Emotions are like waves. They come and go throughout the day, giving us information. At times they can feel completely overwhelming and wild. Then, at other times, they can be at peace. And sometimes, somewhere in between.
But what happens when we hold emotions inside of us longer than they were intended to stay? They become bottled up, compressed, and begin to amplify. These emotions and feelings that were once a manageable size can start to feel out of control. We build walls to contain them. But that only causes the wave to come crashing in with force, instead of gracefully rolling to and from shore as intended.
This process of bottling up emotions is often caused by fear – it’s not safe to share them with certain people around you, you’re afraid you’ll be judged, you’re afraid you’ll be seen as weak. There are so many reasons emotions can be held inside of us, but eventually they will come out. They may burst out at another person, or at ourselves, or you can choose to process through them in a way that honors the emotions and allows those waves to gently return to shore. ?
A method for processing emotions that I’ve appreciated is journaling. It’s a way to release my emotions and thoughts into the world. I’ve found that having questions to respond to can help me dig deeper into my situation and kickstart the writing process.
The questions that I use to process emotions in my own journaling practice are:
1. How do you feel right now?
– I answer honestly and as completely as I’m able to in that moment. It can be helpful to use an emotions wheel so I can pinpoint exactly where I am at.
2. What do you need to hear right now?
– In this question, I consider what I have been expecting from others, and I choose to give that to myself. Have I been seeking praise, validation, or affirmation? I tell myself what I have been wanting to hear from others.
3. How was your day?
– I’ve found that processing through the events of my day can release any tension I’ve built up, and it’s an opportunity to celebrate any little (or big) wins.
4. What am I grateful for today?
– The idea of gratitude can seem cliche, but it’s such a huge piece of turning my day around and also practicing awareness of the good in my life. When I’m overwhelmed by emotions, it tends to draw focus inward. Gratitude is a way of turning that focus around and outwards, to what I’m truly thankful for.
These prompts are written in the format to be used as an end of the day reflection, but you could certainly adjust them for a morning journaling practice. Another creative way they can be used through your day is as a mental self-check (without paper), or even processing through a voice note to yourself.
Asking thoughtful questions can be a helpful tool to process through life’s ups & downs in your current season, and they can be helpful to look back and see how far you’ve come. You can also use your answers to make connections between emotions you felt and how your day went. When you can make those connections, it gives you the power to change how you respond in the future, guiding those waves of emotions in and out in a healthy, life-giving manner.
I’m excited to hear from you; how do you plan to use these journal prompts? How are they helping you make changes in your life?