The Feelings & Self-Care Connection
By Denise M Williams | Nov 13, 2020
What’s the difference between emotions & feelings, and how do they impact our behavior?
NEWSFLASH: Feelings Aren’t Facts!
Did you know that your feelings are like a warning system in your body, and that they are learned?
They show up in our behavior and come from our belief system but be clear: feelings are not facts . When we ignore, numb, stuff down, and/or let them take over, feelings can create issues for us that impact not only ourselves but the people we love. When we don’t take care of our body’s ‘warning system’, we are neglecting our needs or wants, and this is where our self-care suffers.
IN THIS CORNER: Feelings vs. Emotions
Let’s talk feelings vs. emotions. Did you know they are not the same?
Emotions are our innate alarm system that we are born with; they show up in our body, and are for the most part, similar for all humans. They can create a chemical reaction in the body – like cortisol when we are scared or mad. When we are happy or calm our bodies will release endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. This happens because it’s part of our hard-wiring, unlike feelings that we learn as we grow. Think about it like this: emotions are what you are born with, and feelings are what we learn.
SELF-CARE IS: Feeling your feelings!
So, how can we effectively tap into our feelings to help care for ourselves in a healthy way? Tapping into your feelings can be done at any time, in any place. You only need to stop, breathe, and be mindful. What does it mean to ‘be mindful’? It means tapping into all five of your senses; focusing on deep breathing; allowing your thoughts to just pass through your mind without engaging them; and then, scanning/checking in with your body. What do you notice? Any sensations? Now, notice what feelings come to your mind. Now you’re feeling your feelings!
OK, Now What?
How I learned the hard way: A personal story
Long before learning about the critical connection between feelings and self-care, I learned it the hard way in my own life, making decisions that continue to impact me in my life today.
I am a foster adoptive mother, and I have two amazing daughters, but it was not always easy. My daughters are biological siblings who have a brother, who lived with us for a short period of time.
In the midst of trying to care for all of them, I got lost in the mix, stopped feeling or acknowledging my feelings, didn’t pay attention to being overwhelmed, and as a result, experienced significant health challenges that forced me to make a hard stop.
While trying to care for myself, I had to make the hardest decision in my life in order to save my life: I gave the oldest sister and brother up, and adopted the youngest. A few years later when I was in a better place, I was able to adopt the oldest, but I was never able to bring their brother back. My oldest daughter still struggles and feels less-than, while their brother continues to feel abandoned.
Had I paid more attention to my feelings and my body at the time, I could have made some better decisions – earlier on – that would have had less of a negative impact on the kids. I had to work on being self-compassionate to move through the guilt and shame, and on to self-forgiveness.
Me First Self-Care was born from this place.