I am Kristina Freeman, the co-founder of the wonderful Grow Your Mind, a mental health social venture and I am also an acupuncturist. My days are often filled with writing, reading, talking and dispensing tips and treatments to help support physical and emotional wellbeing. Lately however, I have realised how very far I am from practising what I preach. This realisation came from listening to Michelle Obama acknowledge she is experiencing a form of low grade depression. This was a serious AH HA moment ( not the 80s band though that would have been fun). It was a wake up call and I certainly needed it.
Hearing someone as inspiring, strong and optimistic as Michelle Obama reflect on how she is feeling prompted me to ask myself the same question and the answer was... numb. The current reality we find ourselves navigating in can feel like tricky emotional terrain. I am incredibly grateful to be in Sydney unlike my friends in Victoria in lockdown 2.1. I am still working and it is meaningful and engaging work for me. All of my family and friends are currently healthy. And yet, since coming out of the first lockdown, I have got back into life with an armour on that is helping me ignore and push down the everyday emotional modulations of fear, sadness, frustration, guilt, anger and more. Turns out this is not a healthy and resilience boosting habit to have adopted!
Researcher Dr Mark Bracketthas dedicated his life to studying emotions and is the founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. In his book Permission to Feel, he talks about making our feelings allies instead of enemies. He spent years "toughening up" and pushing his emotions down. However learning to identify and accept his emotions transformed his life and this all began with one simple question from a person who was really listening: "How are you feeling?"
I was recently asked this question by a teacher about one of my children. She shared that she felt my child was currently repressing a lot of his feelings until it was just too much and then they would all come bursting out in not so productive ways. Why and how did it come to this? It got me thinking. When had I asked him how he was feeling and been really ready to receive the answer? In fact when had I last asked myself this question? If I am repressing all of my feelings how is my son going to feel safe to work productively with his?
It is by no means all on me, we know wellbeing is a whole school, whole community approach. However I have decided to make some changes to keep doing the work that keeps us mentally and physically healthy. I have committed to ‘make friends’ with my uncomfortable feelings again. What does this renewed friendship look like? Well for me it involves
- Trying to meditate again. It is painful and hard right now but I know it will pass
- Checking in periodically with my body
- Making sure that a bit of pleasure comes into my everyday and really trying to savour it
For my family we are building emotional literacy and empathy by discussing what a character is feeling in the books we are reading. As well as playing feelings charades. We have a new calming corner that comes with big cushions for pillow fights, to cuddle up with or to scream into if you need to release some of that pent up frustration.
The other thing I have been doing is talking with a professional and Grow Your Mind friend Liz Kirby. Liz is a coach, a social worker and a counsellor who has always been fascinated by what makes people thrive. Liz specialises in anxiety and among other things she also has some pearls of wisdom about emotions and we cannot wait to share them with you.
So please join us on September 1st 8pm for a 45 minute webinar - Making Friends with Uncomfortable feelings.