What do you do with negative feelings that begin to overwhelm you? So big and nasty that the inner critic tells you this is WHO you are. Not just how you are feeling right this second. For me, it’s usually feelings like anger and resentment and anxiety. Which, I believe, are actually sadness, loss and depression turned aggressive and outward. The rational side of me knows feelings are temporary and will turn into something else. The spiritual side of me knows to give it up to the universe when I feel this way. However, the tantrum throwing teenager side of me digs in, and simultaneously wants her explosive feelings seen and heard (and weathered), while also wanting to be 100% left the fuck alone.
I knew – also – at the core of my feelings this morning – as they threatened to take me down like a tsunami – that I was tired. Since I have a toddler and own my own business, it’s a rare moment, that I’m NOT tired.
Self-care. Self-care. Self-care.
That’s what that hormonal teenager side of me needed. But the striving 32 years old refused such a diagnosis. The striving 32-year-old had a TO DO list to check off. Oh, the battles that go on in one woman’s head.
Thankfully, with the advice of a trusted advisor, I gave myself permission to rest. Right in the middle of the work week. I realized that if I worked in Corporate America, I’d feel entitled to “mental health” sick days every once in a blue moon. But not when I’m working for myself. That’s potential for lost productivity or revenue.
But I didn’t have any client meetings until 1p, so I dropped my child off at pre-school and came home and immediately brought my computer and a notebook to bed with me.
Side note: I was very tempted to go shopping at the high-end stores on NW 23rd, here in Portland, but recognized shopping was an old source of fleeting, superficial joy which wouldn’t fill up the emptiness (my husband and pocketbook are thanking me). My next “plan of attack” (read: avoid) was to binge watch a show on Netflix. This, too, is an old way to sidestep looking at uncomfortable feelings. And much cheaper than shopping.
But – because I have come a long way in my own personal development – instead, I journaled like crazy about every single resentment I had – large or small. The Type A mom at pre-school producing a week-long celebration of “teacher appreciation” made the list. My kid, for waking up early this entire week, made the list. The unpredictability of income as an entrepreneur made my list. The mess in the kitchen made my list. My sore shoulder that won’t seem to naturally heal (from a careless fall that was my own damn fault to begin with – so resentment at myself) Hell, the toys left in the bathtub made my list. No one and nothing escaped.
After journaling, I fell promptly asleep with the bright sun blasting through the windows for two hours. A fire alarm probably wouldn’t have woken me up.
Here are three ways to come up for air when the Tsunami (of negative feelings) threatens to drown you.
1. Call a time-out to honor your feelings
Can you take a pause, and remove yourself from the triggering environment and honor what you are feeling safely? It helps to have a therapist or a coach, but journaling can also shift things in a big way.
After journaling, and getting some rest, I reviewed what I had written.
I noticed a theme, it was – “lack”.
It was now so clear that I felt I was lacking something.
- Energy & time like the mom at pre-school.
- Attention & time, which my kid takes with entitlement and ease (as she should!).
- Peace, calm & security in my own mind, body, spirit, and environment.
If my home or work are reflections of my life and myself – I see up and down, clean and messy, old and new, secure and insecure, small and big, good and bad, effortless and difficult. Some days I am sure I am making a big impact on the world; other days I wonder if I matter at all.
2. Question the veracity
After honoring my feelings, I then could assess them with more of a critical eye. Was I actually mad at the mom that gave us 17 activities to do for teacher appreciation week? No. I was jealous that she had the time and energy to be so creative and thoughtful. I wanted to have that energy.
So, I questioned each resentment and looked at what I might do differently or what I might need for myself.
It was very clear, very quickly (but not without reflection) that I needed to allow myself more time, more attention and more compassion. That came in the form of a nap, which revitalized me. But it took a tsunami of negative feelings to get to the needed nap. Possibly I could be more pro-active about my own needs BEFORE the Tsunami hits?
Once I was in a better place, I could then return to some sort of balance through:
You can’t skip directly to this step without reckoning with yourself in step 1 and step 2. It won’t work. The real battle is allowing ALL THE FEELS. I needed to feel entitled to my resentments and angry feelings before level setting with gratitude. Otherwise, I would have been resentful that someone (myself!) was rushing me to the “silver lining”. And suddenly, in 3 short hours, here I was. After being pissed off, after articulating my feelings, and after a nap…I could find space for true gratitude. It includes acknowledging the reality of life being hard and frustrating at times. Here’s how it works. You say “Yes…AND…” Examples for mer personally are: YES, my house is a mess, AND I have a lovely house where I live with my loving family. YES, I don’t have 10 million dollars in the bank (YET, haha), AND we’re doing just fine. YES, my kid needs a lot from me, AND she also gives me so much. YES, I’ll probably never be the mom who plans flowers and massages and pictures for the teachers, AND I did follow the instructions on the email, and get my part delivered on time today. YES, my shoulder hurts, AND I have the privilege of getting massage or acupuncture soon. YOU GET IT!
Life is complicated and unpredictable. Sometimes it’s effortless and joyful, and other times, it’s heart breaking and impossible. Sometimes it’s all at the same time.
If we’re actually living, we do not escape unscathed.