Building Emotional Awareness

Recognizing and naming our emotions can be tough. Sometimes we are so busy we rarely notice our feelings. Other times, our emotions can be so intense that we don’t even take a moment to recognize them before we react to them. Maybe you grew up in a family where you didn’t talk about your feelings, which can also make acknowledging our emotions tough.

One of the first steps to building emotional awareness is actually quite simple, although it may sound silly: say your emotions out loud. This helps to highlight the emotion as it arises in the moment. It can help to bring down the intensity of distressing feelings because the more you bring your emotions into the light, the less urge you may have to do something drastic or unhealthy with them. Saying the feeling out loud forces you to pay attention to what you are experiencing before reacting to it. It also helps you get comfortable discussing your feelings with others. You can do this alone or with someone else.

It may be helpful for you to filter through the following questions and prompts:

1. What is happening and where are you? This helps ground you in the moment instead of following the course of your feeling and letting it intensify.

2. How are you feeling? Quickly scan your body to locate your emotion. If that doesn’t work, think through what is happening in the situation you’re being faced with and see if an emotion arises more clearly.

3. Say how you feel out loud. Again, name what you are feeling in just one or two words.

4. Intentionally decide what you will do. After allowing the intensity of the emotion to come down for a moment, decide how to proceed.

You can filter through this list in the present or use it for a situation that has happened in the past to learn about how you tend to react to your emotions.

If you are struggling with regulating overwhelming emotions and are in the Chicagoland area, feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000.

Written by Kathryn

2021 Graduate Intern

Resources:  McKay, M., Wood, J. C., & Brantley, J. (2019). The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook: Practical DBT exercises for learning mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. New Harbinger Publications.

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