How bottling up effects your health? Mechanisms to cope.
Growing up, I always noticed my mother roaming around the length and breadth of the house, mumbling something under her breath whenever she was frustrated or angry. I never understood why but somehow that act of mumbling along with effective conduction of her chores calmed her down.
Although, it agitated me a lot then but now in retrospect, I know that she was doing herself and her mental health a huge favour by letting out her feelings without even hurting anyone else in the process.
Unfortunately, that habit didn’t get inherited by her second born(obviously me). I have always found it hard to let out my feelings. The result? Bottling up everything inside.
Bottling up by definition means suppressing intense emotions without expressing them.
Now why would someone suppress their emotion? After all, it’s totally human to express when you feel something intense.
The simple answer is to avoid being seen as vulnerable or too emotional. Hence, the need to suppress or bottle up. People often associate being emotional with being too sensitive but they forget that being emotional is what makes us more human.
More often than not, it is also an escape mechanism adopted by us to avoid confrontation. I will rather dig a deep hole and bury that feeling inside than face it. But is that a healthy habit in the long run.
Experts and my mother would say NO. There are many studies done on this with enough evidence to back that bottling up one’s emotion is not feasible for one’s health. Infact, suppressing any kind of emotion can cause lots of mental and physical ailments.
Research done by Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester shows that people who suppress their emotions are more likely to increase their risk of premature death from all causes by 30%, with their risk of being diagnosed with cancer increasing upto 70%.
Suppressing your emotions whether it’s anger, frustration, sadness or anxiety can cause physical stress to the body. It leads to conditions like high blood-pressure, memory loss and low self-esteem.
When you keep bottling up your feelings, you repress it down for the moment but it won’t eliminate the emotion entirely. It will linger around for a long time until it shows up when you least expect it.
The best analogy I can provide is of a pressure cooker where pressure builds inside slowly and after a point when it can’t handle the pressure, it bursts out.
If you are someone like me and find it hard to express what you feel. Here are few pointers that can help tackle emotions effectively.
Also, remember it doesn’t happen overnight , it’s an ongoing process that needs constant work.
1. Stop avoiding your emotions:
Start confronting your emotions and stop putting it on a backbench. Humans are a species with the highest emotional quotient in the planet. Expression is vital to us. Its totally natural to have bursting emotions and express it spontaneously without suppressing it.
If you are angry at your partner, tell them at that moment. Don’t lock it up to be let out at the wrong time. It can only fuel more issues rather than solving it.
2. Reason with yourself:
Ask yourself WHY are you feeling a certain emotion?
Is it anger? Is it sadness? Or is it a feeling from another incident which is pent up?
Understanding, the core emotion is important. You might be sad but it gets translated as anger. Pent up emotions can manifest into any form. Your frustration can turn into a bout of physical harm or self-destruction or many such perils. Look out for signs.
3. Be your own moderator :
Own upto your feelings. Acknowledge them. Question yourself what can you do not to end up having the same emotional turmoil next time?
Sometimes its an argument with a spouse or parents or siblings, you end up holding yourself back without releasing that emotion upfront. Its okay sometimes since you rather hold your tongue than say something hurtful which you’ll regret later.
Take your time, analyse what caused you hurt. What can be done to avoid it? Is it something you should work on or something you want the other person to realise?
4. Letting it go :
I know it’s easier said than done but sometimes it’s the best thing you can do for your mental health. Bottling up does not only drain yourself of peace and health, it also drains your energy constantly. So give yourself a breather and let go of that harms you.
Letting go doesn’t mean you forgive or forget what happened. But to break away from the vicious cycle of hurt. Saving up your energy and health in the long run.
5. Indulge in self-care:
Self-help equals self-care. So whip yourself a healthy dose of self-care to release those suppressed feelings and create an environment of positivity. Studies show that a small amount of activity helps boost your mental and physical health.
Any activity that indulges you and helps you calm down can be adopted to calm your mind. It stimulates your mind and releases hormones that make you feel relaxed and happy.
For those like me, who dread a strenuous work out. Try reading or meditating or even yoga.
Meditation has helped me a lot, it doesn’t have to be time sensitive. It can be as short or as long you desire. Just five minutes of meditation with proper breath work can help you calm and centre your mind.
Same goes with yoga, you don’t have to be an expert in this. Start with a basic Suryanamaskar which alone helps achieve flow in your body. Progress to more complex poses when you feel ready.
Yoga has been in our culture for centuries but its sad that only now people have started reaping its benefits completely.
If all this doesn’t seem feasible, just play with your pet(given you have one) or be with nature.
6. Seek medical advice :
Lastly, if you still feel your bottled up emotions are causing you harm. Seek proper medical advice. Talk to someone you trust.
Get therapy. There is nothing to be ashamed about in seeking therapy. India has one of the most number of depressed people in the world, a scary fact which is rarely taken into account.
No one thinks of it as a problem until you face the consequences yourself, either within or with a loved one.
Intervention is the only way to save yourself from falling into a rabbit hole.
Often times, mental health is not highlighted enough because of the fear of being considered a weakling which in turn results in most of us bottling up whatever we feel in a moment of despair.
This practice should be discouraged and opening up yourself to other’s should be encouraged more. Confrontation over neglect always.