Big Feelings

Coping isn’t emotional regulation, but it can be the gateway to it.

How do you care for yourself, when feelings are big?

One of my subconscious ways and tell tale signs that I’m trying to sort through something emotionally is procrastination.

Here is a sample of things I’ve been procrastinating.

  • Writing a post.

    • Which also means I’ve avoided going into my studio.

    • And if I HAVE TO go into my studio I dare not sit at my desk in case I bump my mouse and my monitor wakes up, which reinforces the fact that I am procrastinating writing a post.

    • While telling myself that even though I’m not keeping myself to my personal writing schedule, that I’m the only person that would notice.

      • I was wrong on the last one and I love them for asking why I hadn’t written.

 

A bunch of things I did instead can be slotted into my justifiable ‘do instead’ column, for instance:

  1. We just passed the income tax season deadline, so I had to get that done and helped others get their’s done—so that was super important.

  2. When I couldn’t find something in my junk drawer, I emptied it out (with flair and in frustration), decluttered it and organized it for 2 hours—which made me feel more calm—was also super important.

  3. I had chipped nail polish—the horror—so I redid my manicure. Was that actually important? The jury is still deliberating on that but I did it anyway.

  4. Baked cookies. No contest—Very Important.

  5. Followed my inspiration to add leftover faux moss, to a thing I thrifted.

Arguably, completing this craft idea could have waited in line with all the other ‘projects/upcycles’ I’ve acquired (read accumulated with good intentions), yet it was a creative outlet that helped me to feel peaceful—which in my opinion was highly important.

Of those five things, only the crafty project was out of my normal pattern of behaviour.

Because we all have patterns that we live within and by; and they can become so ingrained as a response to an experience, emotion(s) or circumstance, that it can feel like we HAVE to do certain things in order to process what has taken place.


Cleaning is a good thing, right?

 

Whether it’s cleaning out the junk drawer or decluttering my clothes closet – cleaning while in a heightened emotional state has its merits. After all, there is always something or somewhere that could do with a ‘good clean’, so it is always available.

Other things I know to be true are:

  • I don’t linger over whether I should keep something or not.

  • It is a hands on and productive activity.

  • My environment looks and feels cleaner, because I’ve gone through like a microfibre tornado on a mission.

  • People aren’t likely to interrupt my flow, because they can feel I’ve got an energetic DO NOT DISTURB sign on.

Cleaning helps me cope.

And one that has been tried, tested and true. Because who doesn’t like to open their junk drawer and find it organized, instead of it being a snake pit.

However, cleaning doesn’t address the heightened emotion(s), but it does allow me to safely take my foot off of my emotional gas pedal. Which I believe is a form of self-care.

Coping vs Emotional Regulation

 

It goes without saying that I was dysregulated.

And if I told you I have a vast number of known tools at my disposal specifically for my self-regulation such as:

Somatic techniques to ground me—CHECK

Breathing techniques to calm me—CHECK

Energy rituals to soothe me—CHECK

I didn’t turn to any of them. Because initially I just wasn’t there— yet. Because sitting with my myriad of feelings was too vulnerable.

Even though I know this is a myth, in the moment I felt that if I kept moving maybe they couldn’t catch up with me, until I was ready. Therefore, my coping mechanism like cleaning is a reaction to the stressor.

In the short term it is not uncommon to lean into something that distracts us from the big feelings; which we then associate with feeling better because of doing them.

Here is an incomplete list of things people may turn to (in no particular order):

  • Eating for comfort

  • Drinking

  • Binge watching Netflix, while possibly doing the above two

  • Shopping

  • Working Out

  • Social Media

  • Working

  • and more

Emotional Regulation Has Long-Term Benefits

Regulation is the nervous system’s ability to navigate the highs and lows of activism and return to calm.

~Patti Elledge, B.A.L.

A staple in my mental and emotional wellness toolbox is writing for emotional regulation. Doing a brain dump is a hugely beneficial way to clear your head, and even better if you handwrite it.

[Ironic, I know since I led with not wanting to write]

Procrastinating writing is my bait and switch, my dysregulation had nothing to do with writing a post, but it was easier for me to focus on that instead of the BIG thing.

We can reflexively lean into something that is easy and readily available, and something that we can do with and to shut our brain off to the big stuff, temporarily.

DIY vs Reaching Out

 

In order to process big feelings, we may feel that we have to figure it out all alone, then once we have a handle on it, THEN we’ll talk about it. Since sometimes the idea of sharing what is going on, can make it feel even more real, so we keep it to ourselves for a time.

Some may have been taught this concept as children, “If you are going to cry…go cry in your room!”.

Which may have the attached definition that: people can’t handle my big feelings. Therefore, isolation can also be a way of coping.

We cannot heal in isolation, healing happens when we come into safe experiences of connection.

~Sarah Baldwin

Turning to your safe and trusted people and sharing with them what you are going through is regulating for your nervous system. Since as you tell your story and share your feelings of all sizes, your emotional load can feel significantly lighter.

Even though sometimes we can forget that, so we distracted ourselves, or coped at first, which then led us to emotionally regulate in a way and with who made us feel safe. And that’s okay.

Big feelings and life in general, does not always have to be a DIY project.

Join me my Life Reclamation Project Substack, for regular posts.

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