How To Feel Your Feelings (And Why It Matters For Self-care)

A woman has her hand over her heart

Feeling your feelings can sound so silly, can’t it? The old me would have said “I would actually like advice to help me stop feeling my feelings, and to maybe turn down the intensity a notch or two, thank you!”

I have always been emotional, and sensitive, and I have always cared way too much about things.

However, once I started my self-love journey, I quickly realized that it wasn’t that simple.

One of the biggest reasons why I ended up burned out and on stress leave was because I hadn’t actually been feeling my feelings. At least, not in a way that was healthy.

I was using unhealthy coping skills for the few feelings I couldn’t ignore, pushing away the majority of my feelings, and carrying on.

I was in survival mode for way too long.

But thankfully I have learned so much, and come such a long way since then.

And one of the biggest parts of our emotional self-care, is to learn how to feel your feelings in a healthy way.

Below we are going to look at why we struggle to feel our feelings, what happens if we don’t feel our feelings, and how we can feel our feelings in a healthy way.

Why do you struggle to feel your feelings?

1) It’s how you were raised

Many of us were taught from our parents, teachers, or friends that we should avoid expressing any negative feelings and just be happy.

How many of us have heard things like:

  • “Toughen up”
  • “Stop crying!”
  • “Look at the positive side…”

It isn’t like our parents meant to do it on purpose, they were just doing what they were taught growing up. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the negative effects of it.

2) Feeling shaming

Expressing negative feelings is often seen as weakness in society while ignoring negative feelings is often seen as “strong”.

Many of us have been socialized not to express and feel our feelings. Even positive feelings can be shamed. Being told we are showing off, rubbing it in, or bragging can lead us to believe it would be better to not let others know how we are feeling.

3) You’ve experienced trauma

Trauma does insane things to our bodies. Often the last thing we want to do is to relive a traumatic experience and the feelings that come with that.

4) You are in survival mode

When we are deep in survival mode, the only thing that our bodies and mind care about is getting from one moment to the next alive. Often our feelings get shut down because in that moment, they aren’t a priority.

Our bodies and mind are trying to protect us and keep us alive. However, if we are in survival mode for too long, those feelings can get stuck, or buried so deep it can be hard to properly process them.

What happens if you don’t feel your feelings?

There are many things that bottling up, or ignoring our feelings can do. Some of the most common consequences are:

  • Overwhelm
  • Burnout
  • Mental health problems
  • Unhealthy coping skills
  • Addiction
  • Eating disorders
  • Problems controlling our emotions
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Problems sleeping

And so much more.

How do you feel your feelings in a healthy way?

1) Identify your feelings

We can’t deal with our feelings properly if we aren’t sure exactly what we are feeling. It can be useful to first start with one of the core feelings like sad, happy, mad, or scared, and then break it down further from there. Are we feeling lonely? Tired? Threatened? Inspired? Confused?

2) Validate your feelings

When we give ourselves the time and space to experience our feelings without judgment, it can help to heal those parts of us that were taught that our feelings aren’t okay.

By sitting with our emotions and not trying to bury them or push them away, we can deal with them in much healthier ways.

If we are able to identify what triggered those feelings in the first place, it can give us some insight in the future and help us to learn more about ourselves.

3) Identify how those feelings affect your body

When most people think of feelings, they imagine them as thoughts that we experience in the mind mostly. However, did you know that so much of what we may experience in our minds is actually stored in our body?

Doing a quick check of our body and discovering how those feelings affect it will help to connect us to our feelings in a deeper way.

For example, is our face red? Are we shaking? Or breathing heavily?

4) Plan how to express those feelings

Once we have done the previous three steps, it is important to then express those feelings in a healthy way so that we can really process them and move on.

Some examples of healthy ways to express our feelings are:

  • Exercising
  • Going for a walk or run
  • Dancing
  • Screaming
  • Crying
  • Journaling
  • Putting your energy into a project
  • Writing a poem or story
  • Painting or drawing
  • Writing a song
  • Playing an instrument
  • Singing
  • Talking to someone you trust
  • Therapy

5) Decide what self-care you need to do to help you cope

When we have dealt with intense feelings or a difficult or stressful situation, we may need to give ourselves some extra love and attention.

Participating in our favorite self-care activities is a great way to help us recover, and be the best versions of ourselves that we can be.

Remember…

Our emotions aren’t bad and they won’t last forever. By continuously checking in on ourselves, being kind to ourselves, and showing ourselves some patience and respect, we can become healthier and happier people.

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