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10 Ways To Release Challenging Emotions

Ali Williams is the 'uncomplicated' therapist specialising in healing trauma codes in the brain and body. After losing her mother at the age of 16 to breast cancer, and receiving two cancer diagnoses herself, Ali chose wisdom, not war.

Executive Contributor Ali Williams

We are all familiar with the discomfort of challenging emotions. Whether it be the physical impulse of anger launching from your throat to tell someone they’re wrong or the chest-gripping heaviness of anxiety, we feel it in our bodies. You will likely also understand the pit-of-the-stomach sensation and aching heart of despair and sadness. There are many other examples you can also recall no doubt.

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These experiences are far from the emotion of happiness and can leave us feeling distressed.

When we experience difficult events, our senses receive the stimuli of the scenario, sending the information to our brain which creates meaning in the circumstances. Chemicals are then released to send signals to the nervous system which creates a feeling, prompting an action. The more intense the experience, the more intense the thoughts, feelings, and actions – creating an outcome as a consequence of that action (behavior).

When we are young, the more stressful the event, the stronger the impression is created in the brain as memories. Your psyche in these moments will create beliefs and patterns of behavior. Depending on how you were encouraged, or not, to process the information those beliefs and patterns may be helpful or harmful in the long run.

Consider this example. A child who has grown up in an environment of dysfunction, maybe an angry parent, or violence in the home, may interpret someone else’s assertion as a personal threat as an adult, and shut down in communications or retreat. It may feel unsafe to articulate their feelings for fear of being criticized. Unless this pattern is reconciled through therapy or self-acknowledgment, this fight, flight, or freeze prompt in the nervous system will remain automatic impacting individuals in ways they may not realize.

Those who remain in such a cycle will stimulate a continual heightened stress response with excess levels of cortisol being released in the body. This may impact an individual’s communication in relationships, self-confidence, mindset, energy levels, decision-making, problem-solving skills, and physical health.

Enhance life with therapy and simple processing methods

1. Acknowledge the feelings

Don't avoid them. Be present with them and allow them. Your brain has likely detected a threat and has prompted the feeling in your nervous system to take action to protect yourself. You might like to chat with them and say, "Sadness, I see you. Thank you for trying to keep me safe."

2. Don’t blame others for your feelings

If you feel angry because of another’s actions, even though they are part of the situation at that moment, how you feel is not their fault. Your beliefs and patterns will be on automatic pilot to react.

3. Take responsibility

You’re in control of how you respond rather than react. No one is pulling any strings. You may feel compelled to act a certain way, but you can change it. Consider if your actions will help to resolve the situation, or fuel it.

4. Try my technique of stepping out of the arena

Take a pause. Don’t jump straight into the fight ring with concrete boots. Your brain processes five seconds of information every second, you have time to choose differently.

5. Ask the emotion

"What would you like me to learn about this right now?" The answer may not drop in immediately, give it time to reveal itself. You will understand the answer when you reflect. Adopt a growth mindset strategy.

6. Move your body

If you feel the emotion in your body, move it. Going for a walk, run, or an exercise class may help. If you feel sadness or grief, gentle yoga or stretching will help to shift the energy. Other activities could be showering, having a bath, handwriting, gardening, hugging a tree, or if you’re feeling angry, slamming a rolling pin onto the bed until you feel relief. I sometimes yell it out in the car when alone!

7. Don’t project

Process, don’t project. Your feelings are yours. Avoid throwing them at others. It is never helpful to spread those vibes with people who become your collateral damage. Have you ever felt so frustrated after work and taken it out on your unsuspecting kids when you got home? That only creates tears and guilt. Refer to the previous point.

8. Visualize

Imagine surrounding yourself (and others) in a bubble of forgiveness and love. Changing your energy will help to resolve issues more quickly and peacefully. If you are processing grief imagine the earth and sky lifting you. Or visualize yourself laying in the healing waters of the ocean, washing your feelings out to sea.

9. Embrace self-compassion

Let go of self-criticism. You are doing the best you can. Forgive yourself for what has happened. You cannot change the past. Move forward with awareness and growth. None of us gets it perfect all the time.

10. Book a reiki session

Reiki (online or in-person) helps to shift feelings stuck in the body. This healing modality may reduce anxiety and stress to create calmness. Difficult emotions will feel less intense, and occur less often, helping you make confident decisions, feel more in control of your reactions, and increase your resilience.

Big feelings are a normal part of our human existence. Our ability to regulate those feelings determines how quickly we can move through them. Allow them to visit, but don’t allow them to pack their bags and move in.

Our experiences in life, particularly when we were young, have impacted our subconscious behaviors through these difficult times and still do now. None of us can get it right every time something challenging happens, but with a new understanding of our own brains and nervous systems, we can connect the dots of the past to create a new future. This free resource will help you cultivate self-awareness around what is true for you.

Gaining this information ensures you will positively impact communications with loved ones and colleagues. You will recognize when to pause and consider how best to respond rather than jumping down your partner’s throat and regretting it later. You’ll snap less at the kids, saving awkward apologies and unnecessary tears. You will reduce anxiety and free yourself of the crushing heaviness in your chest. You will move through sadness gracefully rather than curling up in bed unable to face the world. You will feel lighter, and notice your days are filled with more joy and less dissatisfaction.

To create this freedom for yourself, reach out to start a conversation about how to take the first steps. 

Follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Ali Williams, Therapist

Ali Williams is the 'uncomplicated' therapist specialising in healing trauma codes in the brain and body. After losing her mother at the age of 16 to breast cancer, and receiving two cancer diagnoses herself, Ali chose wisdom, not war. After studying formally to become a qualified therapist, Ali has developed programs and strategies to help women focus on healing their own lives. Her first published book reflects the theme of taking responsibility for happiness. Ali believes everyone has the opportunity to claim their birth right to be happy regardless of circumstances.



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