It’s OK to say how you really feel

“Hey, how are you doing today?”

How many times in your life have you been asked this question? And what is your usual response? Do you tell people you are doing “OK,” “good” or “fine”?

What would happen if you told someone how you really felt?

There are many emotions we can feel in just 30 minutes alone. Think about when you start your day: you wake up feeling grumpy because you did not sleep well. You realize that it’s the weekend, so you don’t have to work and suddenly you feel relived and happy about your day off. You walk into the kitchen and realize that there is no coffee. You begin to feel frustrated that you didn’t have time to go to the store yet. But then your spouse walks in with a fresh brewed cup of coffee and you begin to feel grateful that they thought to make you coffee this morning. But then they start to drink from their mug and suddenly you are struck with annoyance that they got to the coffee maker before you.

Just in this small amount of time, you felt six different types of emotions: grumpy, relieved, happy, frustrated, grateful, and annoyance. Those are a lot of feelings before noon. Have you ever realized how many emotions you go through in a short amount of time?

Emotions are very important because they help to alert us of our values, perception of experiences, needs, likes and dislikes. But they can also be difficult and painful, and sometimes we will ignore and suppress them. This can lead to mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, phobias, and others as well as physical health concerns such as ulcers and gastrointestinal problems. It is difficult though to manage emotions if we don’t even know what we are feeling in the first place. Here are 4 ways to identify emotions:

– Ask yourself “What am I feeling?”: Take a moment now and notice what you are feeling. See what emotions arise and observe these feelings without judgement. Emotions are not good or bad – they just are what they are.

– Consider “Where do I feel it?”: Notice in your body where you are experiencing this feeling. This helps to connect better with that feeling. For example, some people may feel anxiety in their gut or loneliness in their chest. This can also be helpful to find tension in the body.

– Think about why you’re feeling this emotion: Feelings are not always rational, and we may have an emotional response may relate to the present moment or it might be a trigger from pas experience. Continue to sit with your experience and see if you can fine what happened to cause this emotional response.

– Lastly, think about your needs: Determine what would help in that moment. Maybe practicing self-compassion and work on planning ahead of time will help with uncomfortable feelings.

We must feel difficult feelings in order to fully embrace and address them. It is easy to find shortcuts through everyday occurrences and people, but we are the only ones who are capable of controlling our emotions. Be patient with yourself and acknowledge that this takes ongoing practice. The more you can name your feelings, the more you can respond rather than react.

Learn more about mental health resources by visiting www.wcadamh.org.

(Courtney Rice, MSW, LSW, is manager of marketing and communications, National Alliance Mental Illness Wood County.)