Our modern lifestyle is filled with much emotional distress. From needing to meet ours and others’ expectations; finding and not losing the perfect job; dealing with fears and seeking a good relationship. We have learned to deal with emotions by suppression or avoidance. Suppressing emotions is harmful but we can learn to be mindful of our emotions to work with them.
There is no curriculum in schools teaching children how to work with their emotions. An increasing number of youths are facing health issues without a technique to learn to work with their minds. When these youths become adults, they may learn to block or avoid emotions by distractions ranging from social media, streaming services, keeping busy with activities, to drug and alcohol use. How does repressing our emotions harm us?
Consequences of suppressing emotions
Suppressing emotions implies the act of masking facial and bodily expressions to cover a current emotional state. It can be defined by individuals intentionally exerting control over their emotions. Research has shown that this way of emotional regulation can have negative consequences on an individual’s health.
When someone suffers from emotional stress, the phrase we often hear is “get a grip”, “mind over matter”, or “find something else to do”. This does not help the person in distress cope with emotions – particularly that of anxiety and stress. In recent years, researchers have found that 80 percent of all physician visits have to do with a socio-emotional challenge. One study found that 84 percent of 567 cases with complaints of dizziness and chest pains indicated no medical diagnosis. This becomes clear that a keen understanding of the roles emotions have on our physical health is necessary, especially in the face of rising medical costs. But how can we work with our emotions in a healthy way?
Mindfully working with emotions
Instead of repressing emotions as a form of emotion regulation, we can learn mindfulness. Mindfulness research has been shown to regulate emotion without repressing emotions in a harmful way. This includes using mindfulness to work with fear especially in a world of polarised politics and uncertain climate. One of the ways to start being mindful is to label our emotions as we feel them. Acknowledging our emotions is the first step to working with them in a healthy way. Being mindful of our emotions is to acknowledge and observe the emotion as it is without psycho-analysing them to watch how the emotion changes.
The first step to healing our mind and body is in acknowledging our emotions instead of avoiding, reacting to or by suppressing it.