Health Matters: Journaling as a Healthy Outlet for Intense Emotions

    There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Over the past few months, families and
    communities around the globe have experienced abrupt changes, unexpected challenges, and big life transitions. Under stressful circumstances, it’s natural to experience a wide variety of emotions. But if left unaddressed, negative emotions can take a toll on your health. For that reason, it’s important to have healthy outlets for intense emotions.

    Journaling is one way to process and release strong feelings and emotions. Sadness, fear, surprise, disgust, anger, and shame are among the most common. Finding effective ways to work through your emotions is an essential component of a holistic self-care practice.

    What Are Intense Emotions?

    Merriam-Webster defines an emotion as “a conscious mental reaction subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.” While there’s still some disagreement among experts about the difference between feelings and emotions (or if there’s a difference at all), it’s safe to say that both contribute to our quality of life. Emotions can be messy, confusing, and unpredictable, and it’s important to recognize that we experience them not just mentally, but also physically. When you have healthy outlets for your intense emotions, preventing them from lingering longer than necessary, you can return to a
    balanced state of calm more quickly.

    What Happens When Intense Emotions Linger

    Emotions are natural responses to our life experiences. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with expressing emotions (even the negative ones), when intense emotions linger for long periods of time, our physical bodies are forced to react. Heightened emotions can lead to rapid heartrate, increased blood pressure, and even digestive problems. Stress has been associated with hypertension, weight gain, and unhealthy coping strategies, like drinking excess amounts of alcohol or using substances to relax or sleep. Without a healthy release valve for your emotions, you’re at increased risk for chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and depression.

    Why Journaling Can Help

    Journaling offers a positive outlet for intense emotions, helping you to manage your stress in a healthy way. Here are just a few of the benefits associated with journaling:

    Safe Space
    The pages of your journal offer a safe place to explore your feelings and emotions without judgement. Simply getting your thoughts out of your mind and down onto paper can help you better understand what you’re experiencing.

    Objectivity
    Journaling allows for objective observation, giving you the opportunity to explore the possible reasons behind your emotions. For example, if you experienced an intense reaction to something a colleague said, you can explore the reasons behind it. By using a simple journal prompt, like Why did I respond that way?, you can begin to uncover the triggers that led to your response. In short, journaling can help you uncover the reason behind your emotion.

    Privacy
    Your journal is a collection of your private thoughts, which means you’re under no obligation to share them. Some people choose to toss out their journals once they’ve collected their thoughts, and some choose to hold onto it for future reference. Journals are learning tools, offering us great insights into our thoughts, behaviors, habits, and patterns.

    How to Journal Your Emotions

    Here are some tips for journaling your intense emotions:

    Name the Emotion or Feeling
    Identify exactly what you’re experiencing. Here are some examples that may help you describe your feelings and emotions more accurately:

    Accepting
    Affectionate
    Afraid
    Aggravated
    Agitated
    Aloof
    Amazed
    Angry
    Annoyed
    Anxious
    Apprehensive
    Ashamed
    Bitter
    Blessed
    Blocked
    Bored
    Brave
    Breathless
    Calm
    Caring
    Centered
    Cold
    Compassionate
    Concerned
    Confident
    Confused
    Connected
    Constricted
    Content
    Courageous
    Cranky
    Curious
    Cynical
    Daring
    Delighted
    Depleted
    Depressed
    Despair / Sad
    Despondent
    Determined
    Disappointed
    Disconnected
    Discouraged
    Disdain
    Disgruntled
    Dissatisfied
    Distant
    Disturbed
    Drained
    Eager
    Ecstatic
    Edgy
    Electric
    Embarrassed
    Empathy
    Empty
    Enchanted
    Encouraged
    Energized
    Engaged
    Enthusiastic
    Exasperated
    Excited
    Exhausted
    Expanded
    Expectant
    Fascinated
    Fearful
    Fortunate
    Fragile
    Frazzled
    Free
    Frightened
    Frozen
    Frustrated
    Fulfilled
    Full
    Furious
    Gentle
    Gloomy
    Graceful
    Grateful
    Grouchy
    Grounded
    Guilty
    Happy
    Heartbroken
    Heavy
    Helpless
    Hesitant
    Hollow
    Hopeful
    Hopeless
    Hostile
    Hot
    Humbled
    Humiliated
    Impatient
    Incapable
    Indifferent
    Inspired
    Intrigued
    Invigorated
    Irate
    Irritated
    Isolated
    Itchy
    Jumpy
    Lethargic
    Lighthearted
    Listless
    Lively
    Lonely
    Loving
    Lucky
    Melancholy
    Moody
    Mortified
    Moved
    Nauseous
    Nervous
    Numb
    Open
    Optimistic
    Outraged
    Overwhelmed
    Paralyzed
    Passionate
    Patient
    Peaceful
    Perplexed
    Pissed Off
    Playful
    Powerful
    Powerless
    Present
    Prickly
    Queasy
    Radiant
    Radiating
    Rattled
    Reflective
    Refreshed
    Rejecting
    Rejuvenated
    Relaxed
    Reluctant
    Remorseful
    Removed
    Renewed
    Resentful
    Resigned
    Resistant
    Restless
    Rigid
    Safe
    Satisfied
    Scared
    Self-conscious
    Self-loving
    Sensitive
    Serene
    Settled
    Shaken
    Shaky
    Shocked
    Skeptical
    Slow
    Smooth
    Soft
    Sore
    Sorrowful
    Sorry
    Still
    Stressed
    Strong
    Suffocated
    Suspicious
    Sweaty
    Teary
    Tender
    Tense
    Terrified
    Thankful
    Thrilled
    Touched
    Trapped
    Trusting
    Twitchy
    Uneasy
    Unhappy
    Unsettled
    Unsure
    Upset
    Useless
    Vibrant
    Vulnerable
    Warm
    Weak
    Weary
    Withdrawn
    Worried
    Worthless
    Worthy

    Be Honest
    If you’re angry, journal the details about your anger. If you’re sad, journal the details of your sadness. Pour the facts of the situation, along with your perceptions about them, onto the pages of your journal. This process will help you uncover more details about your emotions. Be sure to include information about what it feels like in your body physically as well. It’s common to experience nausea, tightness, warmth, and other physical symptoms when you experience intense emotions.

    Choose a Healthy Response
    Consider what might help diffuse the strong emotional response. Self-care strategies, such as exercising, getting enough sleep, talking with a friend or therapist, meditation, and prayer can be extremely helpful. Experiment with different approaches to find the ones that are most effective for you.

    Determine Next Steps
    If you’re still struggling to make sense of your feelings, or if you notice they are lingering without relief, seek help from a trained counselor or therapist who can help you sort through your thoughts on a much deeper level. Sometimes having another perspective can make all the difference when it comes to moving forward.

    Journal Prompts

    Here are some journaling prompts to help you uncover more details about your experience:

    What led to the emotion?
    Write down all the details about the situation. Consider what led to the feelings you’re experiencing. Was it something someone said? Did you get sufficient amounts of sleep the night before? Was it a situation where you felt overwhelmed or powerless? Was this the first time you experienced the emotion in this situation or with this person? Was there a history or pattern of repeated events that led to the intense emotions?

    When have I experienced something similar?
    Think back to another time when you experienced something similar? What was similar about that situation and this one? What are the common threads? Consider the people, timing, circumstances, and subject matter. By comparing past experiences with current ones, you may be able to uncover some patterns, which can help you predict how you might respond in future situations.

    What do I want to come of this?
    When you’ve come to a place when you’re able to, turn your attention toward the positive outcome you desire. Consider what you’d like to see come of the situation. What are the lessons you can take from the experience to move forward? What’s the best-case scenario? Consider also the actions you could take to improve the situation.

    Conclusion

    Journaling is an effective way to manage intense emotions, especially the negative ones. Having a healthy outlet is critical when it comes to diffusing strong emotions. Managing your emotional energy in a healthy way can prevent negative health consequences and protect your well-being.

    Information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as providing or replacing medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

     

    Stacy-Fisher

    Author bio: STACY FISHER, RDN, LD, CDCES is the founder of LivingUpp™, a lifestyle design company that teaches women how to use a self-care planning lifestyle design planner angle 400x400system to create more ease and better health. She is a registered dietitian and lifestyle coach with 20+ years of experience in the healthcare industry, where she’s worked with large companies such as Dell, Boeing and Nike. Stacy is the author of The Lifestyle Design Planner, a flexible life organizer for high-achievers who value self-care and simplicity.

     

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