Thanksgiving is one week away. Hanukkah is three weeks away. Christmas is 6 weeks away.
How did that realization make you feel?
Excited? Overwhelmed? Full of dread? The holidays can conjure up a lot of feelings that you may not want to deal with. Whether you’re hosting, traveling, or staying home and trying to figure out what to do with your kids for 2 weeks, your mental burden is real.
For those who have lost a loved one in the past year, the holidays can be incredibly painful and full of sorrow. For a lot of athletes, the holidays can be a difficult time simply because their training schedule is altered. For triathletes, the season is over and their bodies are adjusting to a less regimented schedule.
Regardless of where you are emotionally, it’s important to be fully present with those feelings. Sit with the emotions that arise - and feel all the feels. Studies have shown that if you suppress negative emotions, they may actually just move into your subconscious mind, where they occupy precious real-estate.
Negative emotions are critical for our evolution and help us become more successful. Experiencing emotions such as anger and fear, and figuring out how to deal with the challenging stimuli, is how we avoid remaining stagnant and being repeatedly rocked by the same circumstances. Essentially, it’s how we grow.
But here’s the next step: you have to recognize that you are not your emotions. These negative emotions (and the positive ones) are feelings that pass through you. They do not define you.
How can you be present with your feelings without attaching yourself to them?
Here’s an exercise for you to practice next time a negative emotion surfaces.
Imagine that you’re sitting on a bluff overlooking the ocean and right next to you is that messy emotion. You’re occupying the same general space, but you’re separate entities. You’re both observing the waves crashing into the sand and retreating into the sea. But you’re distinct. That emotion isn’t hanging on to your back. It isn’t smothering you. It’s sitting there being whatever it is. And you’re sitting there being who you are. Breathe, recognize its presence, and when it’s ready to get up and walk away, let it leave.
Yes, anxiety is uncomfortable. Yes, grief is uncomfortable. Yes, fear is uncomfortable. But these emotions help us create an internal map of the world if we give ourselves the time and space to lean into them, breathe into them, and release them so we can propel forward.