A summary for the past few weeks, emotions have a legitimate use, they are very potent, and they love one another. They churn up like emotions based on your focus. This can be a good thing, or it can be a difficult thing; depending on you. Emotions Punctuate - they imprint or embed experiences into your being or make "lasting impressions". Emotions Exaggerate - they can amplify details or distort/twist facts. Emotions Communicate - we use them as signals that send & receive useful information quickly without words to & from others. Emotional expressions are hard wired and quick, they do influence others, whether we intend to or not. When they communicate to ourselves, they can give us useful information on something that may need our attention or perhaps as a warning or alarm. Emotions Motivate - they energize our behavior and prepare us for action, help us to overcome obstacles and they can save time in that they do not require thought. Just to name a few.
So what about emotion overload? What do you do when there is just too much flying around your head? I am careful to label this as distress tolerance, because you aren't necessarily in distress all the time when emotions are running high. Sometimes, life has emotions. Sometimes, life has a lot of emotions. We have to learn how to digest them, not just distract from them. As with anything else, we need to digest (and distract when necessary) in an effective way. What is my intention here? What do I need? Let's say you are preparing for a family reunion, you will be seeing relatives that bring a host of different triggers. For the most part you are well aware of the larger triggers and you are prepared for them. You have decided to go and have been very mindful about what all it will entail. Because you are human you will have quite a bit of emotions. These emotions will range from intense to a passing thought. Some may be wise mind justified and others will not be. As the day approaches, what have you chosen to do to "tolerate" these emotions, is the key. In this case it is more effective for you to find a healthy way to digest them, rather than tolerating them until they pass. I say this because if you tolerate until they pass, you run the risk of them popping up at the reunion and expressing to others things that you may not really wish to be expressing. However, if you digest them, you will have a clearer perspective when you are at the reunion. I know this sounds similar to distracting, but there are subtle differences, in some cases though, you may even use the same technique in both, distracting and digesting. Your aim is different though.
Distracting, usually involves gently pushing away what emotions and feelings are pulsing through your body for any given situation, usually when dealing with triggers. You are waiting for the moment to pass so that you can address the trigger and identify what can be done in the future, etc. Whereas, digesting, involves gently absorbing emotions and feelings that are pulsing through your body for any given reason, usually when dealing with triggers. You are allowing yourself to be a participant in your own life.
For survival we need to be able to distract, hunker down so-to-speak. It serves it purpose, after a time however, we need to expose ourselves to those experiences that have in the past been so strong and overwhelming that all we could do was distract. Live in your life. . . that is what recovery is all about right? So now is the time to digest. . .
What have you found to work? Here are a few ideas from others:
Mindfulness Exercises: take your time with them, perhaps linger in one for an hour or so, take a spa time for your mind.
Positive self talk: Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" Write down positive affirmations and keep them in a handy place that you will frequently see. (no SNL puns intended :))
Gratitude Journal: jot something down that you are grateful for, either when the mood provokes or daily, it is that simple.
Charting: literally chart what your mind and body need to be doing in order for you to have the proper level of emotion, or comfortable level.
Let us know your ideas. Next week I will start publishing something what some find to be helpful, not only writing down what it is that they are feeling, but writing in poems and the like. If you have any, please send them my way. I look forward to hearing from you!