Often, we are trying to help our kids figure out their emotions… but guess what?
We also have emotions!
Yes, us parents are human beings too. And for many of us, talking about our emotions was not part of our childhood, yet, in an effort to be more conscious, connected and evolved parents, we’re trying to navigate these waters with our children as we learn them ourselves.
Emotional intelligence invites us to have an awareness of the multitude of emotions we all experience, the “good” , the “bad”, and everything in between.
Having emotional agility is the ability to experience your thoughts and emotions in a way that encourages you to see them as separate from your innate being. Simply put, we can look at our emotions in a very neutral way: they are just information. Not good or bad, just neutral information.
When we can have a third eye’s view of the emotions we experience, we can build an awareness of what we are feeling and then practice moving from one emotion to another.
For example, if we are experiencing sadness, how can we move from this emotion to a better feeling one?
This is not to say we shouldn’t feel our emotions – that is absolutely necessary to heal. In fact, this is part of the process to get us to a better feeling thought, though it should not be the agenda forcing us to feel falsely positive. If you’re not familiar with moving through these emotions, you may not see how a better feeling thought and feeling falsely positive isn’t faking it. But they are slightly different. Our goal is not to fake it to make it, however, depending on the intensity of the feeling, we can help ourselves move from one uncomfortable feeling to another through osmosis.
This takes practice.
For example, you’re having a rough day and don’t really feel motivated and certainly you don’t feel like parenting. You may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, resentful or sad. You may feel like you want to give up.
I like to refer to this as a “dip”. The dip is when you experience a not-so-comfortable emotion and you’re not sure how to deal with it in a healthy manner.
When parenting gets tough or you just have a really crappy day, what do you do?
How do you deal with those slightly uncomfortable feelings?
Do you suppress them?
Do you distract yourself from them?
Allow me to give you an example…
Let’s play out a not-so-hypothetical but seriously real scenario:
You just finished screaming (or in what used to be my case: screeching) at your kids because they weren’t doing what you had asked them to do for the umpteenth time and you were fed up!! This is understandable – sometimes you may get to a point of frustration where you lose your cool.
Ever been there?!?
I have. And then I would feel completely guilty and even shameful afterwards.
I get it.
Then, I would try to do something to make me feel better – something to get me out of the uncomfortable feeling.
Self-criticize, shop, eat, drink, sleep, self-loath, scream again, take it out on someone else, blast music and swear (when the kids weren’t there, of course).
Or drown myself in a Netflix binge.
Or complain incessantly.
Everyone’s vice is different.
I get it.
Been there…. Done that.
Here’s the thing, although the temporary release of distracting myself with those vices felt “good”, it wasn’t long lasting.
And it certainly didn’t help to change or make things better in the long run.
I have since learned better ways to deal with when I do screw up (‘cause let’s be honest, we aren’t perfect, no parent is) and we will continue to make mistakes.
I always tell clients, parenting is not about perfection, it’s about connection and progression. It’s about Evolving.
So when parents ask me how to help yourself get out of the dip when you’re feeling like crap, the first thing I tell them is: we don’t want to “get out of it”.
Instead we want to move through it.
How do we “move through” it and more importantly, why should we move through it?
I’ll address the why first:
Moving through our uncomfortable emotions allows us to release them.
If we don’t release them, we’ll just suppress them.
Suppressing them is a common practice, because as mentioned earlier, most of us were never taught how to accept and experience our emotions.
As such, most of us tend to resist feeling them.
However, as the old adage goes, whatever you resist will persist.
So if you choose to just suppress them, they will come back.
You can’t hide from them.
They will find you… it may resurface in the most inopportune time, or perhaps through what most experience as triggers (I’ll dive into this topic more another time).
Now, allow me to address the how:
How do you experience these somewhat uncomfortable emotions easily?
Here’s the “bad” news… there is no easy way out.
However, the “good” news is, it gets easier to do with practice.
Here are a couple of ways to release your uncomfortable emotions:
- Cry it out: Cortisol and adrenaline are stress hormones and crying allows you to release them. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system and restores the autonomic nervous system to balance. All emotions are energy in motion, so we need to mobilize that emotion in some way. Crying is a wonderfully calming way to express and release these stressful emotions.
- Find your joy: What brings you authentic, genuine joy? Most clients don’t know the answer to this right away! I often encourage them to think of a time they felt joy, and recollect what action/activity they were doing. Usually, they recall an experience before having kids, but sometimes it could be their wedding day and/or when their baby was first born. The purpose to finding your joy is to bring forth and flood your system with oxytocin (the love drug). Then, I ask them to reminisce and savour in that memory for at least 20 seconds. Or, depending on the activity, I ask them to do some form of that activity now. For example, let’s say they recall experiencing joy when they used to dance or listen to their favourite music, I ask them to listen to that music again or get out of their comfort zone and dance again! You may feel silly at first, but sometimes, us adults need a bit of silly – on our terms!
- Be in nature: Studies show that being in nature reduces anger, anxiety and stress. Spending time in nature reduces blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones (like cortisol and adrenaline), plus you increase your vitamin D and level of exercise if you make it an outdoor walk.
Through the practice of releasing them, you move through them. Once you move through them, you can then ask yourself, what is a better feeling thought in this moment?
For example, if you’re feeling sad, frustrated, or overwhelmed, once you allow yourself to experience and move through those emotions, the better feeling thought you may invite yourself to experience could be:
Everyday, I get better and better at listening to my emotions.
I’m learning how to feel my emotions and this will help me create space for my kids emotions.
Moving from one emotion to a better feeling one, or, another way to see is shifting from one frequency to another, more desirable emotion, is a learned skill.
By the way, this is very applicable for your kids as well.
When your child is in a dip (feeling sad, angry, disappointed) many parents are unsure of how to deal with it.
Or, they just tell their child, it’s “Okay” or try to help them by looking at the “bright side”, which often invalidates their kid’s feelings.
We must help our kids move through their feelings too. I have a couple of strategies I suggest to clients to support their children with moving through their emotions (which I’ll leave for another article). But in the meantime, please know that in an effort to best support our kids, we need to learn to move through our emotions first.
Let me know how it goes!