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Learning to Accept Feelings as They Come

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

Trying to find happiness often comes with lots of pressure. You’re either too sad or too anxious or too overwhelmed, and you’re mad at yourself for feeling this way. These responses can be exhausting. No one should be angry at themselves for being anxious, especially on top of already feeling anxious. For me, a big part of my happiness comes from understanding the fleetingness of feelings. Remember, to be a fully dimensional human, you need to feel lots of different emotions, and it’s totally okay.

One change I made that helped me was switching my idea of “life is short” to viewing life as long. While both can be true, I found that reminding myself that I have lots of time ahead of me removed some of the pressure from my day-to-day life. By viewing life as long, we can give up some of the control we try to possess over our feelings and experiences. Each experience will feel smaller when it fits into the bigger picture of our lives, which can help us to relax and enjoy the moment.

An exercise that can help with this change in perspective is writing down all the strong feelings you feel in a day, whether it’s in a notebook or the notes app or a piece of paper you found lying about. This activity will help make you more mindful of your feelings and to prescribe equal value to all emotions. This can remove some of the anger that comes with feeling “bad” emotions.

It’s important to remember that feelings happen for a reason. We often feel anxiety because we care deeply about something. We may feel angry because our bodies tell us something is not morally fair or right. A feeling of joy can tell us that we feel comfortable in a particular place or with a specific person. All feelings are valid and essential, and one feeling doesn’t deserve more mental space than another. Psychotherapist Amy Morin has done lots of research on the importance of accepting feelings—even uncomfortable ones—for mental well-being. Of course, there is a degree to which these feelings can be helpful, as we need balance in our emotions. It’s important to remember that these uncomfortable feelings are natural responses and are normal to experience.

Another tip for accepting all your feelings is to envision yourself as one of your friends. Dr. Kristin Neff is one of many psychologists who promotes this idea, and she explains that we need to treat ourselves with compassion. If a friend approached you saying they were feeling anxious or depressed, you would never shame them for those feelings. While to yourself you may say, “I can’t believe I’m anxious AGAIN,” or “I’m such a mess;” to a friend, you would say something like, “It’s okay to feel this way,” or “You are going to get through this”. Talk to yourself with kindness and in the way you would talk to a friend experiencing the same feelings. I know this activity may be overlooked or feel unnatural, but when you play into it, the benefits may amaze you.

While this is just scratching the surface of the acceptance of emotions, these tips may start to help you understand the negative effects of punishing yourself for having feelings. Remember that unless you’re congratulating yourself for every good thing you feel, you shouldn’t be beating yourself up for every negative thing you feel. Feelings come and go, so appreciate the bad ones just as much as you value the good ones. Free yourself from the pressure to always feel good, and remember that while life may seem short, it’s very long!

Maya Gelfand

Queen's U '24

Maya Gelfand is a fourth year film and media student at Queens University.