Welcome to Thrive 9-5, a podcast all about how you can kick ass in the office and life without feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. Each week I'm sharing simple self-care strategies, mindset hacks, and time management tips, so you can get promoted without burning yourself out. My goal is to help you create success without sacrificing your soul or your sanity. I'm your host, Celeste Harrington.
Hey, Thrivers! This week, I want to talk about emotions. I want to talk about emotions because emotions are heavy on my mind. Right now a lot is going on in the world. I think I said this recently in the previous podcast, wildfires are raging in Northern California where I live and I am feeling quite emotional. And I thought it would be valuable for you to understand what processing emotions is actually like, and what happens to our bodies and minds when we suppress our emotions. I honestly believe that if we all gave ourselves and each other permission to express our emotions, we would be better off but because of social norms, we spend so much of our time suppressing our emotions, so much so, that we could have processed the emotions that we've been suppressing and then some. Allowing an emotion is uncomfortable. I get it. Anger, sadness, grief, it all feels really out of control. And we think that if we allow ourselves to go to that place, we may never come back, which is quite sad. We think we'll be stuck in this sadness forever but it isn't true. If we allow ourselves to go there, it's a forgiving place and it takes a lot of self-kindness for us to experience our emotions.
There's also a lot of other social constructs around processing emotions. Someone might think you're unprofessional, or someone might think you're crazy. This applies so much to women and women of color but also men who have been told things like "crying is a sign of weakness." I mean, there are so many social constructs to feelings, you would think that society wants us to be robots, but part of being human is that we have emotions and the ability to express them, which I honestly think is what's hindering us. Keeping emotions bottled up is like a boiling tea kettle. Our bodies can only handle so much emotive energy before we burst. And there are things that we do to release the steam, so to speak. People call this blowing off steam. We can talk about it, dance, drink alcohol, or work out. There are all these little things that we can do to let out a little pressure that makes us feel better in the moment. But those things don't get to the root of the emotion itself. Those activities are ways to avoid emotion. They make us feel good. So the emotion goes away temporarily. And like sadness, happiness is also temporary. So when you stop dancing, or stop drinking, or stop exercising, you're left with the emotions that you've been ignoring. This is what people mean when they say skeletons in the closet. Emotions and the thoughts that cause them are those skeletons. And we keep ourselves so busy and in a state of dopamine chasing, that we don't face them. We keep the door close to them. And what I mean by dopamine chasing is doing the things like drinking and the scrolling and the shopping and whatever it is to give you that little bit of dose of dopamine that makes you feel good at the moment and making you busy. So you're always achieving these things. You're always chasing something else to do also keeps you away from facing some of the negative emotions that you might be avoiding. I also think that these skeletons we think that they're scary, and whenever we finally face them, we think we'll have to go through all this discomfort of cleaning out that closet so to speak. And I will tell you that that discomfort is real, but so is the discomfort of avoidance and if you only let a little steam out now and then that kettle is still boiling, it might be a slow rolling boil, but it's boiling nonetheless. The emotion is still there, it's still pent up, and you're still going to have to face it or address it or process it at some point down the road.
So what do we do if we're constantly in this rolling boil state? We feel the feelings. Feelings are just that, they are things that you feel in your body.
And my mentor always says, how you would describe feelings? How you would describe those sensations, vibrations, physiological responses in your body. Describe them as you would to an alien, who's not from this planet who has no idea what feelings are? Like, how would you describe the physical sensations of happiness or sadness or grief or resentment? What does it feel like in your body? And I want to note that your feelings vocabulary is probably quite limited. We have a plethora of feelings. And I recommend looking at the feelings wheel online. We'll leave a feelings wheel resource for you in the show notes. But there are so many feelings available to you. And right now, the vocabulary is quite limited because if you think back to like grade school, we only talk about the basic feelings like happiness and sadness and anger, and joy and love. And the thing about those basic feelings is sometimes you think you're feeling one of them but it's a shield from what you're feeling deeper. And the reason why is because that is a more acceptable or more familiar feeling to you, you know what anger feels like, you know what joy feels like, you know what love feels like.
I want to use anger as an example because I see it so many times with my clients when they're really angry but whenever we dive a little deeper and dig into the anger and the thoughts that are tied to it, we may find that it's resentment or disappointment that they feel. These may be less familiar and less accessible to you because you haven't taken the time to feel what resentment or disappointment feels like to you, in your body. And of course, having anger as a shield is 100% normal because where in school do we learn to process emotions? We don't. We're left to our own devices, literally our devices to numb us out and ignore our bodily sensations that create emotion.
So how do we course correct this? How do we begin to feel these emotions that are part of human existence? Well, for starters, if we are deep in a feeling, we should feel it. I wish I had an acronym for this to feel your feelings, but I don't. So I'm going to share what you can do in the moment, which is literally to describe your feelings as you would to an alien who has no idea what feelings are. Go through the sensations that you're feeling in your body and just describe them, write them out, say them out loud, take them in your phone, whatever it is, say I'm in your mind. And you can ask yourself...
Does this feeling feel heavy?
Does that feel light?
Is there heat or coolness?
Is it tingly or sharp?
Is there a certain part of my body that feels differently?
If yes, how so?
These are the descriptors of a particular feeling and once you've described those feelings, you can name them. So what does anger feel like? Where's it in your body? Is it heavier light? Is it hot or cold? Is that sharp? Or tingly? Is it soft? Is it heavy? Is there a certain part of your body where anger resides, and then name it, you can think of this exercise as a way to catalog your feelings? Because you'll feel what you're feeling. You'll feel the emotion in your body before you know what the feeling is. The sensations in your body are signals to tell you that you're experiencing a particular feeling. And you can use that bodily feedback to tap into that catalog and say, "Hey, I'm feeling sad", or whatever that feeling is whatever your body is telling you, "Hey, I'm having a feeling". You can kind of think of it as like a stop sign except the stop sign is sadness. And it's a signal telling you "hey, we're having a feeling that thought is creating for us" I keep saying that thought is creating because, in my work, we teach that your thoughts create your feelings. Nothing else is. Your thoughts create your feelings in your body and you take action from that feeling which creates the results in your life.
So this is important for a few reasons. One, not many of us know what our feelings feel like. We're so detached from our bodies. We're so used to numbing out. We're so used to chasing a little dose of dopamine to make us feel good. Our brain is trained to do that, to avoid our negative emotions so we truly have no idea what they feel like. And we're quite scared of them. But this process helps us process any sort of pain, it helps us to normalize emotions, any type of emotion, and any spectrum on any part of the feelings wheel, as part of the human experience. And I think this processing your emotions is a really powerful tool, and one that can help you become a very powerful leader, and a really powerful partner, when you can exhibit and explain and share your emotions with those around you, because you've processed them, you're not going out with a lot of pain or unprocessed emotions. You know what it's like when you try to talk to someone when your kettle is boiling over, it doesn't work out very well, you're fuming, they feel attacked, you get defensive and they get defensive, it doesn't work out very well. But if you can process your emotions and witness what's going on in your body, then you take a step towards normalizing that experience because we all feel a full spectrum of emotions, whether we like to or not.
And I want to share with you the coolest part of this is that processing emotions take less than two minutes. We spend months, maybe even years, avoiding particular emotions, suppressing the physiological need, or response that our body wants to use to process emotions. We avoid it for so long when the actual emotion only needs a few minutes to run its course through your body. And that's done. And what I mean by running its course is when you're going through the descriptive process of naming and describing the emotion, you're just kind of following it. Whereas in your body, right now, what does it feel like now and that process takes 90 seconds. I've done it with my clients so many times and by the time we get to the 90-second mark, their bodies move on to another emotion because you think a different thought. Your brain is constantly thinking new thoughts, producing new emotions. Now, that's not to say once you've processed a particular emotion, that it won't come back, it will certainly come back. But you'll know what it feels like. And you'll know how to process it. And that is what's so amazing about this is that the discomfort is only temporary. And it's relieving. Think about when you have a really good cry. It feels good because you've processed whatever emotion that was that created tears. And now you may think that some of your other emotions aren't going to leave you feeling the same way. But they will. Let's take anger, for example. You may not want to act out of anger, and you don't have to act out of anger, I'd even argue is still part of processing it. But if you went inward, and you described anger to an alien, see how different it would be sensitive acting out of anger when you stay in anger. Instead of hopping out and acting out of anger, maybe lashing out at someone or lashing out at yourself even. But if you just say that like okay, this is anger in my body, here's what it feels like it's in my gut, it's heavy, it's in my chest, it's pulsing whatever it is for you, and you just stay at anger then you wouldn't even act out of it.
And I think so many of us think that that out of control is that we'll have no control and will act out of anger and will be crazy, which isn't the case if we just stayed in our body and figured out where anger is and where it's residing and where it's taking up space and where it wants to go on our body. But why is this so valuable? One, I think it's a healthy thing to do to release the steam to stop stuffing our emotions down. For me, I will say that before I started processing emotions, I would make it logical. I knew I didn't want to cry. I had this thing that I called a throat block where my throat would constrict like a dam to a river of emotions. The knot in my throat would be so painful because I was keeping it so constricted that I wouldn't allow my body to feel emotions. I knew in my mind that I was having an emotional experience, but I refused to let my body feel it. So I wasn't processing it. But when I focused on that knot in my throat and I focus on relaxing it, I could let the emotions flow into my body and out of my head. So I could then feel them so I can then process them. And that's all those emotions want like I'm speaking about them like they're in another person because they kind of is. All they want is to be felt. And this process disarms the emotion. It makes it much less powerful, and it has less power over you because you are allowing it to flow through your body. So you have become the powerful one.
When we process emotions, we're releasing ourselves from the confines of that social conditioning, where we're not supposed to feel anything, we're not supposed to cry, I'm not supposed to get angry, and you’re not supposed to lash out. And we are being told things like, anger isn't professional, or crying is weak, or whatever all our stories are being told. But these things aren't that true. And this makes the emotions have that much more power over you like you shouldn't experience them. And if you do, you're wrong, or they're overwhelming. But it isn't true. And in fact, you are so much stronger, because you allow yourself to experience emotions. You allow yourself to cry. You allow yourself to have anger. And once we're in a place of processing where the emotion has run its course through your body. Once the kettle has cooled. You're in an empowered place. There's something about processing an emotion that makes you almost like an achiever, like another level of dopamine that you can tick off, where you have achieved something so amazing that many of your human counterparts haven't even explored. And there's another episode that I have planned later about emotionally empowered leadership. And I want to bring in my somatic coach to share more about this with you. But I wanted you to think about how much more empowered of a leader or how much stronger of a leader you'll become when you feel like you're in control of your emotions. And it's not in control of your emotions, where you suppress them, and you don't allow them and you keep yourself in check, is what I think people relate to being in control of your emotions, but actually, you will allow yourself to have them. And I will add, since I'm talking to a bunch of professionals out there who may not want to process emotions at the moment, or you may be in a place where you aren't comfortable processing emotions, say you're in a meeting or something comes up, you can still acknowledge your feelings, you can still be sitting in a meeting, where you're anxious and sweaty, and you have that physiological response. And you can say, Hey, I'm noting down the sensations in my body, and I'm just going to make a note. And I noticed that I'm feeling anxious. And that's all you have to do is managing your emotions at the moment is recognizing and allowing yourself to be human. And when you do this, you have so much more control than you think you do. These emotions aren't going to take over your life. They're just visiting you temporarily. They're reminding you that you're a human being and that humans have feelings. So whenever you're having a human experience, aka a feeling, just describe the sensations in your body. Describe it as you would to an alien who has no idea what you're talking about, and name it that puts you in control of your emotions. Okay, my Thrivers that's all I have for you this week. Go out there and be emotionally empowered and let me know how it goes.
Thanks for joining this week on Thrive 9-5. If this episode hit home for you, because I know it did, join Thrive Weekly, a newsletter for people just like you who are looking to do success differently. The link to subscribe is in the show notes below. You can also follow along on Instagram @Celeste__Harrington and as always, subscribe to the Thrive 9-5 podcast so you can stay up to date as new episodes drop each week. I'll talk to you next time.