Talking about your feelings
Ignoring your emotions may often feel like the easiest way out. You may feel like ignoring them, or compartmentalising, can allow you to get through the day. While this may work in the short-term, emotions tend to spill out – sometimes in a major way.
Imagine a bottle of coke. When you shake it when it’s shut, nothing appears to happen. However, the more you shake it, the greater the explosion as soon as you open the lid. Our feelings can work in the same way. You might think you’re ignoring them, but they’re bubbling under the surface, waiting to spill out.
A great way to get around this is just by normalising talking about your feelings. This can be easier said than done. This guide will help you to identify who you can speak with, and how to share your feelings in a way you feel comfortable with.
Why is it an important first step?
We talked about how bottling your feelings just means they’re stewing under the surface, and can lead to a lot of other future problems. Talking about your feelings is not only important, but very beneficial.
First and foremost, your feelings matter. Everyone’s experience and perception is different. Maybe your friends think something is funny, but it has really upset you. Being able to openly talk about your feelings can save you from a greater upset down the road.
Talking about your feelings also helps with your self-awareness, and increases your emotional awareness. Maybe you feel confused about a big change in your life. Being introspective, but also sharing your feelings with others can bring clarity through others experiences in similar situations. Maybe a friend has gone through something similar and describes their situation to you. Your reaction to that, good or bad, can clarify your feelings as well!
Finally, speaking about your feelings can lift a lot of weight off your shoulders. We often carry around our worries in fear of burdening our loved ones. Shedding this way of thinking and finding a supportive circle can show you that you’re not alone, and having someone be there for you (or being there for someone else) can build relationships, and help overcome some of the burden you carry yourself.
How do I talk about my feelings?
We’ve discussed the importance of talking about our feelings, but actually carrying this out can be intimidating. Perhaps you’ve never spoken with someone about your feelings before, or have received a negative reaction. Below are some tips on talking about your feelings in different scenarios.
I’ve never spoken to anyone about my feelings. I don’t know where to start.
It can be overwhelming taking the first big step, and releasing the pent up feelings inside of you. Breaking it up into steps or tips can help you overcome this hurdle.
1)Identify what you’re feeling.
Perhaps you have been staying quiet for so long that you no longer understand what you’re feeling. Or maybe, you had a positive or negative reaction to something and you don’t know why. Feelings can sometimes be confusing, and it can take a while to understand why we feel certain ways.
2) Look inwards.
Have a long conversation with yourself, and try to piece together what you’re feeling. Remember, feelings aren’t always black and white. Perhaps your feelings are fueled by a previous experience, or they’re jumbled together. If you’re comfortable, you can talk to someone you trust about your situation. Sometimes, speaking aloud can bring some clarity.
3) Be honest with yourself.
You don’t have to spare anyone’s feelings, or try to make everyone happy. Your priority in this case should be yourself, and ensuring you can be honest with yourself can help you identify why you are feeling a certain way.
4) Express yourself using different mediums.
Expressing how your feeling doesn’t have to look a certain way, you can even spill your feelings to a diary. Use this space to plainly write how you feel. Maybe you’re angry, sad, overwhelmed, or happy. Putting pen to paper and seeing a situation written in front of you can also help bring about some clarity.
Another alternative is speaking to a service, like a mental health helpline. Staff are trained to be confidential, and will give you the space to speak aloud. Speaking with someone completely non-judgmental can allow you to look at your feelings or situation objectively, and also allow you to practice before speaking with someone you know.
If you’re uncomfortable telling your whole story the first time, you can call again while you build up trust, or become more comfortable with speaking your feelings aloud.
I’d like to speak with someone, but I don’t know who to turn to
Maybe you’re convinced about letting it out, but you don’t know who you can speak to. Depending on who you speak with, your experience can vary. The safest option is always to speak with someone you love and trust. Ask yourself:
- Does this person make me feel safe?
- Does this person have my best interests at heart?
- Will this person judge me?
It can be hard to identify this person, so often people look to those they spend the most time with. Maybe it’s a family member, or a close friend.
Try to describe the degree of your feelings. You can say things like:
- “I get really upset when…”
- “I feel very disrespected when…” or
- “I have been feeling very down for…”.
Addressing your feelings head-on can allow the other person to better understand what you are going through.
If what you’re dealing with is difficult to share with those you love, there are trained professionals you can speak with as well. Helplines such as MYH operate as a listening service, and you can remain anonymous. You can also speak with a counsellor at school, or a teacher you trust. This can help build confidence, and can help you practice speaking about your feelings as well!
I’ve tried speaking about my feelings, but I received a negative response
We can’t control the feelings or responses or others, only our own. It’s upsetting when you identify someone to speak with, but they don’t respond in the way you were expecting. Perhaps they are going through something difficult, and don’t have the current capacity to listen. Or, perhaps they don’t have the same understanding of mental health, and try to diminish your feelings. While it is very upsetting when the person you trust is unable to help you, remember that you did the right thing.
Speaking about your feelings can be very hard, especially when you are discouraged the first time you do it! Remember the importance of what you have done, and do not succumb to the negative reaction. There are others who are willing to help and listen, so don’t allow one negative reaction to sour the experience.
Normalising it with your loved ones
Maybe you’re ready to speak out, but your loved ones tend to keep their feelings bottled up. People tend to express themselves in different ways. Someone may take their frustrations out with something creative like art, or something active like boxing. Once you realise the importance, you can share it with others.
Building a strong support network leads to better mental health outcomes. So while we may sometimes feel like a burden, speaking to someone shows that you trust them, and when one day they need to speak with someone, they may remember that and come to you.
Speaking out doesn’t have to be a big gesture. Hanging out with your parents and asking them “How are you doing today? I know work must have been very stressful” can open up a conversation. Likewise, turning to your friends and asking about their jobs, schoolwork, or relationships can help them open up if they need to.
Remember, if you’re not comfortable speaking with someone in your life, organisations like MYH exist to encourage you to reach out, even if you remain anonymous and private.
And remember, you’re never going through it alone. Unfortunately, many young people in the UK face mental health difficulties. Speaking about them can help alleviate a bit of that burden, and get you, or your loved ones, the help that is needed.