Learning to Feel: 3 Steps to Start Your Healing Journey Through Emotional Intelligence.
You know when you’ve had a long month at work and just want to cry because you’re so exhausted but somehow end up eating ice cream and shaming yourself for not being good enough? I’ve been there too.
In fact, I used to be there a lot. I felt powerless against my emotions and didn’t know any better way to cope.
It wasn’t until I learned more about emotions and my body that I understood what was happening, and, more important, how to manage it. I was using food as a tool to avoid my emotions because I thought they made me weak. Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions.
With emotional intelligence comes the understanding that between the stimulus and the reaction exists your power to choose. Or, better stated, between your mom’s comment about your weight and an extra-large glass of wine is your ability to pause and give yourself what you really need. It’s awesome.
As an introduction to emotional intelligence, I’ll give you three simple steps that will help you increase your awareness, take back your control and express your emotions in a healthy way.
1. Increase Awareness: Emotion = Natural Reaction
Your body is incredibly intelligent and is equipped with so much wisdom and knowledge that has been passed down from generations. For example, we have primal instincts today because the cavemen developed them to stay alive.
Nigel Nicholson, senior Professor at London Business, wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “Homo sapiens emerged on the Savannah Plain some 200,000 years ago, yet according to evolutionary psychology, people today still seek those traits that made survival possible then: an instinct to fight furiously when threatened, for instance, and a drive to trade information and share secrets. Human beings are, in other words, hardwired.”
The adrenaline that rushes through you when your mom comments about your weight (again) is the same adrenaline that rushed through the cavemen when they heard a rustling in the bushes. The difference is that their lives were on the line, and your life (99.9% of the time) is not.
You are genetically wired with these primal instincts, meaning it’s totally natural for your body to have a reaction to an experience. Think about your emotion as your body’s natural reaction to an event or an experience and trust that it’s okay to have the emotion as a reaction. By accepting all emotions as okay, you lessen the urge to avoid them or escape from them through emotional eating.
Remember, unlike the cavemen, your life isn’t on the line, so there’s no need to fight (shame yourself for being emotional) or flight (escape into a bowl of ice cream or text your ex).
2. Take Back Your Power: There’s Nothing Wrong with You
Just because your body is reacting doesn’t mean you’re broken. An emotion is just a natural and temporary reaction to what is happening. With some patience, love, and tolerance, you can and will move through each of life’s experiences and make it to the other side.
If a relationship has ended, it’s a natural instinct to feel sadness. This emotion, no matter how it manifests, is your body’s way of processing the experience.
Trouble only comes when your ego gets involved and creates a big, bad story about what the emotion means about who you are. As you’re crying about your breakup, your ego creeps in and says, “You’re unlovable and you’ll be lonely forever.”
If you believe that story, you’re giving your power away. You’ve mistaken the emotion as a part of your identity and you’ve made the emotion mean something about you/your worth/your future. This story only adds more anxiety and fear into your experience.
What happens when we feel anxious, full of fear, or broken? We compensate. And for many, that means we eat, drink, shop, or run into the arms of people who are bad for us.
When you’re experiencing an emotion, practice patience, love, and tolerance. If you find yourself getting caught up, move past the story your mind is creating and focus on your body instead. What does your body need? How does your body want to naturally process the experience?
3. Feel It to Heal It or Carry It Forever
In my own personal experience, releasing my emotions as they arise instead of avoiding them has been extremely healing and has had a positive ripple effect in my life. Not only does it overcome emotional eating (shopping or texting) at the moment, it avoids build-up of emotions that can lead to bigger, self-sabotaging actions in the future.
You’ve got to feel it to heal it. If you shove it down instead, you’re going to carry it with you where you go.
Remind yourself that it’s a temporary thing and there is nothing wrong with you, then let yourself cry, scream, or move in an expressive way. Let the emotion move through you so that you can be free to move forward without it.
What would change in your life if you were able to experience emotions without shame?
What would you do differently if you knew emotions were temporary?
This is the power of emotional intelligence.
Start building your emotional intelligence today by acknowledging your emotion as a natural reaction to an event. Then, accept your emotions as a temporary experience that is separate from who you are.
Jenna Hillier is an NYC-based Yoga Teacher and Life Coach who specializes in emotional intelligence and intuitive eating. She believes there is no one-size-fits-all to health and invites you to uncover your unique emotional, physical, mental and spiritual wellness through coaching and mat-based movement. You could contact her via her website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.