Angry woman with steam coming out of ears.

Just Let It Out

Last updated: August 2022

Sometimes, you just gotta let it out. That comes from a caregiver myself as well as seeing my husband go through so much frustration during diagnosis, treatment, and multiple surgeries. One of my past therapists asked me, “When was the last time you just let it out?” I asked her what she meant. She replied, “You know, cry it out. Shout it out. Whatever to get the pent-up energy out of your body.” Honestly, I couldn’t think of the last time I had let it out.

We’re taught to hold back our emotions, and that doesn’t do the mind or body any good

As she and I discussed more about what it means to let emotions go in a healthy way, I realized how much this goes back to how we’re often taught to handle emotions as a kid. There are “good emotions” and “bad emotions.” But as a parent of two toddlers, I see how wrong this view is on emotions. When my kids are sad, sometimes we laugh because it seems silly. Yes, I know it’s upsetting that your piece of chocolate cake is gone. As an adult, it’s easy to forget what that feeling is like when you realize you don’t have another bite. What it’s like wishing you had more, but you can’t conjure up anymore.

Observing my husband go through his diagnosis and treatment challenged me to confront my emotions. But I didn’t know how to handle them for a long time. I struggled with feelings of devastation, confusion, fear, and anger. Instead of processing them in healthier ways, the emotions came out in other parts of my life. Sometimes that was my job or getting into fights with family members.

All emotions have value if we listen to them

But honestly, who would blame me for having those emotions? I had just finished grad school when Keegan was at his worst. He was bedridden for a year, barely able to walk. He was 23-years-old. All I could picture was one of those sad stories about a young adult who died of some rare form of cancer. I developed severe hypochondria, afraid of every little thing happening to me. It wasn’t until recently that I saw those moments 10 years ago for what they were: fear of losing my partner. A very real, possible outcome given his condition and symptoms. Doctors struggled to diagnose him. They looked at us with pity.

We gotta just let it out

These emotions, when not released properly, will just cause so much pressure that we explode. Like I said above, it’s bound to happen. And when we don’t have a plan for how to deal with extreme emotions, we’re going to hurt ourselves or someone else. So what does letting it out look like for me?

  1. Acknowledge the emotion: This may sound silly, but I read in a meditation book once about how to recognize feelings. They emphasized seeing the feeling without judgment. That means not saying, “Awww, man, I’m pissed off again. This is stupid. I have no reason to be angry.” Instead, visualize anger as a person sitting at a table. Greet the anger and ask it what it needs. Yes, this actually works (for me).
  2. Honor the emotion by making a plan: Understand why we have certain emotions and take a moment to figure out an action to take. Angry? It means something needs to change, and soon. Sad? It means you care deeply about something and you may be experiencing loss. Fear? You’re uncertain about the future. Planning the next step will communicate to yourself, “Hey, thanks for letting me know that something is off. I’m going to handle this.”
  3. Create a release plan: This may be finding a close friend’s shoulder to cry on, shouting into a pillow, working out (for those who are able), or even putting on headphones and dancing until you forget what is going on in your brain. It’s not about distracting. (See step 1, you gotta acknowledge it and honor what it needs.) But there are some intense hormones going on in your body with extreme emotions. To help myself physically get through those moments, I have to find a physical release. My favorite is dancing.

So, how do you let it out?

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