As a child, my grandma taught me to never hold my feelings inside, “It’s not worth it,” she said. “You must always let them out and let them go.”

She knew intuitively that repressed emotions can make you sick.

Indeed. Studies have shown that psychological (emotional) stress increases inflammation, and thereby the risk of chronic disease. Inflammation is a known cause of nearly every chronic disease including asthma, arthritis, autoimmune disease, cancer, depression, digestive disorders and heart disease.

Ancient chinese medicine texts teach the same. Emotions that are repressed, intense or long-held have a negative impact on our health. The area of the body affected or energetic impact depends on the emotion in question. For instance anger impacts the liver (qi) while sadness and grief impact the lungs and heart (qi).

Curious about becoming more adept at processing your emotions?
There sure are plenty of reasons you may want to.

Emotional health

Let’s begin with the basics.

Man or woman, we are emotional beings. Our emotions work round the clock, shaping our experience of life, whether happy or sad, worried or experiencing monkey mind, irritable, frustrated, shocked, scared… The one thing we can be guaranteed is that there will always be a next emotion.

Emotions themselves are inherently healthy and an essential part of life as a human being. It’s when emotions are repressed, intense, or lasting over a long period of time that they can become a problem.

I like to think of good emotional health like the ocean tides.

A wave comes in, a wave goes out. Emotions come in, emotions go out. As they arise, you don’t push them down and hide them. Rather you feel them, express them, and release them. After released, they move on to form the next wave.

emotional health
Of course this is easier said than done.

Either due to inconvenience, not being present, habit, past trauma, or social mores, we have the tendency to put our emotions aside.

Where do they go? They don’t just disappear. Nope. They get filed in a box titled something like ‘to be dealt with at a later time’.

For the sake of clarity, I’ll call it the emotion box. It’s easy for our emotion box to become like our garage- overflowing with stuff we don’t want to look at and we no longer need. And funny thing, just like our old stuff, the longer our emotions sit there, the less we want to look at them.

Strategies for
Superior Emotional Health

1 Process in real time If you are able to, it’s always easiest and most advantageous to process your emotions in real time. Everyone processes emotions differently. No matter what your process looks like breathe deeply while you’re doing it. Your breath is like the ocean tides that help bring the waves in and out.

Need ideas?

In addition to breathing, take a walk in the great outdoors. Go kickboxing. Get acupuncture. Play your favorite tune. Call a best friend. Paint. Journal. Meditate. Enjoy a yoga class. If you don’t know what you need, do five minutes of deep breathing and ask your heart.

2 Make a date with yourself
In our fast-paced lives, there are many occasions where we simply don’t have the time or space to process emotions in real time. Rather than ignoring our emotional state, I suggest making a date with yourself for a later time.

Step 1: Take a few deep breaths.

Step 2: Acknowledge how you’re feeling.

Step 3: Tell yourself (really, have a little conversation inside your own head) I’m not able to take care of you right now, but I will at      (time and date)      by doing      (whatever you need to help yourself process your emotion)     . For example, you may make a date with yourself tonight before bed to journal, or to go for a hike this weekend.

Step 4: Follow through on your date.

I’m a big fan of this strategy. When I practice it, I feel like I’m getting my needs met even if I can’t get my needs met in that moment. The important part is that you follow through with your intention.

3 Do an emotional cleanse

Put too many things in your emotion box already? Don’t fear. It’s simply time to start emptying your load.

Holding on to emotions takes energy, energy that could certainly be better used for other things. You may have physical symptoms that indicate you’re in need of an emotional cleanse, or you may know instinctively. Unwinding repressed emotions takes loving care and guidance. Let’s talk. Come on in for a treatment.


CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY | How Stress Influences Disease: Carnegie Mellon Study Reveals Inflammation as the Culprit


LAUREN M. FREIMAN, L.AC. | A Stress-free Summer(and Life!)

Photo credit: summer’s here flickr photo by EladeManu shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
Faro, Portugal flickr photo by Alexander Savin shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license