For a long time, when something bad would happen to me, I would force myself stop thinking about it. I would push all of my feelings into the back of my mind, and try to move on. And sometimes, that worked. Sometimes, if the issue was small enough (like a plane delay or work mistake), I would get away with pushing away those feelings of anger or disappointment.
But, if it was something more meaningful, like a guy I really liked randomly ghosting me or getting rejected from a job I had been pining for, I found myself dwelling on these really awful feelings. Not long after I pushed my thoughts away, these feelings would meander back into the front of my mind at the most random times—during a SoulCycle class or in the middle of a meeting at work. One second, I was completely fine, the next I would be holding back tears.
During those moments, I thought I was “over it” but really, I hadn’t acknowledged how I really felt. I wished that the feelings would just go away without doing the work to make them stop. But I’ve found that letting myself feel all the feelings for a set period of time makes them actually go away. This is easier said than done. But, next time you find yourself hiding in a conference room at work, try one of these tactics to move forward.
Acknowledge that it sucks
Often, when we’re in a difficult situation, we want to pretend that it didn’t happen. Protecting yourself from feeling vulnerable is a normal, (sometimes) healthy reaction. But, sometimes in order to really heal and move past something that has hurt you, we have to acknowledge that it did hurt in the first place. So, take a breather. Let your guard down for a few minutes, and admit that this situation sucks.
Set a timer
Once you acknowledge that you’re feeling down, give yourself a set period of time to let yourself truly feel it. It’s really important that you set a timer before you start letting yourself sulk in your sadness because one of the most important aspects of this exercise is finding closure. And, when you allow yourself to dwell on those shitty feelings fully and then stop, you can be mentally aware that this chapter is closed.
Depending on the situation, this amount of time could range from 5 minutes, to 5 days. When I broke up with my college boyfriend, I felt terrible. I kept forcing myself to pretend that I wasn’t upset, and I didn’t care. It wasn’t until I gave myself 2 days—and that’s it!—of moping around my house and eating ice cream that I started to heal.
Let yourself feel all the feels
Find yourself some alone space, and let yourself feel all the feels—whatever that means for you. If you’re a cryer, maybe you want to curl up in bed and let the tears flow. Maybe you like to write out your feelings in order to truly face them. Whatever this is for you, give yourself the space to truly feel all those emotions.
Sometimes, you can’t always “let it out” in the way that you’d like. Maybe you’re upset during a meeting, or while at a party with friends. At the most basic level: Take a deep breath, and step away from the situation – even if that’s only in your mind.
Move forward, without ignoring your feelings
This part is the hardest: getting yourself back on your feet and feeling that strength to keep going. But returning back to your normal self doesn’t have to mean that you’re totally over it. Those feelings are going to linger and they’re going to come back, but they don’t need to take over your life. Giving yourself that time to truly immerse yourself in that sadness or anger can help you process the emotions so that they don’t stick with you day-to-day. You can move forward with some sort of peace of mind, knowing that you confronted the pain and can now leave it in the past.
How do you work through something that’s been bothering you?