When you see a child crying, what’s the most common response you hear?
“It’s Okay. Don’t cry. It’s Okay!”
Emily Fletcher of Ziva Technique recently spoke about this, and it sparked my attention and inspired this article.
The truth is, the majority of the time, we ARE okay. We are simply having an experience that isn’t life or death.
But what happens when we are told “It’s Okay, It’s Okay” over and over when we are feeling something? Whether it’s our inner voice or someone saying it to us, it inevitably invalidates the feelings we are having at the moment.
What we need, which Emily beautifully illustrates in her video, is to be reminded at that moment that we are safe. That’s the best thing we could possibly do. But telling ourselves not to feel something that we feel is not what the moment calls for.
If we are taught not to allow ourselves to simply feel things, we develop different habits and patterns of managing our emotions, and not necessarily the best. We might fight our feelings, run from our feelings, silence our feelings with negative thoughts, or seek to bury our feelings with alcohol, drugs, food, sex, you name it!
When we don’t allow emotions, which are “energy in motion”, to move through and out of the body, they can get trapped. And eventually, they’ll come back up, more likely than not when we are triggered or in fight or flight, possibly at a very inopportune time. It was never fully “allowed to be”, so it had to go somewhere deep in our psyche.
What if instead, we allow ourselves to simply feel our feelings and give ourselves space for them to move through and out of our system?
Emotions are temporary and nothing to be feared. Sometimes, they may be little “red flags” or “green flags”, lighting our path and showing us the way. A “gut instinct”. Many times, they are stored up from something that wasn’t dealt with in the past, and we’re reliving it in the present. Other times, emotions don’t mean much of anything at all. We are simply “having a temporary experience”, like crying when you watch a sad scene in a movie. It can feel very cathartic. We are emotional beings! We are meant to feel them.
One of my favorite practices for allowing my emotions to be, and something I share with clients (especially those who manage emotional eating/eating disorders) is Emotional Freedom Tapping.
"If we are taught not to allow ourselves to simply feel things, we develop different habits and patterns of managing our emotions, and not necessarily the best."
Tapping provides a physical response to gently and compassionately talking yourself through emotions as they arise, giving them attention and space, and helps de-stimulate the nervous system. You simply tap on specific acupressure points lightly while talking through how you are feeling, what thoughts are coming up around the situation, just being there with it all.
I can’t tell you what a profound impact this has had on me. Every single time I tap, I feel better. I feel like I’ve truly released the emotional overload, and while it may not disappear entirely, I feel much calmer. From that new vantage point after tapping, vs. before when I felt heightened, I can make much better decisions. It helps me reconnect to my parasympathetic nervous system, aka “Rest and Digest”.
This is a stellar practice, and you can benefit greatly whether you struggle with emotional eating or not. If you are “Not feeling OK”, try tapping first! Tap out the stress after a long day at work, before sitting down to a meal with your family. You’ll feel tremendously better and be able to enjoy the meal, be more open and social, and you’ll digest the food much better when you’re not in “fight or flight”.
If you are brand new to EFT, you can easily learn how to walk through it with a short YouTube video, a book, or work with an EFT provider like Marian Buck Murray. **Just be sure not to tap on any major traumas alone for your first time! Use this as a gentle practice for milder emotions as you start, and work your way up with the help of a therapist/EFT practitioner.
There are additional useful tools for moving through emotions as they arise. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Psychotherapy are extremely beneficial, writing your thoughts and feelings down on paper, taking a walk, deep breathing exercises, and more. All of these will boost your mental and emotional health, having a tremendously positive effect on your relationship with yourself, with others, and even with food!
I use these support tools and talk through mental and emotional stressors with every single one of my clients as a Nutritionist. We need a whole-person, whole-body approach to true health and happiness, above and beyond what’s on our plate.
Try just one of these exercises next time you are feeling emotions coming up, and remember, it’s OK not to feel great all the time! It’s human to experience and explore all your many emotions. You’ll learn and grow so much by processing and holding space for yourself.