Reflecting on our new normal, I’ve decided to save time and space to try out some mental health skills and strategies each day. While there is plenty of content out there, what I’ll be offering will be my take, with fresh humour, plain language, and easy to do. Although I’ll be pulling from many different frameworks and modalities, everything I present will:
i) be supported by research
ii) sound informal because I’m cutting out the mental health jargon
iii) be practical and easy to do right now
There will also be a daily photo of a cat. I have no relation to this cat, but they are now our mascot for great mental wellness.
iii) practical and easy to do right now.
Today I want to talk about a simple skill called name it to tame it. I’m sure many of us are experiencing periods of intense, confusing, or just unpleasant feelings. That’s normal, and ok. One thing I noticed the other day is that I was feeling anxious, and didn’t even realize it until I stopped to check myself.
Here’s the cool part. Research shows us that by stopping and saying out loud or in our head the name of the feeling we’re having, our brain releases a swoosh (yes, you read that right, a big old SWOOSH) of soothing neurotransmitters. That same research tells us that it helps us think more effectively for the situation. If you’re interested in more info on this, comment below and I’ll include some more information about the science behind this. Once you’ve named your feeling, you can also then begin to resolve what’s causing you to feel that way, or move on to something that can bring about a different, more enjoyable feeling.
Let’s take an example. Yesterday, I was arguing over text with a family member because I thought he wasn’t taking this pandemic seriously enough. I could feel my temper rising. My instinct was to keep arguing, and then distract myself with TV. Instead, I took a deep breath, put down my phone and said “I feel angry”. I thought for a moment and also said, “I feel scared and helpless”. Damn — that’s a lot of emotion. By saying that, I felt a bit of weight lifted off my shoulders.
Then I was also able to recognize it, say what I needed to my family member, and leave it to him to make his own decision. And then a second time. “I’m feeling frustrated and helpless.” *deep breath* “Haaaaaw” (that’s me taking a deep sighing breath out). It wasn’t a magic pill. Afterwards, I still had those feelings, the difference was, I was no longer being carried away by them. I then was able to think about what I need, which in that moment was some good food, tea, and my new favourite comedy series called Taskmaster (available on Youtube), before getting back to the other things I wanted to do.
In the posts to come, I’ll be giving different practical tips for what to do after you’ve named your feeling, but know that just the act of: