When we're stressed, talking often feels too scary. If so, it’s important to find other ways of expression to avoid psychologically shutting down, which happens when we leave emotions to fester for too long. Writing is one such way - here’s some tips on how to.
1. Know the difference between an emotion/feeling and a thought. Emotions and feelings are physical sensations in your body. Thoughts happen in your head (we use them to explain 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/meaning you create to avoid the feeling is distorted (that person treated me badly - I must deserve to be treated badly). It becomes the default responses to future events that feel similar.
3. Begin to notice and name your feelings more regularly.
Allow yourself to pause and write down what you’re feeling and what thoughts connect to them. Try phrases like "I feel...... because.... Or......happened earlier and I felt….. and now I sense......" and "this has made me understand....…". It could be remembering a past feeling or something in the moment. Finding the words to explain the feeling can be challenging - the emotional vocabulary map below should help and can be downloaded by clicking on it.
4. Start badly, there isn’t a ‘right’ way
Feelings often don't make sense and are confusing until you untangle them. Expressing them is a natural process that enables you to do so. Starting a poem or short story is another great way to try. 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.