Somehow, showing emotions has become a sign of weakness in our society.
For the most part, in the name of showing strength and conquering said weakness, we’re told to “suck it up,” “get over it,” and “stop being a wimp.”
Yet, beneath that “tough as nails” unruffled exterior that many portray often brews a churning sea of anxious emotions driven on by constant stress.
Little by little, that inner pressure develops into a cyclone, usually to the detriment of our health.
In light of that, is suppressing your emotions really the key to staying calm?
Or is it just the calm before the storm?
What is the correct answer to keeping you from getting overwhelmed by anxiety?
To begin with, consider how your body actually react when you always bottle up relentless and strong feelings of worry.
Your Body & Anxiety – What Happens When You Suppress Your Emotions
Our body and mind are inevitably connected. What affects one will also influence the other. It’s a marvelous system, but also one that can wreak havoc on you when it’s unbalanced.
Once anxiety has you in its grip and tosses you back and forth, threatening to overwhelm you, trying to bottle those feelings up is like attempting to shut the forces of a hurricane into a tiny house. How long do you think that building will last?
You can look forward to the same—fatal—outcome for your body when you resort to constantly suppressing your emotions.
Consider just a few examples of what damage suppressing your emotions can do:
Increase of physical pain
You could actually call it a “hostile toxic takeover.” The tighter you bottle up your feelings, the tighter your muscles become. And tight muscles hold on to toxins. Eventually, these toxins build up so much that your whole body becomes tense, even affecting muscles that you have no conscious control over. Unreleased stress, thus, translates into physical pain—be that dull aches or sharp spasms.
Attack on your “second brain”
Scientists have discovered that your brain and your gut are connected, dubbing it your “second brain.” It’s hard to detach one from the other. Hence, when stress mounts because you’re suppressing your emotions, it can affect the movement and contractions of your gut. That, in turn, causes inflammation or even infections which manifest themselves through physical symptoms, such as upset stomach, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, or nausea.
Vulnerability to diseases and disorders
Sustained stress from suppressing emotions can even go so far as to cause serious physical illness. The reason is that bottled up emotions put massive pressure on your subconscious, which releases that pressure into your body. This affects your hormonal, lymphatic, and immune systems and can lead to such serious illnesses as heart disease, autoimmune disease, and even cancer.
Subjection to mental illness
Obviously, aside from causing physical problems for your body, suppressing your emotions has a severe impact on your mental health. Your brain handles crucial functions in your body. It controls your emotions, impulses, memories, judgment, insight, empathy, concentration, and many other abilities. When you keep your emotions locked inside, your brain becomes unstable and unable to function properly. That leads to more and more anxiety, and perhaps severe depression. Lamentably, that may lead you to coping mechanisms that are unhealthy and damaging, such as substance and alcohol abuse.
Whichever way you look at it, suppressing your emotions only leads to more harm—physically, mentally, and emotionally. The longer you continue with this unhealthy coping mechanism, the worse you’ll injure yourself. It’s futile!
So, what can you do instead?
A Better Way of Managing Overwhelming Anxiety
Suppressing emotions can lead to major damage. Permitting emotions, on the other hand, can lead to peace of mind and tranquility.
But you have to do release your emotions the right way.
Think about a bottle of carbonated water that has been shaken up. What happens if you would open it quickly? Everything would gush out and you’d have a huge mess. But if you slowly and carefully open it, you can release the pressure in a much more controlled way.
That should be your goal when stress and anxiety are building. How can you achieve it?
- Take a deep breath – Deep breathing encourages the relaxation response. Try to combine it with some progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, or yoga stretches.
- Accept your anxiety – It’s normal to feel anxious when stress mounts. Don’t fight the feeling. Don’t try to control it. Simply ride it out as if it was a wave.
- Focus on the presence – Take your mind off what may happen in a few minutes, the next day, in a couple of months, etc. Appreciate the here and now and allow yourself to experience the present moment.
- Think more realistically – Banish unreasonable, unhelpful, and inaccurate thoughts. Rather, generate alternative, positive thoughts instead.
- Lower your expectations – Resist multitasking. Not everything has to be done right now. Doing too many things at once creates stress, instead of peace. Learn to shift your perspective and give yourself time and space.
Like it or not, stress and anxiety are part of human life. Experiencing emotions due to worries isn’t abnormal or bad. In fact, accepting and allowing these emotions is vital for your health, while attempting to suppress them can backfire in unexpected and highly destructive ways.