Blog Post | Suppressing Emotions: How Bad Could It Be?
Suppressing Emotions: How Bad Could It Be?
I was listening to Brene Brown’s lecture on HBO Max, and she was referring to the 87 emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human based on her new book Atlas of the Heart. I was astonished by how many emotions there are. If you have HBO, it’s worth watching. It’s about the importance of meaningful connections with others.
In thinking about emotions, it is healthy to allow ourselves to feel the full range of emotions. When we experience a challenging situation, we may react or ignore unpleasant emotions. Suppressing emotions can lead to all kinds of negative consequences both emotional and physical.
What we know from research is that chronic suppression of anxiety can lead to a generalized anxiety disorder that may include developing panic attacks. We also know that suppression of painful emotions can lead to depression. In fact, chronic stress, depression, and anger are risk factors for developing coronary heart disease.
Let’s face it, as adults with ADHD, we can experience lots of powerful emotions, particularly when our feelings are hurt, when we are frustrated about something that is challenging, and when we get overwhelmed.
There is some concern that if we let ourselves feel emotions, they might take over and get out of control. To increase our emotional intelligence, we need to be able to recognize, understand, utilize, and regulate emotions every day of our lives. We need to figure out how to reduce the discomfort of painful emotions in a healthy way. The fear that our emotions will overtake us is one of the reasons we may suppress emotions.
By practicing mindfulness, we can pause when we are feeling a powerful emotion, notice it, take a few deep breaths, and get back to what we are doing in our day. It is one approach to dealing with negative emotions. When practiced regularly, we reduce the intensity of the emotion and learn how to break the cycle of having emotions escalate. Much of this practice starts with being aware of our emotions when they happen. Learn more about our upcoming Mindfulness Workshop Here.
We can also manage emotions by being compassionate with ourselves. When we are feeling threatened, we can learn to respond by acknowledging the emotion when it is happening, and respond with our internal dialogue something like this: “I am feeling really angry right now, but now is not the time for me to express that. I will feel the anger and will allow it to move through me.” This may sound wacky or unrealistic, but with practice, this type of attitude about the emotion does not allow you to suppress or ignore the emotion.
Here are some other tips to use to manage our emotions:
- Expression of powerful emotions through journaling.
- Having a regular meditation practice. Meditating for just 15 minutes a day can help to reduce stress, negative thinking, and reactivity.
- Movement/Exercise. Exercise has several benefits to help us with mood, memory, and learning. Exercise that gets the blood flowing like walking, aerobics, weight training, yoga, dancing, and anything else that gets the body moving.
- Practicing Gratitude. Practicing gratitude is appreciating others and being thankful for others in your life. It’s about focusing on the little things in life, savoring special moments, and not taking things for granted. According to Sonya Lyubomirsky, the author of The How of Happiness, “gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, avarice, hostility, worry, and irritation.”
To learn more about Mindfulness and Meditation, we are offering a workshop series starting May 19th. Get the details and register here.
For additional information or questions, you can also contact Coach Victoria at Victoria@centerforlivingwellwithadhd.org.
Victoria Roche, MSW, PCC
ADHD Coach | Center For Living Well with ADHD, LLC