And then you want to scream. Punch a wall. Throw a vase out the window.
Whatever it takes to get it off your chest.
It’s human to get irritated by things that pose a threat (real or imagined).
Very smart, too.
But it’s not so smart to cause a ruckus in public (without good reason), bloody your knuckles, or break Grandma’s handcrafted gift from last Christmas.
There’s a smart way to get something off your chest, and it involves five crucial steps.
Step 1: Get mindful about the irritation
Before you can get something off your chest, you need to know that it’s bothering you in the first place. In many ways, this is the hardest step.
Because you have to admit that something’s wrong. And that it isn’t nice.
An easy way to admit this is by paying attention to the signals that something’s up:
- A shorter temper than usual
- Intense anger/resentment/bitterness directed at one person or thing (which may be “unjustified”)
- Avoidance of that person or thing, such that it interferes with your normal day
- Inability to focus
- More procrastination than usual
- Questions or comments from a friend about why you look down or not like yourself
- Depression, stemming from anger or shame turned inward
- Immobilization for no apparent reason
In order to become mindful of these signals, and then mindful of their cause, you have to tread carefully.
What doesn’t cut it as mindfulness is saying:
“Well, I recognize that I feel this way. But now that I recognize this, I don’t have to feel this way anymore. I’ll focus on something else like my breathing or the fan hanging from the ceiling in the room and then the irritation will just pass by me in a mystical and spiritual fashion.”
This is how mindfulness is commonly taught. Some form of it may have its merits in certain situations. But it doesn’t cut it for getting something off your chest — the smart way. In fact, it will only keep whatever is bothering you — lodged in your chest.
Because there is a hidden expectation. That the emotion will go away because it’s bad.
If you subconsciously judge the emotions as “bad” — you’re not practicing true mindfulness.
What does cut it as mindfulness is accepting your feelings as they are.
Without any expectation that they will pass by you or go away.
Emotional mindfulness means allowing for and welcoming your feelings into greater awareness.
Step 2: Create a safe environment
After you’re aware of the problem, you need to create a space where you feel free to express yourself.
This space gives you permission to be mindful of your emotional experience.
A space is safe when:
- There’s nothing that poses a threat to your health
- You won’t be interrupted
- You won’t be able to hurt others in the process of getting that something off your chest
- If alone, you’re still able to communicate with the outside world (through a phone or an internet connection) in case of an emergency
- You only keep company if they genuinely want to hear you out or be there to support you (which usually rules children out)
Step 3: Be conscious and safe
Getting it off your chest isn’t just about yelling and screaming for the sake of it. You need to speak to your true feelings, and get to the bottom of your distress.
This means expressing yourself in emotionally honest ways even if doing so makes you:
- Look dumb or stupid
- Seem weak and vulnerable
- Feel inferior, powerless, and whiny
- Look irrational
- Seem out of control
- Feel hopeless, deeply hurt, or both
Forget about being self-conscious. Make the conscious commitment to take it personally. And get it off your chest no matter how silly, unproductive, wasteful, or hateful it may seem.
You get something off your chest the safe way, by:
Different situations call for different practices. And you might even come up with something unique that works best for you.
Step 4: Double check to make sure you’re all finished
If you’re going to start getting something off your chest, you might as well finish it. Otherwise you run the risk of storing unexpressed feelings that will come up and bite you at a later date.
You know you’re finished getting it off your chest when:
- You’ve said everything you wanted to say (maybe repeatedly)
- You no longer feel immobilized, but rather inspired to take constructive action
- You feel empowered rather than victimized (because you understand how to take back your power)
- You’re not obsessed with whatever was bothering you — instead you’re focused on how to take care of yourself
- You’re bored (because you’re complete) and want to do something else
- You physically feel better, as in you have a clearer head, a lighter heart, and/or more energy
Don’t cut yourself short. Make sure that you’re really done getting it all off your chest before moving onto something else. Or if you can’t finish, make a conscious commitment to resume at a later time (and don’t forget it).
Step 5: Do something nice for yourself
When you’re finished getting that something off your chest, do something nice for yourself. Reward yourself for all the hard work. Take a walk, or a bath, or read a good book.
That short-cuts your growth and can cause real damage. Because some issues are complex. Sometimes the first time you get it off your chest — is only the first time. And there’s a lot more work to do in clearing out that emotional baggage.
People carry emotional baggage because they don’t get things off their chest. Don’t let that be you. Be smart about it, travel lightly, and make the best of your journey ahead.
What do you think?
How do you get things off your chest? Are there any other tips you want to share below?
About the Author: Melissa Karnaze founded Mindful Construct to help you use the smart way get things off your chest. She wants you to know that working with your emotions is the smart way to go.
P.S. Have you checked out the Mindful Construct email newsletter? It features a 10-part e-class on how to work with your emotions, which comes from understanding how your life is your construct. Learn more about it and sign up here.