The physical sensations that accompany raw emotions can feel as undesirable as they are intense – constriction of the chest, watery eyes and a dry, sore throat, to name a few. In a recent study published in the journal NeuroImage: Clinical, researchers found a link between past depression with a greater tendency to shut down sensory processing when faced with emotional distress. They also found that blocking out the physical sensations that arise from emotions is related to a greater risk of depressive relapse.
Negatively-impactful emotions are not something we aim for, but we don’t really think about the implications of balancing our short-term relief with our long-term health. This research points out why working to keep feeling is so important – it undoes our stress. Perhaps you have experienced this when you have felt better after a good sob?
Why it’s Important to Let Your Emotions Out?
When our brains shut out sensory information during a low mood, we are left with only our thoughts to make sense of what is happening. This leads to rumination, which in turn leads to overthinking. Blocking out bodily sensations locks us into an “echo chamber” of our own negative views, leading to depression.
It is not uncommon for the suppression of our emotions to be taught from a young age – ‘stop yelling’, ‘stop crying’, ‘go to your room’ [rather than emote in front of others]. When we aren’t expressing and feeling these emotions, it leaves us only with our thoughts.
In modern society, ‘anxiety’ is a label we use -a diagnosis, rather than an emotion. It is seen so strongly as being a negative experience that needs ‘treatment’ to be ‘removed’ rather than a normal response to circumstances. Today we have plenty of reasons to experience anxiety – a pandemic, war and climate change are just some examples. I myself went through a period where anxiety greatly impacted on my daily life after a series of traumatic events. Through life coaching, kinesiology, meditation, yoga and my own aromatherapy practices, I learned to how to accept my anxiety and move on from it when it arises. As I now enter perimenopause, anxiety can be felt for no apparent external reason, with no obvious trigger in my environment; hormonal changes create anxious-like physical states in my body. As I come to accept this as a part of my Crone journey, it lessens anxiety’s hold; I use all of the tools in my emotional toolkit to help, and this empowers me.
Embracing Your Emotions in a Healthy Way
What if we reframed anxiety into an ‘impactful emotion’ – something to embrace and experience, to flow through, to learn from? If we could all be taught healthy ways of embracing our emotions, perhaps levels of anxiety and depression could ease. Creative therapies like art, music and dance are ways of physically expressing emotion, which take us away from our thoughts and into our physical bodies. I know dance has been another important activity for my holistic wellbeing. AromaDance is particularly powerful. In my book, Using Essential Oils for Emotional Management, and the online course which goes with it, I teach others the techniques of how to use essential oils for support as they move through their emotions. I share what helped me and many of my clients to move on from a life being limited by anxiety, to one with a healthy relationship with this and other impactful emotions.
I encourage you to build your own emotional toolkit and embrace your emotions.