Five uncommon tips to ride the wave of emotions (from a self-healed survivor of depression)

As a survivor of long-term depression and a certified meditation teacher, I consider the cause of mental health and well-being to be of highest importance, especially given the current emotional burden on humanity. Emotions are like waves. As children, we played catch with the waves at the beach, as if the waves were there to swallow our feet. When we realise that these waves ebbing and flowing is a natural process, we learn to courageously step on these waves, even ride it! What makes someone change from wanting to escape painful emotions to someone who wants to ride it? What’s the difference? One word, Power! When you shift from being overpowered by emotions to be able to ride the wave of emotions, you take your power back from it thereby becoming resilient. Believe it or not, resilience is innate to us and so is inner peace. The moment we realise this, we can easily stop identifying with the emotional rollercoasters and resurfacing unprocessed traumas so that we are connected to the infinite well of peace that is within us, allowing us to learn from these events. In this post, I share five simple yet effective tips, based on my experience, to ride the waves of emotions on a daily basis while preserving your mental wellbeing.

  1. Weirdly analyse your environment

This might sound weird but when you are experiencing intense emotions, try noticing something weirdly interesting in your immediate environment. This exercise is not an evasion strategy rather it is merely an unusual way of being present. Regular practice of being present makes you believe in your power to deal with your emotions rather than becoming it. Make sure to not “escape” the situation by DOING something else, instead focus on keeping the replacement activity all about trivial observations. You might snap your fingers, pause your mental chatter, run to the balcony and start counting the number of leaves in the branches of a tree. You might try to notice the types of window panes your neighbours have. You might look at the clouds in the sky and see if you can find a pattern. You might try to “look” beyond the ever-expansive sky or try to see through the clouds and visually rank different clouds based on their density. You might start naming the different birds that fly by your building. The possibilities are endless.

2. Notice weird things about your breath and body

When you are in the middle of having an anxiety attack or a session of overthinking spiralling out of control, try to become very aware of your breath. If your breathing is fast, try to notice how fast it is. You can even start counting the number of beats per minute. Check if your anxious and erratic breath forms a noticeable pattern. Bonus points if you can match the rhythm to any of your favourite songs. By noticing such unusual details about your breath, you momentarily detach from the emotional tornado and you would be surprised to see that your breathing has slowed down. It also helps if you use your inner noise as a trigger to become curious about the sensations at the soles of your feet that are firmly supported on the ground. These exercises effectively connects you to the present moment and gives you some space to process whatever going on inside your head.

3. Cry, eat and hydrate

Yes, go ahead and cry! Forget about every time society shamed you for crying. Crying is good. It releases feel-good chemical messengers such as endorphins and oxytocin in your body. Crying helps you release difficult emotions so you finally feel lighter at heart and ready to calmly deal with difficult situations. I personally feel more powerful after I have had a good cry and it makes me unusually zen. Listen to your body-mind and acknowledge your painful emotions. Scream into the pillow. Jump up and down. Growl inside an empty room if you need it. Do whatever you need to bring out the stagnant emotions and to allow the stuck energy to freely flow through your system. Once you are done releasing your emotions, your breathing calms down. Prepare your most favourite meal, eat a large portion of it and drink about 4 glasses of water at once. Hunger and dehydration heavily influences our emotions. Once you are cried out, well fed and hydrated, you can sense some mental space within yourself to deal with any issue.

4. Watch the movie and pick out characters

Watching THE movie is a cool way of anchoring to the present moment. It merely means to observe the entire scenario that you are a part of as if it is a movie. It takes a second to snap your fingers and view yourself along with others around you as characters played in a well-directed movie. When we watch a movie, we know that we are the viewers of the movie and hence, we might feel the emotions portrayed in the movie while our identity remains separate from the movie. This exercise gives us the space we need to understand ourselves and the people who are involved in the issue by picking out the characters at play and empathising with their behaviours. This gives an opportunity to find solutions to problems objectively.

5. Stretch it out or reach out

Gentle stretching would probably be the last thing you want to do when you are knee-deep in an emotional swamp. There is something about stretching your body and how it influences your mental state. Sometimes I feel unresolved emotions come up in me while I do my yoga routine. At first, I thought of it as a bad sign, as if I am not allowing myself to relax. With time, I realised that these emotions are coming up in me to be released and the stretching of my muscles help with mobilising the stagnant energy that is possibly associated with my otherwise suppressed difficult emotions. It is not news when I say that psychosomatic illness exist and if your emotions can impact your physique, relaxing your physical body can relax your overactive brain thereby providing space for you to resolve the matters of concern. Some people like to dance to let go of repressed anger or frustration. I personally find it liberating. Dancing also helps you break a sweat, which in turn releases endorphins.

If you have trouble with any of this, reach out to mental health or holistic wellness professionals of your choice. You can never have too much help when you are struggling. There is no shame in seeking help. The shame lies in holding your Ego or the opinions of others over your own happiness and well-being.

Hang in there 🙂

Check out my related post on journalling and processing your feelings (includes journal prompts):

https://soulful-kite.com/2020/12/10/journalling-dig-a-little-deeper/

Check out my related post for tips on meditating as a beginner:

https://soulful-kite.com/2020/11/28/simple-tips-for-beginners-to-slip-into-the-silence/

Battling loneliness..

Loneliness is crippling and you don’t have to be alone to feel it. It can be silent and the seed of emptiness can grow within you without you even realising it. People love to bury it deep and either escape reality or put on a mask to cover it up. There are several factors that influence somebody’s willingness to seek help from themselves or from the outside world. I come from a culture that frowns upon those who talk about their mental health and those who try to seek help. The traditional desi remedy to any problem is- “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. If it ain’t related to your basic survival, if it ain’t related to you procuring your everyday meal, if it ain’t related to your grades, if it ain’t related to what others in your social circle think of you, don’t fix it. But what happens if “it” is broken? Have you ever asked yourself if you could tell it is broken or not? If “it” is broken, if you are emotionally wounded and you don’t attempt to fix it, your basic survival is impacted by it. If you don’t have a job, you can’t buy yourself food and you end up starving. If you can buy yourself five-course meals every day but cannot have the will to reach for it and eat it, you still end up starving. When your physical hunger is not satisfied, you starve and die. When your emotional hunger is not satisfied, you could still emotionally starve and eventually want to take your life.

Aside from cultural aspects, there is this habit of comparing your troubles with others. Let me blow your mind when I say that being grateful has nothing to do with some people having it worse in their life than you. Being grateful means to be content and thankful for our blessings AND to not dismiss our pain because when you dismiss it, you are undervaluing yourself (your most valuable blessing) , which contradicts the idea of feeling grateful. Over the course of time, the habit of shoving your pain down your gut can either make you mentally explode some day somewhere or can pressure you into adopting unhealthy coping strategies that you eventually pass on to your children and/or friends. When there is no one you know has it worse than you do, what happens? Most people would feel like digging a hole in the ground and staying there, I know I did. It can make you feel isolated in this world and guess what, no one has the exact same life path as you. It doesn’t make sense to say, “oh don’t feel bad, that person has way worse than you” or to say, “There are people starving out on the street, so you shouldn’t be feeling depressed about your life”. Feelings arise first and then thoughts are associated to feelings. That is why you cannot control a feeling but can control your way of thinking. So, it doesn’t make sense to dismiss what you FEEL based on the assumption that your feelings are illogical. They are meant to be illogical, that is why they are feelings. You are a human spirit, not a machine. built on logical reasoning.

For the longest time of my life, I have felt lonely, which, at a point in my life, had exacerbated my already existent emotional burden and eventually led me to my spiritual awakening. Loneliness has been the longest relationship of my life. She and I have been through a lot together and after a decade or more, I finally understand her. Now, we are so in sync with each other that we know exactly what the other wants. Some people tell me it’s sad but although I WAS sad about it for a long time, I feel like it has been a very interesting journey for me. My intention to help myself feel better led me to explore the inner workings of my mind and the unspoken meaning behind the events of my life. I realised that loneliness gave a greater meaning to my life. It made me want to dissect that feeling of loneliness which showed a sense of disconnection from this world. Throughout my teens and my 20s, I remember feeling misunderstood and I never felt like I belonged almost anywhere and with almost anyone. I now know that it has led me to a point in time where I reinvent myself and choose a life vastly more meaningful than the life I had imagined for myself earlier.

So, what to do to not feel lonely? There is no single perfect solution because it really depends on the reason you feel lonely to the extent that it affects your normal activity. For some, it could be fear of abandonment because their expectations were not met by someone in the past which caused them a lot of pain. For others, it could be that at some level they feel like they are not enough for them to maintain a state of mental wellbeing and harmony because they compare their social life to that of their peers . Sometimes, the reason is so deeply hidden that one could have a seemingly perfect life but the underlying cause of suffering was probably from past life traumas. The list could go on and on. I hesitate to give you any quick tips to cope with loneliness because there aren’t any quick tips and if they were, they are evasion strategies and I believe the only real way to cure loneliness is to identify the root cause and work from there. Having said that, there is one valuable suggestion I can give you and that is to be willing to sit down with your journal and process your pain. Help will reach you! If it doesn’t, please ask for it. You don’t have to be brave if you physically can’t be brave. There are plenty of kind souls on this planet who are qualified and who would help you ease your pain. If you feel alone at feeling lonely, don’t be because I am here writing this to let you know that you are not alone. I am connecting with you virtually to tell you that it will pass and you will find peace and happiness or at the least, a way to work with your deeper emotional wounds. If I can battle loneliness and live to see the light, you can and anyone can!

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Way out of darkness..

There are people who love motivational content and there are people who think motivation is overrated. Among those who love motivational content, there are some who respond to “tough love” or the so-called “if your ambition doesn’t keep you up all night, you are doing something wrong” approach. Many others respond to the method of acceptance and letting go approach that promotes healing. Few others respond to “to hell with those who disagree, I love myself, hashtag I-don’t-care” approach. Depending on the issue people deal with at that particular moment of their life, people resonate with different approaches. My encounters with people who don’t believe in investing in personal motivation have taught me a great deal about my own life. People who belong to this category whom I’ve met often tend to express their discontentment with life and humanity in general. They tell me, “Well, all is not well. People are dying and all of these positive messages are bullshit. People are mean. The world is cruel and nothing good ever happens to anyone, at least to me. What do I have to feel optimistic in life?”. I am no stranger to this thought-process.

My understanding is that no one refuses help unless they have been disappointed with the forms of help that often finds its way towards them. Even if you meet the most cynical person in this world, that person might probably remember a brighter time in that person’s life when the belief in the abundance of love and light was unshakeable. Over time, people build a protective shield around their hearts made of what they call “hard reality”. This grew to become an important lesson that was passed on to future generations. In my opinion, gradually. this worldview left our hearts a bit heavier than it was before at every step of evolution. Residual sadness morphed to take a permanent role in our lives and this fuelled the growth of denser emotions such as hatred, depression and anger that never left our system. This is the collective darkness of humanity.

When I began pondering over the collective darkness, I began to realise that there is something very important that the disappointed bunch tend to not realise. It is the fact that they are not alone at carrying this burden. There are people who project a fake life and there are people who project a life that they are constantly striving to live. Most of those who are into promoting a positive outlook of the world have darkness in them as well that they are constantly battling and healing from every day. Most “positive” people you would find right now online or offline are/have gone through difficult periods in their lives. We know how hard it is to get up in the morning and do something worthwhile when all they want to do is sit on the bed and sulk in sadness. So, all we all hypocrites? No, it is not what I am saying. The point I am trying to convey is that people who try to motivate you are not perfect. Everyone works through certain issues, overcomes obstacles, learns from them while they still struggle at something else.

Perhaps it would be useful for those who don’t believe in motivation to know that nobody is perfect. Each lesson that is shared with them by any influencer must be taken for what they are and it doesn’t have to be another excuse for you to feel bad about yourself or your coping strategies. It is possible to learn from others mistakes and lessons without them threatening your self image. Personally, as someone who is a motivational content creator, my intention is never to downplay others struggles and I can vouch for many who are like me that no one in this line of work usually wishes to rub their happiness on others faces. Most people think long and hard in extracting those lessons from their life that they learnt by experiencing a lot of pain and they want to provide value to the world by sharing their lessons. Life is a very individualistic journey yet we all have many things in common. Since each person’s awareness and perception is technically unique, any number of solutions to an issue can be possible and it is up to each of us to accept guidance that most resonates with us.

So, open your arms, give yourself a hug and don’t shy away from seeking help. Even if it might seem hard to believe, there is love and light in this world that is shining on our darkness right now. Let us collectively work through the darkness and find the light in each of us.

Picture: Royalty-free, sourced from http://www.unsplash.com.