s not that I don’t feel frustrated or angry anymore, it’s that I notice those emotions sooner, so I can identify WHY I’m feeling that way, and do something about it.
Here’s how YOU can start to notice your emotions:
- Take three deep breaths and ask yourself “How am I feeling right now?”
- Sit for 2 minutes and look out the window and tune in to your emotions
- Write out your to-do list and then ask yourself “How does this list make me feel?”
- Look at the emojis on your phone and ask yourself “What am I feeling?”
Once you’ve established WHAT you’re feeling, you need to figure out how to PROCESS that feeling.
How do you process your emotions?
- Do you MOVE? Breathe deeply, talk, dance, run, kickbox, wrestle.
- Do you use WORDS? Talk with friends, write in a journal.
- Do you escape into STORIES? Watch a good movie, play video games, read a good book, or watch sports to go on an emotional journey so you can feel the range of your emotions.
After you’ve taken some time processing your emotions, you can reflect from a more resourceful mindset about what got you into that highly charged state. This is the time when you might need to take action in your life by making a phone call, scheduling some time for yourself, or setting a boundary. This way, you are truly responding to the circumstances of your life.
The skill of NOTICING your emotions and the skill of PROCESSING your emotions are critical for teens who are experiencing their emotions on high volume. Often we feel like our emotions are happening TO us, when in reality, our emotions are moving THROUGH us, to give us information about what we need to attend to in our lives. The more adults who can remind teens that their emotions give them VALUABLE INFORMATION, and the more adults who can help teens find a way to PROCESS their emotions, the more resourceful our teens will become. Teens will understand that their emotions aren’t happening TO them, they are happening FOR them to pay attention to their needs.
A peaceful heart can be cultivated by noticing and processing your emotions.