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Before setting out on this emotional year, I needed to feel comfortable with my intentions (to make up for the lack of an actual plan) for how to approach this journey to deep dive into my emotions. I clarified my goal to not carelessly revisit and rip open old wounds, but rather to commit to experiencing every emotion that came at me in real time. If my mind happened to come across emotions based on more difficult past events (they did) then I faced them as they arose. I committed to progress and practice, not perfection. My journey also continues as I find new ways to deal with neutralizing triggers and smoothing out strong emotions. 

reflection of woman s eye on broken mirror

Facing Emotions
I rely heavily on a few Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) mantras and repeat them to others regularly. I learned them from MSC classes I’d taken through Mindful USC. This particular kind of mindfulness practice resonates with me because, in simplest terms, it focuses on treating ourselves with the same kindness and compassion that we extend to others. We often become our own worst critics when we should work to be gentle, supportive, and our best advocates. I know the work and practice I did with MSC the previous year inspired me to go deeper.

The instructors recommended we approach MSC with curiosity and also gave us the heads up that as we start working through our emotions, we may experience backdraft. While I didn’t experience backdraft in class, MAN did it come on strong this year.

These mantras helped manage the emotions:

  • Name it to tame it:
    When the emotional wave shows up in – or travels through – my body, pausing to acknowledge, “This is [The emotion you’re feeling]” slows the emotion down, thus reducing the impact significantly. 
  • Feel it to heal it:
    After identifying which emotion showed up in your body, notice where and how while allowing it in a tender, caring way – no negative stories or history attached. This, too, helps flatten the emotion.
  • Soften, soothe, allow:
    When experiencing difficult emotions, use this meditation to allow feelings of this emotion to proceed with reduced impact. Look up “soften, soothe, allow” on any meditation app.

Don’t worry, if you are not connected with USC, check to see if your work or alma mater offers similar well-being or mindfulness-based programs, or look at the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion

black twist pen on notebook

Give yourself the gift of a pause on any day, or when you get carried away by an emotional stream. By writing down what we feel, this relieves stress, grounds us, and also often taps into a deeper level of understanding and comfort from within us. After browsing options for how-to journal (depending on how much time you want to commit) focus on the ritual or celebration of allowing yourself space just for you. You deserve a moment.

I received an opportunity to offer this practice while leading a workshop for my employer. We created a weekly sacred space for staff to escape their desks and instead gather, land softly, and check in with themselves. After the month, we hoped participants created their space, continued the practice, and dedicated time to themselves.

You can recreate this easily wherever you are:

  • Create a comfortable space:
    Whether you shut your office door, light a candle at home, or put your phone in a drawer, create a barrier that allows you undisturbed time alone. Sit in a favorite chair in your room or a favorite bench outside.
  • Engage the senses:
    Put a blanket on your lap or shoulders, turn on relaxing music for meditation (find free music online), infuse your favorite aromatherapy or cut fresh fruit, and dim the lights, or sit closer to a window for natural light.
  • Write to what causes you concern:
    I did this exercise for myself to process emotions while working on a memoir. I started writing letters from me (or parts of me) to recurring sticking points that followed me through life. As a mixed-Korean adoptee, I wrote letters from my Korean side to my other side and vice versa during various times growing up. I also wrote letters to my “imagined” birth mother. This helped get my feelings and questions down and though it sounds strange, it felt freeing. It let me offload stuff that sat in a heavy snarled knot for years.

With a written record detailing your feelings, you may find patterns or similarities in what you wrote about. Reread your journal entries every so often and look for repeated thoughts. Consider if they might be guiding you towards your passions or showing you patterns needing to be nudged in a new direction. 

Later this year I’ll launch a free writing for stress-relief series. If you want to participate, subscribe to the blog now with your email in the upper right corner of the home page.

What about you?

  • How often do you carve time in your day for yourself?
  • Share your tips for how you deal with your emotions
  • Do you prefer using writing prompts or doing stream-of-consciousness journaling?
  • Are you familiar with Mindful Self-Compassion?
  • How do you show yourself compassion?

Next, I’ll share how music and exercise helped me manage emotions through my emotional year.

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