Humans are emotional creatures. Unfortunately, learning to manage your emotions isn’t always intuitive. In fact, many people don’t allow themselves to feel and process emotions. If you repress your feelings, they can negatively impact your health. For example, chronically stressed people often suffer from migraines and inflammation. Negative emotions can trigger your fight-or-flight response so you never feel calm. Thankfully, you don’t have to stay this way. Keep reading to learn how to release trapped emotions.
Emotions in the Body
Your nervous system interprets your emotions. It connects your brain to the rest of your body, managing signals and data. When you’re in a stressful situation, your sympathetic nervous system is activated. This system is responsible for your fight-or-flight response.
When you’re at rest or peaceful, your parasympathetic nervous system is active. Trauma and chronic stress can cause an imbalance where your sympathetic nervous system becomes too active. This can make it hard to self-soothe or regulate your emotions.
Symptoms of Trapped Emotions
Here are some common symptoms of trapped emotions. These are often partially a result of an overactive sympathetic nervous system.
- You’re jumpy or on constant high alert
- Certain muscles are always tense
- You have frequent panic attacks
- Anxiety and fatigue are normal
- You often emotionally overreact
When your body isn’t able to calm down, you’ll experience a range of these symptoms on a daily basis. Normal stimuli will push you over the edge and you’ll feel like your emotions are crushing you. You may experience random crying, feelings of numbness, or self-sabotaging behavior.
Retraining Your Nervous System
Thankfully, you can actively strengthen your parasympathetic nervous system. This will help rebalance your body so you can process emotions in a healthy way. Once your parasympathetic nervous system is stronger, you’ll feel calmer, safer, and more present.
Healing your body can significantly help you release trapped emotions. Feeling safe in your own body will help you identify and respond well to emotional triggers. However, the process isn’t always straightforward and it happens slowly. Give yourself grace and relieve any pressure you feel to heal quickly.
Here are three steps to help you identify and release trapped emotions:
Take Stock of Yourself
First, take a moment to pay attention to your body. What emotions are you feeling? Are your muscles tense? Think about any chronic pain you’ve experienced. It can help to ask yourself, “What do I need?” or “What’s wrong?”
For just a moment, pretend you’re 3 years old again. What does the 3-year-old version of yourself need? Take several deep, slow breaths and write down your thoughts. Self-talk or going to therapy can really help you take stock of where you’re at.
Let It All Out
Many people release emotions through crying. Other physical releases include shaking and even laughter. Sometimes, hugging yourself or shaking your body can prompt an emotional release. These actions let your body feel safe enough to open up.
You can do many practical things to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system and stay calm in high-stress situations. The less stress you accumulate, the less you’ll need to release. Some of the best practices include triangle breathing, taking cold showers, and exercise.
Take Time to Rest
Processing emotions is exhausting, both mentally and physically. It’s very important that you get plenty of rest after doing any work on your emotions. Your parasympathetic nervous system comes on while you sleep, helping your body repair and feel safe.
You may have noticed that your stress is higher after a poor night’s sleep. Getting enough quality rest keeps your nervous system balanced so you can process emotions throughout the day. The more you practice, the easier working through your emotions will be.
Signs Your Body Is Releasing Trauma
Sometimes, things get worse before they get better. It can be painful and messy to process emotions. You might experience spikes of fear or adrenaline as your body adjusts and learns to feel safe again. Don’t expect to feel better immediately. Healing is a process that takes time and grace.
Learn to be an observer of your emotions instead of reacting to them. Feelings are meant to pass through you – you don’t have to be ashamed or afraid of them. As you start to heal, you’ll become more comfortable in your own skin. This will help you become more comfortable with your environment as well.
Beth is the content manager and Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She is passionate about writing about beauty, fashion, parenting, diet and fitness. In her spare time, Beth enjoys trying out new recipes and going for runs with her dog.
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