Big Fat Feelings

Crying at a diaper commercial...

In my practice, I work with people that are chronically ill, or have a new diagnosis of heart/lung disease. It's no surprise that people managing these issues would have an emotional response. Who wouldn't? Part of my job is normalizing this for people. Normalizing is essentially letting someone know that what they are experiencing is normal. It's appropriate to feel overwhelmed, sad, or even angry because of their current circumstances. For some, this may be the first time in their life that they have felt overwhelmed by emotion. Emotions have a tendency to leak out at the most inopportune times. With rage in traffic, a short fuse with a loved one, crying at a diaper commercial, the list goes on and on. The fact of the matter is- this person is dealing with big fat feelings.

Left flayed on the side of the road...

I have historically been notorious for my big fat feelings. I cannot remember a time when things weren't a big deal for me. When I'm hurt, I feel like I have been left flayed on the side of the road. When unkind words are directed my way, they stab me repeatedly in the wake of their launch. I've been told that I'm too sensitive, or not to take things so personally. I don't know that being sensitive is a bad thing. I think a tender heart makes me a more empathic social worker and human. I would rather spend my time with someone that can greet me with tenderness in times of distress, not laughter and passive aggressive jabs. Am I wrong? The real trick to managing big feelings, is finding your own unique way to process them in an effective and constructive way.

Those people need to be checked for a heartbeat...

When met with uncomfortable emotions, our immediate response is to dull that emotion with some self-soothing technique. For babies, they have a binky or blanket. As adults, we aren't much different. What is the first thing you want to do when you get into a conflict with someone? Is it binging on chocolate? Wine? Netflix? Whatever your thing is, it's meant to lessen the feelings of distress and bring you back to a place of calm and safety. We simply can't handle the discomfort of a situation without easing it. Some people are better at this than others. Heck, I know people that can get the worst news ever, and just shrug their shoulders, "oh well." Those people need to be checked for a heartbeat. The rest of us react in human form, with feelers.

Watching Cruel Intentions on repeat...

I'm going to break it down for you. When I was a younger lil thing, I had a handful of coping strategies I used when in distress. These included: smoking (a lot of cigarettes), going out to clubs, engaging in drama, disconnecting from life, becoming defensive, watching Cruel Intentions on repeat, and generally exhibiting a horrible attitude. I don't recommend this approach. Around 22, I found new ways: sharing my feelings with people that value me, meditation, journaling, art, music, coffee, vulnerability, and laughter. These are fantastic ways to cope. Most folks look for something that increases the dopamine (pleasure) in their brain when escaping distress.  It may be addictive substances, food, video games, pornography, compulsive shopping, just fill in the blank. The key is to find something that will edify you, while bringing you relief.

Intense things swimming around your brain...

This last week was a rough one for me. In the old days, this may have given me the opportunity to slink back into old patterns of dysfunction. What happened instead? I got a pedicure, went hiking, took a bubble bath, got a new lipgloss, text friends, slept in, and generally nurtured myself. Big fat feelings deserve bigger and fatter interventions. When you are able to identify the icky gut feeling, pull out your toolbox of coping skills, or self-care. Another wonderful tool when dealing with heavy heart gunk is mindfulness. Mindfulness allows you to focus on the present moment, instead of all the intense things swimming around your brain. You can be mindful while listening to a favorite song, smelling essential oils, meditating, or even weeding your garden. Any activity (or non-activity) that brings you to a place of peace is considered mindful in my book. 

Do you really need the latest sangria recipe?

It's totally OK to feel super sized feelings, but it's even better if you know what to do with them. Instead of being swallowed by them, honor your heart. Acknowledge the difficulty and ask yourself what you need. Do you really need the latest sangria recipe on Buzzfeed? Or do you need to call your BFF and schedule a coffee date? Do you need those donuts? Or would a walk on the greenbelt be a better choice? I think you know the answer. Don't let anyone tell you that you're too sensitive. Feelings are a beautiful thing, or we would all be sociopaths. All you need to do, is reel those puppies in once in awhile. With a little self-care and proper attention, you can enjoy the benefits of being a feeler. Welcome to the club.