How you process and express your emotions can either reduce or increase levels of anxiety, according to researchers at the University of Illinois. The study found that those who suppress their feelings or avoid expressing their feelings had more social anxiety and more anxiety in general than those who reappraised situations and focused on the positive. Another study found that suppressing emotions not only increased stress but led to other physical illnesses such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Many people have trouble expressing their emotions in a positive way. Some believe they only have two options: to blurt out our feelings — confronting someone who we believe made us upset or repressing the feelings. But there are many ways of expressing your emotions.
Journaling is simply writing down your thoughts and feelings so you can understand them more clearly, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. It can reduce stress and help you manage your anxiety. Your journal gives you a private way of expressing your emotions. You can write down how you are feeling and what may have triggered feelings of anxiety. This gives you an opportunity to better understand stressors and come up with a plan for either resolving the situation or coping with it more positively. Journaling also allows you to track anxiety symptoms so you can better manage them.
The good news is, there isn’t any right or wrong way to write in a journal. However, there are some tips to make journaling most effective for anxiety. The University of Rochester Medical Center suggests you:
- Write in your journal every day
- Write whatever feels right. Don’t worry about spelling or what other people might think.
- Keep paper and pen handy so you can write often
Keep it private if you want; share parts if you want. Remember, you make the decisions. This is your private, safe space to express how you feel.
Being grateful helps reduce stress and physical disease according to a study completed in 2015. Paul J. Mills, the lead author found that “more gratitude was associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health.”
There are many ways you can work to include gratitude in your daily life, for example:
- Write down three reasons you are grateful each day. This helps you focus on the positive in your life. Some people prefer to set aside a few minutes each day to simply reflect on what they are appreciative of in their life.
- Find a gratitude buddy. This is someone you share one positive thing with each day. This can help in keeping you motivated. For example, your friend might text and ask what you are grateful for today.
- Use gratitude rituals. This might be saying (and meaning) grace before meals or saying a gratitude prayer each morning when you wake up or before you go to bed.
- Tell someone you are grateful for their friendship, support, encouragement, or for something specific. Take the time to say thank you in person or write a letter expressing your appreciation.
Many people who begin practicing gratitude find it makes a tremendous difference in their life almost immediately. They find they are happier, more content, and less anxious.
Talk to someone
Whether you talk with a friend, relative or therapist, openly discussing your feelings can help you put them in perspective. When you are experiencing intense or negative emotions, talking it out often deflates them. Letting it out can diffuse the negativity and allow you to process the situation from a calmer perspective.
Talking also helps you identify your emotion. When you are stressed, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint whether you are angry or worried, irritable or anxious. Sometimes you wonder if you are justified in feeling a certain way or if the intensity of your emotion matches the situation. Discussing the situation can help you sort out your emotions. Talking helps you to gain insight into your life and helps you learn about yourself.
If you don’t have a relationship where you feel safe to talk about your emotions, consider talking with a therapist or counselor.
See more helpful articles:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.