To “bottle up” means to suppress your feelings. It is when you refrain from venting out that you end up bottling your emotions. Be it due to the the fear of seeming weak or the unwillingness to feel the negativity, but avoiding challenging emotions doesn’t make them go away. In fact, they have an adverse effect on our minds and bodies.
We need to understand just how intrinsically our bodies and minds are connected, and why that makes mental health such a vital part of overall health and well-being. You see, when we home negative emotions like anger and anxiety, we tend to disrupt the normal balance of cortisol—the stress hormone. Not only that, this also leads to a lowered immune system functionality, risk of depression and chronic illnesses like heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.
So, while it is important to acknowledge and express your emotions, the first step is to understand what kind of harm are you causing yourself by bottling up emotions.
1. You end up feeling lonely
When you bottle up your emotions you tend to cut yourself off from others, thus disconnecting from your friends. So, if you have been a good listener to your friends when they are venting out, perhaps it’s time to swap places talk openly about what happening with you.
2. You feel anxious all the time
Bottled up emotions find a way to come out in one way or the other. So, when you choose not to deal with what you are feeling, your mind tends to latch on to the fact that you are trying to deceive it. This sense induces feelings of anxiety, thus making you feel perpetually anxious.
3. You latch onto unhealthy coping mechanisms
Anything in extreme is harmful. So, when you find yourself drinking, smoking, eating, or even working out excessively, know that your mind is trying to avoid the inflow of certain thoughts and emotions.
4. You experience unexplained weight fluctuations
Your body experiences a great deal of stress when you bottle up your emotions. As a reaction it produces the stress hormone, cortisol. This happens as a counteraction to the release of adrenalin. However, it comes with a downside. It suppresses appetite in most people. While you might lose weight initially, once the cortisol takes over and your appetite returns, it leads to weight gain.
5. You’ll experience digestive issues
When your brain experiences stress, it tends to affect the gut as well. It could manifest in the form of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation. This further slows down your metabolism and subjects you to many more issues.
6. You’ll have regular headaches
Headaches on a regular basis without any underlying physical ailments could imply that you are struggling to keep your emotions under control. When this happens you also find it hard to focus and find yourself mostly distracted.
All of these effects confirm one thing, that is, your emotions find a way to surface. And it is up to you if you let them out in a healthy manner or wait till they affect you adversely.
Here are some ways to help you “unbottle” your feelings, straight from the experts.
1. Name them.
Naming emotions is one of the first ways to deal with them and make them “go away” peacefully. In a study led by Dr. Michelle Craske at UCLA about spider phobia, the researchers found that subjects (a.k.a. people) who verbalized more words about their fear and/or anxiety had a reduced response to seeing a spider.
Saying you feel “good” or “bad” probably falls short of describing the strength of your emotion. Are you feeling frustrated? Tired? Annoyed? Thankful? Concreteness really helps here. Usually concreteness only comes through writing or talking with someone, as I have found through personal experience. I can describe my feelings or emotions in my head, but it just goes in circles: nothing resolves. However, if I write them down or verbalize them, I can get over them quicker.
2.Write a journal entry.
Research has shown that journaling can:
- reduce stress levels
- help you problem solve more effectively
- improve your mental and physical health (sounds great to me!)
Don’t just write everything factually. Give some color to your writing with words that describe how you felt in reaction to an event, and why you felt that way.
3. Talk to someone.
This one may not come naturally to introverts. However, talking through your emotions with someone helps you:
- sort through the problem
- see the situation from a different perspective
If you are not/do not want to go to a psychologist, you can talk to:
- a good friend
- someone who would keep your secrets
- someone you can trust
Open up and talk to them. Describing and talking about an emotion out loud tends to decrease the effect of it and helps you come to a resolution.
4. Take a solitary brisk walk or exercise.
According to the American Physiological Association, even five minutes of moderate intensity exercise will improve your mood. Just five minutes! You definitely have time to do that!
Personally, I always feel happier, calmer and more energetic after a walk. Even if I walk along a busy street with hundreds of people passing me, I have space to think and reflect (and name my emotions). It is also one way of having introvert alone time, and taking a break from the extroverted world.