Juli McClelland

Here are things you can do to move through uncomfortable emotions.

While there are certain material shortages in the world right now, one thing we aren’t low on is emotions (and opinions, but for this conversation we’ll focus on emotions.) 

I think by the end of the first week of self-quarantining, I had already touched what felt like every emotion on the spectrum. 

There was skepticism, judgment, shock, worry, fear, panic, joy, love, connectedness, peace, wonder, distrust, loneliness, fatigue, anger, empathy, compassion, and more. It’s exhausting just reading through them all. 

This global event is a lot to process, every day brings something new. Last Saturday morning, Travis and I woke up to make a quick Costco run. We pulled up when it opened and there was already a long line of people waiting to get in, standing spaced apart wearing masks. Nobody was talking, nobody smiled or said good morning. The air felt heavy, somber, serious. You could feel the fear; this shopping trip wasn’t the usual grocery run with people milling about, filling up their carts without a care. This was for safety, protection, survival.

We’re usually not so focused on our basic needs when we’re in the store—I mean, we’re meeting them, but we’re not focusing on them. We’re not stocking up on canned foods and frozen veggies with survival in mind, we’re usually thinking about what to make for dinner or what we need for the week. It’s routine.

Seeing the people standing in line at Costco is a scene I don’t think I will ever forget. I felt like I was witnessing a modern day Great Depression event, and as I type this, we have warnings the economy is headed that way.

That whole Saturday was a tough day for me, I felt a lot of heavy emotions between that trip and some stories I heard from my nursing friends up north. 

These tough moments come and go each week. They’re harsh reality bits peppered into an otherwise not-so-bad day-to-day. In fact, I like a lot of my days. I know that’s not the same for everyone, many people don’t have the privilege of feeling at peace in their own little bubble. Some people are taking care of the rest of us to make sure we’re all safe. Some are facing unemployment. Some are busier now than they were before. 

But we’re all dealing with a slew of emotions. We’re grieving loss—whether that is the loss of loved ones, plans, trips, jobs, graduations, weddings, baby showers, connection, or otherwise. We all have access to the fear inducing headlines and updates. It’s often tempting to read one more update, then just one more, and get seduced by panic and worry. Add to that stress and difficulty sleeping. I can go on and on. I share this to offer some comfort—even through our grief we can connect. You are not alone, no matter how tough the minutes or days are for you. 

I think it’s incredibly important to process the emotions that come up. I’ve noticed a tendency for some people to try and gloss over the tough stuff. When expressing my sadness, some people have replied with optimism, look-on-the-bright-side thoughts, emojis, attempts at laughter and lightening my mood. 

All that’s ok, everyone is not going to be in the same emotional groove as you and you can’t expect someone to feel what you feel. Everyone is processing in his/her own way too.

That said, I’ve noticed that when my sadness met someone else’s optimism, I almost felt like I needed to gloss over it and put on a good attitude. Find the joy! Think good thoughts. But it’s important to feel what’s coming through, to acknowledge the uncomfortable feelings and not just push them aside. 

We already do enough of that in life—we suppress things, numb out, eat or drink to induce good feelings, we stay super busy or get hyper-focused on something else so we don’t have to face the stuff that hurts.

The stuff that hurts is uncomfortable, and when we can sit with that and know that those feelings aren’t going to destroy us, we are developing an incredible muscle. See, growth at every point of life is uncomfortable. So if we get better at being uncomfortable, we’ve got an incredible skill, one that will help us find peace because we’re not running from anything.

Whichever emotions are coming up for you during this time, give yourself the time and space to move through them. If you’re finding these emotions are lasting longer than a day or two, it’s possible you’re stuck in a story, and I recommend talking with someone you trust to help you move through it.

You’re going to notice that processing often involves movement because you’re moving that energy out of your body. Here are some practical ways you can process the lower vibration emotions:

Anxiety (also: worry, fear, concern)

There’s a quote I love for this: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present” (Lao Tzu). 

Anxiety = fear of the future. When we’re anxious we’re trying to control something or someone. We want to create a certain outcome in order to feel safe. So the game to move through anxiety is getting out of your head and into your body.

Things you can do:

  • Pray, out loud, and express the outcome(s) you’re trying to control right now. Admit where you feel powerless. (Speaking this aloud helps to move the suppressed energy from the fear out of the body).
  • Focus on your breathing. Take deep breaths, watch your ribs and belly expand as you inhale and fall as you exhale. 
  • Exercise – this moves your focus onto your body as you’re doing things that require your awareness. 
  • Breathwork – find a guided session on YouTube, it will transform your energy and force you to be present. This is a lot of movement for stuck energy, it’s really powerful.
  • Make a list of all the things you’re grateful for. I know this is nothing new, but it works! As Tony Robbins says, you feel what you focus on, so you will feel joy instead of worry.

Grief (also: sadness, despair, depression)

Don’t compare your loss to someone else’s to talk yourself out of feeling it. I’m not suggesting you stay there, but it’s ok to feel sad and move through it.

Things you can do:

  • Crying is an energetic, emotional release. Go for it!
  • Writing or speaking aloud what you’re feeling is important. When we try to push feelings down or aside, we perpetuate their power. When we call them out, we can feel reconnected to our own strength.
  • Pray – it strengthens the relationship you have with your higher power and can reinforce faith in the unknown instead of distrust. Distrust will perpetuate the heavy emotions.
  • Call someone you trust and tell them, “I need an ear right now. I’m not ready for a solution or the bright side in this moment, I just need to share what I’m feeling.” Talking moves energy and can shift the burden from an internal battle to a shared experience.

Anger (also: frustration, blame, judgment)

Things you can do:

  • Write a letter to the source of your anger—DON’T SEND IT! Be completely unfiltered, use swear words, get specific, say all the things you want to express. And then destroy the letter, you might shred it or burn it (if you have a safe space for contained fires).
  • The letter will stir up your energy, and then you have to move the energy out. A gentle walk might not do the trick, you might try a punching bag. Or scream into a pillow 3-4x. You’ll feel better either way.
  • For the pillow process, don’t choose the pillow you sleep on. Find a space where you feel comfortable—maybe in your closet, your bathroom, your car, if you need a space that’s more private. Sit up straight and scream into the pillow (as you probably did when you were a frustrated kid). Give it all your energy, from your diaphragm up, scream as long as you can. This is a long release and you’re letting go of more than you’re conscious of. Repeat 3-4 times, you will know when you’re done. One-two times is not enough.

Loneliness (also: isolation)

If you’re feeling lonely, know you’re not alone! This was already a common emotion before we went into quarantine, and I’ve been there too. It takes effort to create connection, it doesn’t just happen on its own. So be resourceful and think of all the places you could be creating connection where you maybe gave up or are choosing to hide instead.

Things you can do:

  • Connect with your higher power (whatever you believe in!) Pray, meditate, go for a walk.
  • Join a virtual meetup, there are so many online events going on, there’s no way you have nobody to meet! 
  • Write letters to people you love, you’ll make their day and feel more connected through that act of kindness.
  • Contribute to someone else – make their day. You can donate money, donate blood, offer to run an errand, send someone a hot meal, even a loving text message to give someone else some love and support!
  • Call someone and share what’s real for you. Pushing aside feelings, instead of sharing them with someone, can make you feel even more lonely. Being truthful invites someone into your world, and you’ll feel more connected.

There are plenty of other emotions floating around right now, so whatever comes up, find a way to be with it and move that energy out. That’s different than pretending it doesn’t exist. Find a process that works for you and be an example for others in your life who need to process (which is everyone at some point!) 

When you show others that it’s ok to feel uncomfortable things and move through them, they’ll notice they don’t have to resort to suppressing them or pushing them aside.

Please let me know if there are any emotions you’d love to have a stronger process for! And I’d love to know, what processes do you already have that work for you?

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