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