Get it out, let it out, air it out! Keeping things in can make them worse and we all know this. While thinking about how to offer help in this time of the Coronavirus, I started poking around on the internet. Did you know that light and oxygen kill bacteria? There is a growing body of research, of which I will spare you the details, but the interesting science is that disease cannot survive in an environment full of light and oxygen. If light and oxygen can kill physical bacteria, let’s apply this theory to our psychological health and see if we feel a little better as a result.
Right now, while things are more difficult and more stressful than usual and perhaps, ever before, you need to “up your game” on your mental, emotional, and psychological strategies. More stress requires more recovery. More upset demands more relief. And one way to relieve stress and pressure is to get things OUT—kill that mental bacteria! Now, we have to figure out a way to do this responsibly. We can’t just vomit our upsetting emotions all over the place, we have to figure out a way to let it out without getting it all over the people or animals around us.
Are you a “venter”? Or do you hold it in until you can’t take it anymore and then explode? Maybe somewhere in between? Well, right now, with the additional pressure, your regular mechanism for pressure relief will be a bit off, it might even feel broken. Here are a few ideas for how to get it out and feel better.
Identify your “normal” method for processing stress. Tall order, I know, but let’s just think about it in terms of whether you like to “talk it out” or “think it out.” For the most part (not a rule), extroverts will like to talk it out and introverts will like to think it out. The one you responded to, that’s your method.
If you like to “talk it out”:
Who can you talk to? Not everyone will want to listen nor will everyone be equipped to listen. This is important to consider: just because you need to get it out doesn’t mean the person across from you needs to listen. Ask if they are up for it and if they say no, be sure to respect that.
If they say yes, set the intention to “talk it out.” Not to punish or vent for venting’s sake, but to get it out and let it go. This is a hard one, the letting it go part. You might be able to feel yourself getting carried away with the emotion but that is unlikely. Your best bet is to ask the person listening to make sure you don’t let the emotion run away with you instead of using the exercise to release it from you. I had a friend call with the need to “get it out.” She didn’t realize that all the talking to other friends she had been doing had actually made her more upset because she got carried away with the emotion and then it snowballed. The more she talked, the more emotional she became, the more upset she was. I had the uncomfortable task of the proverbial telephone slap across the face (the “Get yourself together” kind). Because she had prefaced the call with needing help, that was the best way I could help, to not let her run with the negative emotion. She came up with a few different ways to release some of her upset verbally and then physically. I got a picture that afternoon of her out on a bike ride, with a huge smile.
If you like to “think it out”:
What process do you use to think? Do you sit, walk, exercise, or write? The one you use already is the one to continue. Just like the talk it out part, make sure your engagement is with the intent to let it go. If you write it down, then throw out the paper. If you do it on your computer or device, then trash it and empty the trash. If you think about it, make sure to create a mental trashcan to put it in so you don’t get stuck with it. You do not need to keep this, the goal is to get it out and let it go, so really let it go.
Rinse and Repeat!
The influx of confusing, upsetting, anxiety-producing and stressful events is extraordinary, and so must be your strategies. You will need to spend way more time taking care of your mental health right now so just settle into that thought. More stress requires more recovery. If you used to look for stress relief a few times a week, now look for it a few times a day.
Do not think you are weak or not normal for feeling overly anxious or stressed! Do something about it and let it out.
Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures so be extraordinary with yourself. You will have to work harder to feel normal, which may not last for very long. Stay on top of your strategies for self-care and be vigilant with them. In times like these, be more patient, more generous, and more loving with yourself and others. Reach out if you need help and reach out if you see someone who needs help. Share this or anything else that you find valuable with someone who might find it valuable. Stay safe, be healthy, and remember we are all in this together. DrJenny@DrJenny.com