Self-Care and Emotional Wellbeing

the feels

Today’s big idea is that while self-care is a wonderful thing, in can also be an occasion for you to come face to face with all the big feels–sadness, anger, grief, shame, agitation, you name it. This is because self-care of all kinds helps you inhabit your body and catch up to yourself in this present moment, whether you’re doing something mind-body based, like yoga or meditation, or even something like taking a bath or taking yourself on a walk or gazing up at the stars—self-care and emotional wellbeing are connected.

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And since many of us have a tendency to not want to experience some of these more uncomfortable emotions, you may find yourself wanting to skip out on your self-care so that you don’t have to feel them. I hope that today’s episode will help you see what a gift it is to know what’s going on with your self care and emotional wellbeing, and to give you some tools for processing those big feels so that your self-care becomes more than just feel good–it becomes CATHARTIC. 

But first let me share what sparked the idea for this episode

It was two things, actually. 

On Twitter two folks I follow were talking about how doing yoga was giving them the big feels, and not in a good way. These are successful writers who are adept at plumbing emotional depths in their work, mind you. The first said, 

“I’m trying to be more intentional about healing this semester, as that’s the only way I’ll survive it. I tried some beginning yoga poses today. I did the half pigeon pose and STARTED BAWLING. I’ve been storing sadness in my hips all this time?!”

To which another writer replied: 

“I stopped going to yoga classes because I kept crying and was so mortified. I didn’t realize other people did this, too!!”

Also, I myself experienced something similar when I started meditating again with the Headspace app

(who is also a sponsor of this episode). Their guided meditations often include a segment where you are encouraged to check in and see if you detect any specific feeling or mood. And what I saw when I did those check-ins a few times is that I was feeling really flat and functionally depressed. 

Now I get that this seems like a paradox

If self-care is supposed to make you feel better, why does it sometimes make you sad or depressed. Isn’t that a BAD THING? How is self care and emotional wellbeing connected?

So let’s say you’re engaging in something that’s designed to help you take better care of yourself, and instead of feeling restored or relaxed, what you’re experiencing feels more like sadness, or anger. And you feel weird about that–like, what’s wrong with me? 

It’s SO VERY natural that your self-care might get you all up in your feelings. After all, an unexpressed emotion doesn’t go away. Those issues go and make themselves at home in your tissues.

That’s why it’s so helpful to practice self-care, because it gives you a constructive way to release your emotions. It also helps you learn how to be present to your feelings, and breathe through them. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s not as scary as it might seem, and it’s really important, and it helps you feel a lot better, and less bogged down, afterward. 

I was doing my little weight routine in my bedroom the other day, listening to the only radio station that comes in up there, and the song Groove is in the Heart came on, one of my favorite dance songs of all time. And suddenly I burst into big tears, totally sobbing, for about… 15 seconds. Then it was gone. It was like a flash thunder storm or something and I CANNOT tell you why it happened, other than there was some sadness that needed to come out. Those tears saw their opportunity and made a break for it. And I felt cleansed. 

Our society makes us feel like we need to apologize for crying

Aside from the misogyny in that–since women are perceived as more emotional–there is no need to apologize for shedding tears any more than you need to apologize for pooping. Because crying is a release. I think of it as an emotional poop. 

It’s not a sign that you can’t handle what’s happening, but that you ARE handling it–your body is processing and digesting and eliminating really big feelings. Crying opens your heart and also helps you get to the other side–you always feel better after. 

If yoga makes you cry, I say, keep going!

Issues have a way of getting embedded in our tissues, and if it doesn’t come out as tears, it might come out as digestive issues, or migraines, or something else. The fact that your body is capitalizing on the opportunity to purge some lingering emotions is actually a beautiful, healing thing, and can help with your self care and emotional wellbeing

Buddhist nun Pema Chodron writes that,

“No emotion lasts more than 90 seconds if you allow yourself to truly feel it.”

I get that those 90 seconds can feel like an eternity, the same way that holding a plank position for 90 seconds feels like several hours, but they will pass and you will feel SO much better after. 

Daily Tiny Assignment

Your tiny assignment is to do a little emotional check-in the next time you do your preferred form of self-care. Just pause long enough to survey your inner landscape and see if there’s a mood or an emotion you can detect. You may fear that you’re opening yourself up to a tidal wave of emotions, but as one of my yoga teachers, Max Strom says, it’s more like opening a bottle of champagne. There may be a little overflow at first, but soon it will settle down and you’ll be able to pour it without getting bubbles all over yourself. 

Come back tomorrow when I’m starting a series of three episodes that each cover a form of self-care that might surprise you. 

And, I’m planning a few episodes on things we might want to consider giving up in service of becoming better people. If there’s something you’ve stopped doing or walked away from and it’s helped you grow, I’d love to hear about it. Use your phone to record a voice memo and send it to me at kate@katehanley.com and your story, in your voice, could be featured in a future episode!

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