Updated: Jun 1
September the 10th is "R U OK?" day. Organisations are focusing on raising awareness around mental health and creating opportunities to connect and engage with each other, and to check-in if we are OK. I love this initiative, it helps us to talk about the importance of mental health.
BUT, what if you are asked this question and you are NOT OK?
It can often be hard to open up to others when things are tough. Many of us have had the belief installed in us (from a young age) feelings like anger, sadness, and anxiety are bad. We are taught to 'snap out' of these feelings and to get on with it... I remember as a small child if something went wrong and I was upset or sad I was told to "turn my frown upside down". It might have helped to change my feelings in the moment, but it also ingrained the belief that it wasn't good to sit in these "bad" feelings.
It was also the reason why I didn't open up and speak to many people about my relationship when it was breaking down many years ago. I was feeling stressed, overwhelmed and hurt. But, instead of sharing this with others and recognising these feelings in myself, I would turn up appearing positive and bubbly - giving all the signs everything was OK.
Things weren't fine, and I wasn't OK.
We don't have to be happy all of the time. After all, we are humans. Humans feel a range of emotions and this IS totally OK. Believe me, it's not sustainable and it's incredibly exhausting to put on a facade all of the time.
Bottling up emotions and not dealing with them creates suppressed emotions. When we push emotions aside, it's not like they go away, they become amplified. Psychologists often call this "emotional leakage". The more you try to not think about it, the more you focus on it. So, when we try to push emotions aside, it doesn't work and it lowers our resilience.
Our emotions have evolved to help us to adapt. When we are experiencing anger, grief, anxiety, loneliness, and sadness, it's all very normal. It means we are human and not a robot! These emotions have been raised inside of us so we can adapt and learn from them. So, when I was feeling stressed, hurt and overwhelmed in my past relationship, I was being triggered by events which made me feel like this. Stuffing these feelings away and carrying on with a positive outlook didn't help me to recognise where these feelings were coming from and what they were telling me. Suppressing difficult emotions also stops us from being able to live a life which matches our values.
It's too easy to think negative emotions are bad and to do little about it, however, it's our natural navigation system. It's our unconscious mind telling us something isn't aligning with our own beliefs and values. So, pain isn't bad, it just means our unconscious has a message to tell us! This is a great gift for us to possess. Once we understand what we are feeling and the triggers in our lives, we can make changes.
So, if you are feeling emotions such as being stressed or overwhelmed, try some breathing exercises, and ask yourself, "What am I stressed about?", "Would the majority of people stress about the same thing to the same degree?". Write down everything you feel and what's occurring for you. Discover WHAT the emotion is inside of you and HOW it's being triggered. If you are still stressed and you feel you don't have perspective, ask yourself, "Am I being realistic or am I trying to be perfect?". Lean closer to the emotion and understand what it's telling you.
Don't forget - talking to others and sharing what's going on for us is important in the process. It helps us to identify how we are feeling and what's going on for us. Believe me, things would've been so much easier for me sooner if I had have had the courage to talk to others about how I was feeling. It would've saved me years of unhappiness, overwhelm, stress and exhaustion. Once you talk about your emotions, the triggers become so much clearer. Once you understand the triggers, you can then make change!
Sometimes suppressed and chronic emotions continue to pop up in our lives even when we think we've addressed them. In fact, some emotions are inherited from past generations in our DNA (this is Epigenetic's - this is a BIG issue, and I'll save this for another time...). If you have chronic or suppressed emotions rear it's head, then go and seek help.
If you need strategies to help you overcome these difficult feelings, get in touch with me and book in a Consultation with me. It's difficult for self to analyse self, so that's where I can support you.
If you need a chat or a friendly ear to listen, feel free to call me!
So, if someone asks you "are you OK?", what will your response be?