Therapy Can Help You Identify Your Feelings
One of the most powerful aspects of therapy is the opportunity to check in with your feelings; however, usually, this is something that clients feel uncomfortable with or unsure about how to do.
When I ask clients how they are feeling within session, they sometimes struggle in knowing what they are feeling. I usually hear the “I don’t know” or “I don’t know if I’m doing a good job in explaining myself.” I think one of the reasons that many of us struggle in identifying how we feel is because
A) we’re not used to taking the time to check in with ourselves...at least emotionally AND
B) we usually do not have the language to express ourselves...like, outside of “good/fine/okay!”
You’re Not The Only One Confused
Often times, therapy may be the first time that people have taken the time to intentionally check in with themselves, as well as started to learn the nuances of different emotions and expanded their emotional repertoire! I don’t know about you, but my parents didn’t teach me the many different emotions that one can have and through my clinical work, I’ve realized that many people didn’t learn how to identify and label their emotions growing up!
How Often Should You Be Checking in With Your Feelings?
Checking in emotionally with yourself is just as important as any other check in...physical, academic, work wise.
You check your emails probably 20 times a day to follow up on work tasks… or regularly go to a medical doctor for a check-up. Or even yet, check your weight every day to make sure you are on track. And how many times are we checking our Apple watch to see how many steps we’re at for the day?
Whatever it is, you’re likely doing regular check-ins on areas of your life that are important to you. Your emotional wellbeing should be no different… well, I guess it is different…
You should technically be checking in more with your emotions than whatever other things you’re checking in on… because your emotion can impact literally every area of your life! ;)
How to Start Checking In With Your Feelings
So, you may be thinking…”well, how do I even check in with my emotions!? What does that even mean? I know when I’m feeling good/bad.” Let’s take it a step further and really allow you to get in touch with how you are feeling.
I’ve identified a step by step guideline to help you!
Schedule a time everyday...maybe 10-15 minutes where you can just be without disruption. Turn off your phones/quiet emails. Take a moment of silence. Complete inactivity.
Practically this could mean the first 5 minutes when you wake up before looking at your phone. Or it could be a quiet meditation later on.
Notice your physical body/sensations: Sometimes, it may be difficult to identify what you are feeling, but a helpful cue is usually our bodies. Our body is often times trying to communicate with us, even before our mind has caught wind that we are having an emotional reaction.
A few questions to consider...
How do you feel in your body at this moment?
Any tension anywhere, such as your chest or hands?
Feeling more tired than usual?
Drop in your stomach?
Whatever it is, be super curious about any changes or consistent physical sensations or experiences as they may try to be telling you something!
Source & Image Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
**This image is from a study that stated that different emotions are associated with specific body parts. This body map image shows the regions that are activated (i.e.,warm colors; increase in emotion is experienced) or decreased (i.e., cool colors) when feeling each emotion.
How am I feeling? Be super curious...don’t stop at “I don’t know.”
If you did know, what would it be? What’s your hypothesis of some emotions that may be coming up for you?
What am I experiencing in my body?
When did it start?
Did something trigger a change in mood?
***these questions can be helpful when we are unaware of what we are feeling, but notice a change in emotion
One thing that typically always comes up by the end of treatment is that clients will say that the most powerful part of therapy was being able to understand themselves better, their feelings, and sharing their feelings with another person.
I have found time and time again that labeling our emotions actually helps us in better understanding what is happening for us and feeling more empowered and in control to manage our feelings. Labeling your emotions has actually been shown to help with taking control of reactive emotions and more effectively regulating your emotions. Additionally, when you know how you’re feeling, you can then convey that to others in your life!
If you need the language to describe your emotions, I usually refer to a feeling wheel. I’ve included the one I use below. I encourage you to get in the habit of identifying how you feel and using the feeling wheel to expand your emotional language… trust me, it’s quite liberating and relieving to label your emotions especially with such detail!
Also, when you’re aware of your feelings...and truly aware at that, you’ll likely be more aware of your decision making and less likely to make mood-dependent actions!
So now you know how you’re feeling...YAY! Given how you’re feeling, what do you need right now?
Ways to decrease your anxiety? Promote your mood? Continue the feel-good feelings? Maybe nothing and just appreciating the moment?
Whatever it is, focus on fueling yourself emotionally!
Stay relationally well,