Talking about your feelings can sometimes be a challenging and scary thing to do, even as an adult. However, it's worth learning how to do it as there are lots of benefits to you and the people you are close to.
Bottling up emotions is not good for you or those around you, especially if those feelings suddenly explode out.
Talking about how you’re feeling makes you feel better and improves your relationships with the people in your life such as family, friends and colleagues.
If you have children, it’s important to talk about your feelings, and theirs, so they can learn how to do it in a healthy, positive way. Talking about your feelings is a sign of strength, not weakness and having someone listen to you is sometimes all it takes to feel better.
But how do you talk about your feelings? Here are our top tips:
1. Find someone to talk to
This may seem obvious, but it’s important to have someone to talk to that you trust. This could be a friend, family or whānau member, colleague, someone your community or church, or a professional.
2. Identify your feelings
A key part of being able to talk about your feelings is being able to identify what you’re feeling. Are you hurt, sad, angry or scared? Are you feeling several emotions at once? Noticing what is happening in your body can provide clues to what you are feeling. For example, maybe your stomach churns when you feel anxious or scared, or your pulse rate increases when you are angry.
3. Write your feelings down
Writing what you are experiencing down in a diary or somewhere else can help you work out what you are feeling and why. Once you know what you are feeling, it also makes it easier to talk to someone else about them.
4. Accept your feelings
Remember everyone is feeling something all the time. There are no good feelings or bad feelings – they are all just part of being human. It’s okay to be worried, nervous, unhappy or upset. It’s okay to cry. You are human and life can be tough sometimes.
5. Set aside time to connect
Connecting with others creates a chance to talk. This could be sharing a meal around the dinner table, having one-on-one time, or doing an activity with someone. If you have children, make time each day when you ask them how their day went and how they’re feeling. Ask them about something good that happened and something bad that happened.
6. Model talking about your feelings
If you have children, be a role model for them. Talk about how your day went, including both good and bad things and how you felt about them. By modelling this type of behaviour your children learn how to talk about their feelings and that it’s okay to do so.
7. Learn to listen
Communication is a two-way street. Being a good listener is just as important as knowing how to talk about your feelings. If you’re a good listener, then people are more likely to listen to you when you talk.
8. Use a template
A common way to talk about your feelings is to use the phrase, “I feel … when you … because …". For example, "I feel angry when you don’t do your share of the housework because I end up having to do it". This can help you articulate what you’re trying to say in a logical, measured way.
9. Seek professional help
If your emotions are overwhelming you or you feel depressed, anxious or suicidal, please contact your GP or a counsellor or therapist.