Right before my big trip back to Virginia for spring semester began, I was overcome with emotion. I had traveled to school on my own before. I had been apart from my parents for many months. I had just spent a month with them for winter break and a few tears fell from my cheeks, knowing I would be spending even more time apart from them.
There are times when life hits us – after a long day, in a crowded room where you are alone, after you witness your life change directions you never anticipated. In this pandemic, it’s easy to think that our emotions about the world are supposed to be normal. We still have school and work online. We can Facetime and text friends. We have endless forms of entertainment. Yet our realities aren’t normal. They have changed to something none of us have quite experienced before.
Whether you are happy at the free time you have or overwhelmed at the responsibilities that quarantine has brought you, your feelings are okay. Your feelings are valid.
We neglect our feelings
We give so little care to our feelings. We are so busy getting our lives organized in the transitions that are taking place. We boot up our laptops. We get the family together. We text and talk to friends. We buy things. We take so much action without attending to the emotions that are under the surface.
We ignore our feelings
We don’t lean into reflective practices. Instead of journaling or discussing with a trusted friend the fear that we feel at night or the anxiety we have as we rise to meet the day, we go headlong in building our to do list and working out. We make plans and clean and schedule meetings. We stuff our later hours with entertainment – Youtube, Netflix, Disney+, Instagram, and Facebook.
We don’t spend enough time to stop and consider how we are feeling amidst the changes we experience – whether it’s quarantine or daily life.
We need a reminder that our feelings are okay. Your feelings are okay. You might have the urge to cry for hours on end or you wake up dancing as breath fills your lungs each morning. On social media, it’s easy to see the perfect lives that everyone else is living and to wonder if your life is measuring up. You may think “Why am I not happy as everyone else?” or “Why do they have what I want?” Wherever you are, in whatever circumstances you find yourself in, trust that your emotions are valid.
How to understand your emotions
- Write them down
- Talk with a friend
- Sit in silence and think
- Check out the feelings wheel
- Go for a drive alone
- Listen to music
Get a piece of paper and get all of the nitty gritty emotions down onto the page. What is making you feel sad? What’s making you happy? Where is your frustration stemming from? Get the details of the circumstances surrounding your emotions down on paper so you can get some distance from them.
If you find a piece of paper too two dimensional, try a friend. Talking to a friend that you trust can put you at ease. They can repeat back to you what you say to them using different language that can lead to more clarification for you. Be open and dive deep.
One thing to try if nothing else feels comfortable is sitting in silence. Just sit and let your thoughts come to you. Unlike meditation where you try to distance yourself from your thoughts, you should try and think clearly about the situations where you feel so much. What is bothering you? What small moment brings a smile to your face? Just thinking back through your day, get clear on what you are experiencing.
If you can’t name your feelings, check out the feelings wheel. It helps you get down to the specifics of how you are truly feeling.
Sometimes all you need is a drive alone. If you are the praying type, this is a good time to pray to God and ask for clarity. But when you drive taking in the scenery, there are so many thoughts that come to you and it’s worth it to understand your emotions and feeling like you are at a place where what you feel matters.
Lastly, listen to music. We all make playlists of our favorite artists. There is much to be said about the way music speaks to our emotions the way nothing else does. Play your favorite songs. Go to Spotify and choose a chill playlist. Pick an upbeat playlist. Just turn up the volume and really listen.
Both positive and negative emotions are perfectly okay. No matter what it is you are feeling, your feelings are okay. We would all love to live a life full of happiness and joy, free from pain and sadness. That isn’t our reality but we need to know the sweetness of one with the bitterness of the other.
Feel deeply, friends.