What Does It Mean to Sit with Your Feelings?

Last updated: Mar 15, 2023

Feeling overwhelmed by emotion in an extremely difficult time. 

Hopefully, there are ways you can learn to manage these situations - when taken over by emotions - better.

If you already heard the phrase "to sit with your feelings", here is a short explanation of what it means, and how it can help you to manage better emotional overwhelm.

Focused Woman Sitting

Sit with your feelings instead of pushing them away.

When we experience strong emotions like sadness, anger, or fear, it can be tempting to try to push them away. Emotions can overtake your mind so strong, that it might look easier in the short-term to just shut down our feelings (and event this might not be possible sometimes). But it looks to be an easier solution than facing them. However, this usually only leads to more pain and suffering in the long-run.

So here comes another option: to sit with your feelings. What does it mean? Not to escape your emotions, but face them. Just for a short time. You can handle this.

Create a safe space for yourself to explore emotions as they come. Even thought toughest ones. Don't get caught up in ruminating or obsessing about the feelings; simply acknowledge their presence. Allow yourself the kindness and understanding that you need. Sit with your feelings instead, don't push them away. Finally, out mind will start to be less obsessed with them.

4 Steps to Sit With Your Feelings

1. Name What You Feel

Naming our feelings can be a powerful step towards self-acceptance and understanding. Giving a name to your emotions can help you understand why you’re feeling the way

When we recognize our inner emotions, we become more connected to ourselves and can enter a space of self-compassion. You may feel scared, frustrated, disappointed... or even joyous - whatever it is, try to give your feelings a name. Don't rush it, take your time. With naming your emotions you gain clarity on uncomfortable feelings, which is the first step to being able to process them and gain understanding into why we are feeling that way. 

It’s important not to judge your emotions. Be kind and patient with ourselves when labeling emotions. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ emotion, but only deeper understanding of what is happening inside us.

2. Remember That Feelings Will Pass

Even the worst feelings will eventually pass and not last forever. Admitting to this will make up a space for ourselves to process these highly uncomfortable emotions.

With this perspective, we may start perceiving the world around us more clearly, without the unnecessary emotional overload. This way we can focus more on opportunities instead of being blacked out by our emotions.

3. Allocate Time to Process Your Feelings

Setting aside some dedicated time where you can actively focus on your feeling without any distractions is very important. The better you explore and experience your uncomfortable thoughts and feelings in the short term, the better you will be able to cope with them later on. Journaling may also help. Let your thoughts flow freely, put them on the paper and what them slowly release your mind and getting back clarity.

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths and return to the present moment. 

4. Watch for Triggers

Unpredictable situations in life come and go. It is important to watch for triggers, which you know may trigger your emotions. Knowing what triggers you emotionally can make it easier to spot the triggers and deal with them you get caught up in emotions.

These may be also your thoughts, not only situations. With the steps above, you learned to gain more insight into yourself. You could be also better able to recognize when any uncomfortable thought comes into your mind, that could trigger or get you into an uncomfortable state.

Be curious and non-judgmental towards your emotions

Try to have a compassionate and non-judgmental attitude towards your feelings.

If your mind is telling you to create an explanation for the emotions you experience, just give yourself permission to simply feel. Turn your attention to the sensations in your body and give them space without fear or shame.

Remain curious and open, rather than pushing away or suppressing your emotions. Open up to this opportunity to better understand yourself, while also building resilience against depression and anxiety.

It's like encountering a spider on your leg and allowing it to stay; being with your emotions, whether they are pleasant or uncomfortable, is an invitation for growth.

Sitting with difficulty is challenging, yet by not denying it, you're granting yourself the freedom to understand their messages.

Learn to manage your emotions in the short time and release tension

It is always better to set aside a short time to process our emotions, that to be stuck with them the whole day. This short time, when we are fully focused on our emotions, has many benefits in the long term to handle what is needed.

With practice, we can develop emotional intelligence and skills that allow us to better manage our reactions to what life throws at us.