The Feelings & Self-Care Connection

By Denise 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?

Once you have tapped into your feelings what are they telling you? Do you need to do more of something because it’s calming you, bringing you joy, making you laugh? Do you need to take a step back because you’re angry, irritated, overwhelmed? Is something causing you discomfort because you’re ashamed, lonely, sad, depressed, or anxious?
How are these feelings showing up in your behavior? Are you becoming distant, growing short-tempered, making mistakes, blaming others?
When you stop and recognize what you’re feeling, you can then be honest with yourself and figure out your own needs. Remember: you are worthy and entitled to feeling your feelings, and no one can tell you what to feel.Again, your feelings are not facts, but they are what you feel. Honor them. Set boundaries when you need to space to take care of your feelings and you.
Be self-compassionate when your feelings are tough (no one can bully us like we bully ourselves!). Forgive yourself. When you’ve not been so nice to yourself, you can’t be all that good to others.

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.


Denise Williams

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