“Feel your feelings!” “It’s ok to not be ok!” “Sit with the feeling, without judgment.”
These are all things I tell clients to help with difficult and uncomfortable feelings, and they often find them helpful. Yet these phrases don’t always come naturally to us and to execute them it requires practice, emotional intelligence and patience.
Lately I’ve seen many helpful articles normalizing (that’s a therapist term for “letting the client know this feeling/thought/action/experience is normal”) all the feelings you might be feeling right now during COVID-19 shut downs. The same articles give tips on ways to care for yourself, many just as vague as the phrases above. So I thought today, I’d help clarify what these articles and Instagram posts are saying,with a few brief “how to’s.”
Learning the Mental Health Check In
So, let’s play a game. Fill in the blank:
Lately, I’ve been feeling _________ about everything going on. It’s really been a __________ influence on my day to day life. From this experience I can see that I have these needs: ____________ and __________. One thing I can do to meet these needs is ___________________.
Notice what you wrote. When was the last time you checked in with yourself like this? Why is it even important? Mental health check ins are important because they give you a sense of what your emotional, physical and mental needs are. If you don’t check in on yourself, you’ll stay in autopilot mode, meaning you’ll react without thinking and this can cause some serious issues in your life.
If “mental health check ins” are new for you, here’s a how to get started:
1. Stop whatever it is you’re doing.
2. Breathe. Inhale slowly for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds and then exhale for 4 seconds. Do this at least three times.
3. You probably feel a little bit more in tune with yourself already at this point. While you’re here take note of three things:
a. One feeling you have right now. (See feelings chart if you need a little help)
b. One thought you’re having right now. (This could be an image that’s come to mind, actual dialogue in your brain, self talk etc.)
c. One physical sensation you can detect right now. (Take a moment, this one isn’t always so obvious).
4. Take what you gathered from step 3 and consider what these things are telling you about yourself in this moment. Is there something you might need? Something you’ve been feeling for a long time? Or are you doing ok?
5. Take note of what you’ve noticed and stop there.
That’s all it takes for a little self check in.
Feeling Your Feelings
Let’s talk about what we mean when we say “feel your feelings” and the importance of it. Once you start to do a daily check in, you’ll probably start to notice that you have feelings about your feelings. Weird huh? For example, if you’re feeling lack of motivation right now, you might also notice part of you is annoyed at this lack of motivation.