A Guest Post by Cherise Young
One of the not-so-appropriate things my father would say during my childhood was, “Better out than in!” In case you didn’t guess his reason, it had to do with bouts of flatulence. Not, “Excuse me.” No, “Begging your pardon.” It was, “Better out than in,” more times than not. Daddy may have said this with humor, but there are situations when, “Better out than in,” could be considered sage advice.
Suppressing Negative Emotions
Not expressing negative emotions has been said to contribute to the onset of various physical ailments. “Bottling up” negative feelings and thoughts can cause a rise in stress levels and therefore raise the body’s production of cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that in critical situations such as a sprained ankle, serves as an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is bad right? So, what’s so bad about cortisol if it gets rid of the dreaded inflammation?
Let’s start by looking at the problem of having too much stress in your life. When we are stressed, physically or emotionally, our bodies have an inflammatory response. Stress signals to the body that there is an invader, and that invader signals a need for a response (inflammation), which leads to cortisol’s rescue from the inflammation. As long as stress remains or increases, so will the body’s attempts to correct the resulting chemical changes.
In small doses, cortisol helps the body repair itself. Yet, too much cortisol causes chemical changes that can lead to illnesses such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and the risk of diabetes due to spikes in blood sugar. Both hypertension and diabetes have been associated with heart disease. Cortisol has been shown to alter the immune system and negatively impact the digestive system as well. Too much cortisol over lengthy periods of time can impact a woman’s menstrual cycle, decrease sex drive, and increase bouts of anxiety and depression.
In case you missed that last point, suppressed negative emotions, or denying you have them, may lead to anxiety and depression. Some choose to ignore emotions to avoid difficult conversations. Some are afraid that communicating their real feelings will cause conflict or create division in their relationships. I would argue that if you are not being authentic, you really aren’t in a true relationship anyway.
Being in an inauthentic relationship, and not feeling comfortable putting your true self on display, impacts self-esteem. How depressing is that? What follows are ways to express your emotions in a healthy manner to avoid developing the stress-inflammation-cortisol-disease cycle.
Healthy Expression of Emotions
In a previous post, we looked at ways to beat anxiety using diet and essential oils. In another post, we expanded those approaches and considered applying exercise, vitamins, and the use of negative ions championed by Dr. Kelly Brogan. Below, we will look at ways to improve our mental and emotional health due to stress connected to suppressing negative emotions.
- Identify any avoidance tactics you’ve been using to minimize your anxiety? These may include avoiding people, places, and situations that have been historically stressful.
- Name the negative emotions that are associated with these situations. For example, if you feel disrespected by someone we will call Faye. But to keep the peace you either avoid interacting with Faye or you plaster on a fake smile when you and Faye are in the same room. What are the different emotions associated with your “relationship” with Faye?
- Confront the person or situation that brings up these negative emotions. This could mean discussing your feelings with Faye and/or letting others know that you want to be invited to fewer events that include Faye (it’s called a boundary).
- Be okay with what you feel… make peace with your emotions. If you are angry, own it! If you are sad, own it! It doesn’t matter if others understand your identified emotion or not. It’s yours, not theirs.
- Engage in practices that nurture you physically and emotionally. Practice self-care methods that include boundaries like the one mentioned above. Include mindfulness practices, keep your doctor appointments, and routinely schedule something you enjoy doing that brings a smile to your face!
Expressing negative emotions doesn’t mean we get to explode on others every time we have a negative experience. No in fact, having healthy ways of dealing with stress-inducing thoughts and feelings, keep us from imploding or emotionally shutting down. When it comes to negative emotions that we’ve taken time to process and express appropriately; better out than in is good practice!
- Cortisol | You and Your Hormones from the Society for Endocrinology
- Negative mood signals body’s immune response | Penn State University (psu.edu)
- Chronic stress puts your health at risk – Mayo Clinic
- Why ‘bottling it up’ can be harmful to your health | HCF
CandaceAlikéSmith.com is a wellness and wanderlust journal penned by writer Candace Smith. Read her diary entries, and follow her content on essential oils, product reviews, local libations, and wellness travel. Read her mom’s mental health contributions and get your mind right.
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