Do you sometimes get overwhelmed with feelings that you just can’t wrap your head around?
Don't worry. This is extremely common in everyone's teenage years! After we reach adolescence, growing up can be one of the most confusing times of our lives. You’ve got an overload of new things to learn, your body is going through a complete physical change, and you have to keep up living a healthy, happy life, to boot.
Sometimes, it’s hard to work out exactly what you’re feeling and why the emotion has appeared in the first place. You may think you’re the only one who feels unfamiliar with your personal emotional landscape, but you aren't alone. There are a lot more emotions than you might expect—and we all have to start somewhere.
In fact, UC Berkeley researchers have identified 27 distinct categories of emotions that we feel on a day-to-day basis—and that's just scratching the surface! All these thoughts, feelings, and emotions (even the ones you don’t understand) are completely normal. You should never resent yourself for having them—you just need to take some time to learn more about yourself and your body. We always seem to forget that your mental well-being needs to be taken care of, too; just because it’s not as obvious as a broken arm or sprained ankle doesn’t mean it should be neglected.
So, we’re here to help you work out exactly what you’re feeling, what it means, and how to get through it. Here are 5 ways to know your feelings better so you can keep on top of your mental well-being!
1. Learn your emotions
The first thing that will help you better understand your feelings is to name them accurately.
Try creating a dictionary full of all the emotions you can think of. These emotions don’t have to be just the ‘bad’ ones - the good ones, the ones you think don’t matter - these all need to go in your dictionary! Writing down the name and description of each feeling will help to build your emotional vocabulary and it will help you learn to identify your feelings.
If you aren't sure where to start, use the feelings wheel to identify what you're feeling right now.
Whenever you’re feeling some form of emotion, you can flick through your dictionary and pinpoint exactly which emotion it is; this can help you to further understand why you’re feeling a certain way and could provide you with ways of dealing with the emotion.
2. Start a journal
Once you’ve got the hang of labelling your emotions, you can start keeping a journal for them—this will help you with other tips further down our list.
The idea is to jot down all emotions you feel exactly when you start to feel them along with an intensity rating, time, date, and description of what happened and who was there.
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This diary-entry style method will help you document all the feelings you experience at any given time, as well as their triggers. You should start to develop some form of emotional awareness, too, which is key to being able to understand and manage your emotions!
3. Look for a pattern
Together, using your dictionary and your journal, you should be able to find your body’s emotional rhythm.
Sometimes, your emotions can form a pattern that will help you identify emotional triggers and stressors in your life.
Triggers and stressors can be lots of different things: hormones, environments, even a lack of nutrition can cause a change in mood and emotions - so it’s important to check over your journal to look for possible patterns.
Do you notice that you get more excited on a Friday, or maybe you feel anxious every Monday morning? These are all important things to note as they could be inadvertently telling you what’s causing your feelings to flair up.
For example, your trigger might be going to school and that’s why you see more anxiety flare-ups during weekday mornings than you do on weekends. Noting your triggers is the best possible way of avoiding unwanted feelings or being able to deal with them better.
4. Find the solution that works for you
If you’ve found an emotional trigger or pattern, you can work on finding a solution to it.
There are plenty of coping mechanisms you can try that will help you ride through uncomfortable emotions and even some ways you can combat them before they become too much to handle.
- Meditation, or just some simple quiet time alone, can be good for destressing and winding down your emotions when they become overbearing
- Meditation-style activities like yoga, pilates, and tai chi are some other calming methods you could try if you’d rather be in a group environment.
- Creative outlets such as crafts, art, and writing are also great ways to take your mind off negative feelings and can help you to ride through and manage them better. Most artists, writers, and even musicians pour their feelings into their work as this helps to create something beautiful and acts as a form of emotional release.
Try out each of these methods whenever you feel an emotion that could overwhelm you and stick with whichever method helps the best.
5. Know when to ask for help
Sometimes, you can’t always find a solution on your own. If you can’t seem to find explanations, patterns, or triggers to your emotions, you might need some extra help.
Hormones and chemical imbalances are a common reason some adults and children get a high volume of negative or confusing feelings - these don’t affect your health and are completely normal to experience.
Certain underlying conditions could also explain intense mood swings, strange emotions, and confusion when it comes to understanding your feelings: ADHD, autism, and even dyslexia could be at fault.
If you have any lingering worries, it’s always best to seek out expert advice from a mental health professional. Therapy and counseling are great ways to get help if you don’t think you have any medical issues. A mental health professional is trained to help you identify your emotions, spot triggers and patterns, and learn the right tools to manage your emotional life.