When we feel stressed anxious or low, talking about it can often feel too scary. If so, it’s helpful to find other ways of expressing yourself to avoid shutting down, which can happen when we suppress and leave emotions to fester for too long. Writing is an accessible way for many people - here’s some tips on how to do so.
1. Know the difference between an emotion/feeling and a thought. Emotions and feelings involve a physical sensation in your body. Thoughts happen in your head (we use them to explain or avoid our feelings). Often this happens unconsciously because we aren’t able to process the events we are experiencing.
2. Know that feelings get stuck in your body if they aren’t expressed. This can be a big issue. Why? Because if the thought (and meaning) you created to avoid the feeling is distorted (that person treated me badly so I must deserve to be treated badly). It becomes stuck and hijacks our future responses to life's events that feel similar.
3. Begin to notice and name your feelings more regularly.
Allow yourself space to pause and write about what you’re feeling and what thoughts connect to them. Try including these phrases "I feel...... because.... Or...... This happened and I felt….. and now I sense......" and "this has made me understand....…". It could be what you felt earlier that week or month or at that moment. Finding the words can be a challenge - the emotional vocabulary word map below should help and can be downloaded.
4. Start badly and know there isn’t a ‘right’ way
Feelings don't always make sense and can be confusing. Expressing them is a natural process that enables you to unpick and understand them. Starting a poem or short story is another great way to do so. See Writing Therapy or Poetry Therapy for more information and examples.
Ultimately, the more you express your feelings the better you’ll get to know yourself - and the easier navigating life will become. You might feel a bit emotional at first, but this should pass. If it doesn’t, stop writing and talk to a friend, family member or get in touch with a professional for support.
To release psychological stress and grow your self awareness - therapeutic writing can be a powerful tool.