Did you know that your willingness to be authentic and honest about your feelings, good or bad, is an effective way to practice self-care? Whether you’re stressed, fatigued, feeling down, or simply got up on the wrong side of the bed, it’s important to acknowledge in real-time. Self-care has been defined as providing adequate attention to one’s own physical and psychological wellness (Beauchamp & Childress, 2001). There is nothing psychologically healthy about hiding your feelings either to others or to yourself.
If you’re the upbeat, positive person at your job, in your family, or amongst your friend group, this can be hard. The expectation to always be ‘on’ is real and the pressure can be exhausting, and emotionally restrictive. You may even find that a lot of your anxiety symptoms come from the fact that you have to repress anything that doesn’t make you light up a room upon your entrance. The habit of hiding your less than great emotions can manifest in a number of ways, and show themselves with a multitude of symptoms. So, not being emotionally honest is as bad for your physical health as it is for your mental health. You may not even realize how it has affected you until you find yourself in a place where you are able to openly and authentically discuss your feelings.
Does this sound familiar?
Previously, I had worked in environments where my “off” days were met with at best, an utter lack of understanding and at worst, resistance. I was told that I just needed to “Smile!” or “Be happy!” Not for my own good, mind you, but rather for the comfort of those around me. I bet that you can guess how successful that advice was in changing my mood. Not only was I super frustrated about not feeling heard, but I also began to believe that if I wasn’t always the smiling laughing co-worker, or “fun Steph,” then in some way I was defective. There was a real shame affiliated with the times when I wasn’t feeling “on.” and that only compounded my anxiety symptoms.
We are messy, feeling humans, and we cannot relegate the bad feelings to non-work hours. In fact, given the amount of time we spend at our jobs, whether in an office or at home, the odds are good that a lot of our bad moments are going to take place while on the clock. When we are unable to express our true emotions at any given time, they not only remain, but they can increase and threaten to hijack the entire day. This is why it is important to be able to put a name and a voice to our feelings as we are experiencing them.
Whether they are happening at a convenient time or not.
Last week, I was feeling out of it. I wasn’t sad, or tired, necessarily. I was just, ‘meh.’ I felt as though I was moving through syrup and my mojo was elusive. It could have been due to the change of seasons, Mercury Retrograde, lack of caffeine, hormones, anything, but I just could not shake it. Before we started seeing clients that morning, I told Katy how discombobulated I felt and her response was everything.
We then spent a few minutes speculating on why we both felt so out of it on that particular morning. There were no pep talks, no demands for me to get it together before clients arrived. Just honest conversation. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt validated on my “Less Than Steph” days. Emotional transparency is huge here at ARC. We ALL share with each other whenever we’re not feeling our best, and we support each other without diminishing the emotions. A cynic would think that this kind of emotional openness would lead to us sitting in a circle, talking about our feelings while clients wait to be seen. Quite the opposite, actually. We check in with each other, we feel our feelings, suggestions are offered (chocolate is a popular one here) and we get back to work.
There is something about being able to honestly and openly name your icky emotions that makes it easier to move through. When you are able to say out loud that you are not feeling your best without fearing that the world will come crashing down when you can’t just smile and keep it moving, your emotions and more importantly, you as a person, are validated, and that goes a long way in helping to improve your mood overall.
If you are working from home, you may have a new set of challenges when dealing with tough emotions. You might have had a co-worker in your office you could commiserate with who you now only see during Zoom meetings. Maybe losing that daily commute also took away your ability to compartmentalize and get mentally and emotionally prepared for the transition to and from work. If you are working from home and your kids are learning remotely, you may have no time to assess your feelings in a genuine and productive way.
Keep the people who support you on your bad days as well as your good ones close and don’t be afraid to reach out when you need to. Odds are good that your co-worker misses you just as much as you miss them, and a weekly Facetime session would do wonders for both of you. Write in a journal, talk to your pets, or if you remember our post about rubber duckies, and went out and got one, talk to that. Even if it’s just to say, “I don’t know what’s going on today, I just feel so…Eeyore-esque.” You will be amazed by how quickly you are able to get to the other side. Being honest with yourself about everything that you are feeling is the ultimate self-care.