What’s your outlet for expressing your emotions? Mine is a good dance session, even though I’m a C+ dancer at best.
Like me, maybe you have innocently and unknowingly developed the belief, or what I like to call a “story,” that the expression of your emotions (especially the not so warm and fuzzy kind) is inherently bad or wrong. The good news is that this belief is just a story; it’s not even your story, and even better news – you’re the editor. These stories feel real and meaningful, but they’re not, and they don’t always have to be. If you’re anything like I was, I assumed that keeping a negative emotion, like anxiety, hidden underneath the surface was the best way to treat a negative emotion. My story was that feeling anxious was a weakness, and to keep myself from feeling vulnerable (see this great Ted Talk on vulnerability), I needed to hide that “weakness.”
Who has ever felt better, stronger or more at peace by hiding anxiety away?! I know I never did. If we treat anxiety like it’s something worth hiding, our mind comes to view anxiety as something way more significant than it really is. Anxiety is a normal emotion, one we all feel from time to time, and trying to keep it hidden underneath the surface is like trying to keep a beach ball underwater in the pool – it takes a lot of effort and eventually the ball escapes your grip and comes rushing to the surface, only to smack someone in the face – probably you.
Having an outlet to express emotions like anxiety is a healthy way to release the built up tension. When we utilize our outlet, whether it is dancing, writing, a good cry or a walk in the woods it feels cathartic and the anxiety dissipates faster than if we try to hide it. In order to hide anxiety we have to cling onto it, like the beach ball, and like the beach ball, anxiety naturally wants to rise to the surface and float away as quickly as it came. So let it.