Woman writing in her journal

You know when you need to cry, but when you squeeze and squeeze (and squeeze!) no tears come out? You're preaching to the choir, sister. Here's how to cope with your lack of coping skills.

How to stop putting your feelings on pause

How many times a day do you find yourself putting your emotions on the back burner? In the moment, you probably say, "I'll deal with it later." You even go so far as to visualize facing your baggage like a champ… only by the time you get to it, the pile's so overwhelming Psycho Strings starts playing in the background. You don't know where to start, so you don't.

At first, you're not suppressing your emotions on purpose. You fully intend on dealing with them, just not right now. However, the longer you take, the stronger they become, and the harder they are to face. That's when, ironically, your life starts revolving around the exact emotions you're avoiding:

  • You distract yourself to avoid feeling them, for fear they'll jeopardize your productivity.
  • You keep your conversations light and fluffy so you don't have to talk about them.
  • You stay away from places, people or things that remind you of how you don't want to feel.

What's worse, once you master the art of avoidance coping, you even trick yourself into thinking you're fine! Here's why you should reassess pronto: a recent study by the University of Canterbury revealed a link between avoidance coping and higher levels of anxiety, which could explain my new hobby — hyperventilating. This form of suppression eventually leads to more serious health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, not to mention the negative impact it can have on your relationships.

The good news is you can stop putting your emotions on the back burner without jeopardizing your busy schedule and booming social life. Here’s how:

1

Pick a word, but not just any word

Identifying your emotions can be difficult, especially when you're so busy you tune them out. Become aware of how you feel by building tiny, minute-long breaks in between tasks to ask yourself: How do I feel right now? Upset, stressed, jealous, annoyed? Be as specific as you can. Write down the one word that best describes how you feel during each break, and at the end of the week see which words show up the most. Then you can ask yourself why, and take steps toward dealing with what's bothering you.

2

Choose an emotional outlet

There are plenty of ways to express your emotions: calling or meeting up with a friend you trust (preferably, someone who's great at expressing themselves), journaling, aggressive forms of exercise like kickboxing or even meditation. Choose an outlet based on your personality, or use variations based on the specifics of what's bothering you. Bonus points if you do these things with someone who's also avoidant: you can work on your baggage, keep each other motivated and score some serious bonding time.

3

Momentarily detach yourself

This might sound counterproductive, but it works! When you're struggling to figure out how you feel about something, detach yourself from the situation and pretend it's just happened to someone else (kind of like you're watching a movie). Much like you'd offer objective advice to a friend, this exercise can help you not only figure out where you stand, but what to do next.

4

Open the floodgates

The worst feeling ever is when you want to cry, you need to cry, and even though your body feels like it’s about to explode the tears won't… come… out (or, you know, they try to come out while you're at work or out with friends and you have to stuff them back in). As the suckiest crier ever, I keep triggers on standby: I've found the only way I'm able to open the floodgates is to watch an upsetting movie or television episode that turns me into Erica Barry in Something’s Gotta Give. It seems awful, but it works!

More tips for busy women

Top 10 time wasters in a busy woman's day
Smart nutrition tips for the multi-tasking woman
Busy girl's guide to fitness

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