No peeking now! Don’t read ahead until after you’ve colored your heart.
All done? Great! And if you didn’t do the little exercise, that’s fine too. I just want you to tap into how you are feeling at this moment.
How does it feel to take a moment to check in with yourself? It might have felt good and almost like second nature because you always do, right? Yepper! Or it might have been the most uncomfortable thing you’ve ever done. Well BRAVO to you for stepping out of your comfort zone! Or perhaps you felt somewhere in between. Whatever your answer, the ultimate goal for this directive was for you to check in with yourself. Now, let’s start a conversation on why it is important to check in with ourselves.
Taking a moment to be honest with yourself on how you feel might be a NEW habit that I’m hoping you will start to do more of. Why? Because, I said so! Joking! Seriously, why not? You already check in with your friends, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, family, kids...I could go on and on and list all the folks you check in with daily. It’s a cordial conversation we have daily even with strangers...okay maybe not strangers...well, maybe sometimes semi-strangers? You know that familiar, “Good morning. How are you?” or “Hey, how’s it going?” with a co-worker or the Barista at your local coffee shop...and the usual response is “Good, and you?” or “All’s good. What about you?”. Then the mini conversation is usually somewhere along the lines of “Fine” or “Good”. Sometimes we even say “thanks for asking”. But are we really? Are we really “fine” or “good”? Often we’re not but we are conditioned to give these responses automatically. And if you ever truly answered honestly, sometimes the reaction from the person asking is amazingly A-W-K-W-A-R-D!
Seriously! I’ll use a real example. Once a boss of my boss walk up to me and ask how I’m doing. Welp, on this particular day I had a rough commute, operating on 4 hours sleep and wasn’t looking forward to open school night at my son’s school later that evening. Yes, as you can imagine, I didn’t just reply “Fine” with a smile which would be the short answer. Yes, you guessed it again, I gave an itemized list of honestly how I was feeling at that moment which included the commute, lack of sleep and mommy duties later that evening. I can still see the look on his face as I listed each item. A frozen smile and his entire body language showed he regretted asking. Let’s just say, he never asked me again how I was doing. (I’m literally laughing right now at this memory.) I find this funny now but at the time it stung a bit. My thought then was, why ask if you don’t really want to know truthfully how I’m feeling. In reality, he probably did care but wasn’t prepared for the answer because he, too, was conditioned to expect “fine” or “good” as an answer. Back then I wasn’t in the habit of checking in with myself so often I processed how I felt out loud and sort of “intellectualizing my feelings” as a way to cope---that’ll be another blog post another time. I just went about life and relied on friends to vent to and be comfortable with my unfiltered responses. Sounds familiar? Thankfully I have a tribe that speaks and understands my lingo. Unfiltered convo isn’t for everyone FYI...
So, now that I’ve asked you to “color your heart” to check in with your emotions, you are probably thinking, “Now what?”.
Knowing how you are feeling will help you make informed decisions on matters that concern you and those you interact with. This will also help you identify triggers or the source/sources behind your feelings. For example, we don’t really think about what’s behind our feelings when we are happy because we most likely already know or don’t really care because we are H-A-P-P-Y! When asked what’s behind our feelings of anger, per se, that becomes a bit trickier to identify because the emotion is so strong and we are in the midst of experiencing it so reasons behind anger takes time to process. Even if you can say the obvious you’d still need time to process the ultimate source behind your anger. Often times, when it comes to anger, we might need to see a therapist to explore where the source of this emotion resonates from especially if you become
a danger to self or others. Whoa! This sounds extreme, right? Yep, I’m over emphasizing the anger example just to bring to your attention how important it is to check in with self. Keep in mind feelings are a total body reaction. When you experience emotional stress your heart rate increases, you shake/tremble, muscles tense, you may have trouble breathing and to some it is obvious by your level of perspiration. Similar to when you experience panic attacks. And let’s not forget tummy issues arise and either increase/decrease in appetite. Our feelings are influenced by our thoughts and the way we perceive an event or situation. They can be simple or complex. They give us energy! When you are in touch with your feelings, you will feel energetic---”I’M ON TOP OF THE WORLD!” But when you are not, you may feel sluggish, lethargic, numb, tired or depressed---”I LITERALLY HAVE NO ENERGY!” Our language becomes negative and we respond accordingly. We sometimes suppress our emotions/feelings. Suppressing our feelings can lead to anxiety and depression. As we were growing up we were taught to suppress our feelings and it became an unconscious habit. Suppressing our feelings diminishes our ability to make decisions that will honor ourselves and the people we interact with. It is also important for us to keep in mind that feelings are never right or wrong, good or bad...they just are, they exist. Our perception and judgement can be wrong or right, valid or invalid but feelings are just there. Once you practice expressing your feelings, you will feel better. It sounds easier said than done. Trust, that I get that but with everything in life, it takes practice and eventually it will become second nature. Keep in mind as you practice identifying with your feelings to not evaluate yourself and others solely on “feelings” because ultimately we are entitled to have feelings---we are human, after all. Our feelings exist and just are. We are human and not perfect. To quote Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better”.