Learning to express myself

Published 10:14 pm Thursday, January 16, 2020

By Tonya S. Swindell

I may not feel happy every minute of every day, but I’m thankful for a variety of tools that help me to express my emotions better. A mental health occupational therapist taught me how to use statements beginning with the words, “I feel….” to acknowledge and express my emotions in a respectable manner. That tool helps to clarify my thoughts and notify others about my feelings when necessary.

A kind of humorous but therapeutic thing I do to get in touch with my emotions is to use a simple magnetic display. It allows me to select a word and corresponding emoji to show how I may be feeling. Although my thoughts or the way I perceive certain events may change, that little activity helps to clear my mind and acknowledge my feelings so that I can move forward with an open heart.

Email newsletter signup

Other practical tools like talking to psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, chaplains, trusted family members or close friends have also been helpful. The most beneficial interactions occurred when the individual with whom I shared my concerns didn’t necessarily offer advice. Instead, he or she listened patiently to let me know that my feelings mattered and my opinions were valued.

A Facebook post shared by an organization called Hesed Place added insight about why the support I received was so effective. The post reads: “When someone is broken, don’t try to fix them. (You can’t.) When someone is hurting, don’t attempt to take away their pain. (You can’t.) Instead, love them by walking beside them in the hurt. (You can.) Because sometimes what people need is simply to know they aren’t alone.”

Writing has become a good way for me to share my thoughts and to let people know that they are not alone. It has also helped me to reflect on my past, consider the present and make plans for my future. In many ways, writing or journaling has allowed me to acknowledge my feelings and express heartfelt emotions.

Another Facebook post helped me to identify when my feelings may be signs of deeper issues. The popular post reads as follows: “Your anger? It’s telling you where you feel powerless. Your anxiety? It’s telling you that something in your life is off balance. Your fear? It’s telling you where you’re overextended and burnt out. Your feelings aren’t random, they are messengers. And if you want to get anywhere, you need to be able to let them speak to you, and tell you what you really need.”

I find it helpful to express myself in many different ways. Various websites offer numerous suggestions for activities like dancing, drawing, listening to music, singing or painting. Although I may not feel pleasure or contentment every minute of every day, I am glad I can learn to manage my emotions and experience happiness along the way. One of my goals for the new year is to discover other ways in which to express myself.

Tonya Swindell is an occupational therapist. She is also a teacher for Kingdom Building Institute (kingdombuildinginstitute.org). She can be reached at 1brightot@gmail.com.