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During this emotional year, getting the emotions to come to the surface and overflow happened naturally. But, nothing prepared me for feeling emotions with my whole body. Sad, or anxious emotions did not only make me cry (everything makes me cry, from Sarah McLachlan to marriage proposals) but gutted me and drained me. When I felt over the moon excited, my smile gave the first hint, but my pulse raced and my muscles tensed up with adrenaline. If you unknowingly caught me during one of these extremes, hopefully it all makes sense now.

I used journaling regularly to face and make sense of these emotions, but in the moment, I needed to learn how to navigate and manage these emotions so I’d slow down to avoid mistakes, or rev up so I could still show up for work, or even to contain myself before seeing people who may cause my emotions to surge. 

woman listening to music in earphones while resting after home workout

For as long as I recall, music provided energy I needed to live. My earliest recollections come from my childhood home when my dad pounded the ivories with his jazz, ragtime and blues, or I played the Cinderella and Peter and the Wolf soundtracks on repeat on my plastic record player. When we went to Hungarian or English church, music stitched together the sermons. Growing up, my dad also dabbled in the music recording industry so I still remember visiting his studio to see how music got made, or I’d fall asleep on school nights to the tunes of some band on the other side of my bedroom wall.  

Music got me through my ultra emo teenage years when I’d put up a super loud wall of British new wave to keep my parents out of my room. The best singing divas helped me through breakups. One badass female rock star on repeat got me through my first marathon and a second one helped me celebrate at mile 25 of my second. I chose music that set the pace and matched it with my feet hitting the pavement. I truly love almost every kind of music. I love the art involved in creating it and the art of recording it. 

Riding such a strong wave of emotions this year, I leaned into music to mark or change my emotions. After an amazing time with a friend, I’d drive down the highway, sunroof open, blasting a song, singing along at the top of my lungs. When I need a mood-booster, I turned on something to dance to in my kitchen. When I needed to meditate or write, I often put on zen music. On days where I needed to get out of my mental stuck record, I cranked the songs that make me feel like a bad ass to garner the strength to tune others out – or perhaps the volume drowns them out. I forgot to mention, I listen to my music loud all the time because I like to feel the music and hear the layers and you don’t get the full experience at library levels. 


I also write songs to help me make sense of emotional whirlpools. While I sometimes find it difficult to put into spoken word, I find the way to write it in a succinct song*.

*Disclaimer: I don’t write music, so until I find someone who does, or dabble with a keyboard myself, they’re simply poems, but I write them over other people’s music, so I know they’re crafted and structured as a song. 

When I found myself with surging emotions (good or bad) I learned to channel that energy to workout this year. Over the summer I’d dive into the pool returning to a sport I’m decent at but that works (and tires out) my whole body – except I never remember what lap I’m on. I started trying to track laps by naming fruits or vegetables alphabetically. Another day, I counted laps using alphabetical curse words. I love the pool in particular because when I’m submerged, my troubles, anxieties and emotions stay above water and can’t touch me. As I got stronger and miraculous muscle memory kicked in, the measurable goals and improvement boosted my confidence and my stronger shoulders stood more upright. Now that it’s winter, I’m sticking to machines inside my heated (less windy) home. Here, I either brainstorm ideas or I allow myself to watch my favorite tv series – but only if I’m rowing or pedaling.

Some days, after a surge of emotions or longer workout, my legs would feel so sore. I’m learning to live more like my cats by waking up and stretching before leaving my bed.  Though I’d previously and unsuccessfully tried yoga once (maybe twice) in my lifetime, I felt I did not measure up thanks to not feeling limber or my knee’s instability. Now, I feel the benefits of stretching and how it helps me stay flexible physically and mentally. Plus during stretching, I mindfully focus on my breathing or movement, not random emotions or spiraling thoughts.

I’ll get more into mindfulness meditation and how I even rewrote emotions around an event that lived with me for several decades in my next post.

What about you?

  • What songs help shift your emotions?
  • Was it the music, lyrics or both that got you through?
  • Have you written a song or poetry to help make sense of something?
  • When you have downtime, do you prefer slower or mood music, or do you prefer silence?
  • What other tips do you have for managing emotions?

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