Stressed. Worn. Tired. Strained. Overworked.
Anxious. Uncertain. Nervous. Panicky. Concerned.
Both sets of words are things we are hearing a lot from our clients, our friends, family, and most definitely experiencing ourselves. So why is it important to set them apart? Using the right words and vocabulary to label emotions is the first step to understanding what is going on. When we are able to grab hold of a word that describes how we are feeling, suddenly the picture seems less messy, and we are able to start building a road map to address the issue.
“Name it to Tame it”
We are going to take that strategy and look at how we can put it into practice for ourselves.
1. Notice what’s happening in your body.
When we are upset or agitated, we often jump right to the thought. Try pausing and first noticing what’s going on physically, really pay attention to where in your body you are experiencing it, and say it out loud to yourself. As Mitch Albott said “By labelling an emotion, we can create distance between ourselves and our experience that allows us to choose how to respond to challenges.”
For example: “My palms are sweaty, my hands are tight”
“ My stomach feels upset, I’m having a hard time catching my breath”
2. Identify the feeling→ get specific
For example: “I’m feeling angry and frustrated”
“I’m feeling nervous and overwhelmed”
Check out this emotion wheel to boost your vocabulary.
3. What is the emotion telling you? ( think about needs, values, etc.)
This is also a good time to check in with your physical needs. (Have you eaten, drank water, been outside, moved your body, stepped away from a screen, etc.)
For example: “I don’t want to be late for work”
“I don’t want to get in trouble”
4. Take action. Instead of reacting to the emotion or initial physical discomfort.
What is a more thoughtful or helpful action you can take? Does your reaction match the situation, or is it an assumed consequence you are reacting too? Often the act of avoidance makes the situation and our emotional response worse.
For example: “I’m worried about being late for work because I don’t want my boss to be upset. I don’t have control over this traffic or my boss’s reaction, but I can make a call to let them know what’s going on.”
“I’m scared to tell my friend I broke their tennis racquet, and I can’t afford a new one. I don’t have control over how they will react, but I can at least talk to them to see what our options might be.”
Slowing down to connect with our emotions is something that many of us weren’t taught growing up. We are seeing it more in the education system, and in mainstream media, but reading about it and putting it into practice are 2 different things.
Here are a few grounding strategies to try during any of these steps:
- Deep breathing- in through your nose, out through your mouth
- Flex and release different muscle groups as you deep breathe (your feet, then your legs, stomach, arms, and so on.)
- If you have access to it, hold ice cubes in your hands, or your mouth, place an ice pack on your chest or over your eyes.
Take a moment and reflect on the skills listed above. Are they something you are familiar with? Have you tried it? If not, what is the block for you? There are ample times throughout our day where we can practice this- you don’t have to wait for a crisis to hit, and it’s actually better to practice when we aren’t completely overwhelmed.
If you’d like to learn more, connect with one of the therapists on our team.