What to do with BIG feelings

Woman with little birds flying out of her head

There are a lot of feelings happening right now, aren’t there? It’s totally normal to feel anxious, sad, overwhelmed, happy, creative, grateful, and angry all in the same day. Or the same 10 minutes.

Even though it’s normal, sometimes it’s hard to know WHAT to do with these big feelings when they pop up. For a long time, I preferred to ignore them. I shoved them down and got on with my to-do list. I didn’t have time to deal with my feelings!

The numbing happens next. It’s the extra glass of wine. Baking multiple pans of brownies. Binge watching The Crown. Endless scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, or – if you’re cool – Tik-Tok (I’m not. Not a cool gene in me 🙂 )

But you all know that when we don’t actually feel our feelings, they get stuck. They fill up our bodies, causing actual physical pain, like a tight jaw or shoulders. Sometimes they overflow in snippy comments, anger, or a long, ugly cry (nothing wrong with that last one – crying is good!).

Feeling our feelings is hard for many NOT during a pandemic – and now it’s even more in your face because all feelings are heightened. I wrote a blog for Empower Equity Partners on three steps you can take to feel your feelings when they come up. They aren’t hard. They require a little time, but not much. Here’s a link to the article with those three steps: https://www.empowerequitypartners.com/find-inspiration-the-blog/2020/4/17/what-to-do-with-big-feelings

One final word….your feelings aren’t too big. You’re allowed to feel whatever your feeling. You have the capability to feel whatever you’re feeling.

I like to think of our feelings like a wave. If you try to fight the wave and keep your head above the water line, the wave inevitably comes crashing down on you. But if you take a breath and dive straight into the middle of the wave, you’ll come out the other side unscathed.

Feel like you’re failing at everything? Here’s why and what to do about it.

Outline of a person in front of a clock.

A few days ago I posted a poll on Instagram with the question, “Do you feel like you’re failing at everything right now?”

85% of people said YES.

That’s a whole lot of people feeling like they’re failing all over the place.

And I know enough to confidently say – there’s no way you’re failing. You’re amazing. Your mind is just playing tricks on you.

And it also makes sense that you feel like you’re failing – even though it’s a total lie.

Here’s why:

The entire definition of productivity has changed in the last six weeks. Instead of being at work and doing work, you are now multitasking in a million areas at the same time. That makes you feel like you’re doing everything half-way (ie, failing).

It’s also harder to find the time and space to do the deep, uninterrupted work that makes you feel like you’re really accomplishing something.

On top of all of this, our culture constantly gives you the message that you’re worth what you produce. That you better wake up and hustle every day and prove your worth. So when you’re not living up to this ambiguous standard, you feel behind.

And if you’re an overachiever or perfectionist TOO – well, then. This is a recipe for feeling like you’re failing.

Here are three things you can do right now to let go of feeling like you’re failing:

  1. Define what “enough” is – what are the 1-2 work things and 1-2 personal things you need to get done each day? Write them down and know that this is your threshold for enough. And do your best to be realistic in what you deem to be enough! (I know…this one is hard for me, too)
  2. Look for the evidence of what you are doing really well. Things you’re proud of. I assure you, there is plenty of it when you start to look.
  3. Whenever that feeling of failure comes up, repeat to yourself: I am worthy for who I am, not what I do. Say it over and over. You will start to believe it.

P.S. I’m talking a lot about topics like this on Instagram – both in posts and in my stories. Come join me at @heather.whelpley if we haven’t connected there already!

Stay Awake – A poem for those feeling big emotions

Inner voice painting

Last Friday I shared the most raw blog post I’ve ever published. I live alone and I had the realization that I hadn’t touched another living thing in two weeks and it would probably be several more weeks before I did touch another person.

I felt deeply for a few hours. And then I wrote about it. And the next morning I shared that blog here and on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

It was one of the most freeing and healing experiences I’ve ever had.

People popped up from all over the place saying the felt the same way I did and that they were touched by my story. And so many people offered to connect – it was amazing.

It’s also already the second most read post I’ve ever shared – and it’s only been out there for eight days.

Publishing that story of sadness and grief showed me that we can share hard feelings with people. You don’t have to be grateful and happy all the time – even if you are a grateful and happy person!

Right now, with so many ups and downs and uncertainties, it is so important to slow down and give yourself space to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. You don’t have to deny your emotions.

On Sunday I wrote a poem about diving into your feelings that I want to share with you today. I call it “Stay Awake.”

When you feel a crack inside of your soul,
Slow down, pry it open, dive into the hole.
Sink, swallow, and let your truth thrive,
This is where you are most alive.
Shed the layers that kept you from hearing your heart,
Take a moment and listen to your whole in the parts.
Find freedom in allowing your feelings to flow,
Nothing held back, you can let it all show.
Stay awake for the wonder, the chaos, the pain,
Stay awake for it all, let go of the shame.
See the light shining from deep in your soul,
Nothing to fix, you were already whole.
So when the going gets tough, let tough be your guide.
Dive into you’re your depths, that’s where magic resides.

The cracks in your soul are an invitation to slow down and feel. You are most alive when you allow your feelings to flow through you – sadness, anger, joy, wonder, and everything in between. This is where your magic resides 🙂

Living alone during a pandemic

Woman looking out a window

Earlier today I went on an early evening walk in Hidden Falls Regional Park. It was a gorgeous evening – unexpectedly sunny, almost no wind, and a downright balmy 52 degrees for late March in Minnesota.

There were plenty of people walking, running, and fishing in the park. Some were alone like me, many in couples and families. As I passed groups walking in the opposite direction, they moved into a single file line and balanced on the edge of the concrete path, forcing every possible inch between us to ensure safe social distancing.

Towards the end of my walk, an exceptionally cute dog came towards me, happily bouncing down the path without a care in the world.

I found myself drawn towards the dog, wanting it to come near me so I could pet it.

Instead, it did what it was trained to do and sauntered right past me. It never even made eye contact.

I was disappointed.

I am not a dog person. I don’t hate dogs, but I’m a little afraid of the big ones (or really any dog that barks and growls at me) and I don’t have much patience for dog smell, drooling, or being all up in your face and everywhere else. Puppies and cute dogs are adorable, of course – I am still human after all – but I’m not generally disappointed when a dog walks past me without making an introduction. Usually I would feel relieved.

Not today.

I realized in that moment of disappointment that I hadn’t touched a single living thing in two weeks. No hugs. No handshakes. No simple touch of the arm. Nothing.

The realization skimmed over the surface and passed by without really impacting me. I finished my walk, stopped at Lund’s to pick up a few groceries, and headed home to FaceTime with my niece for a sing-a-long and watch Grey’s Anatomy.

And then I started reading How Will The Pandemic End in The Atlantic. Studying the different scenarios and timelines plunged me deep into the knowing that it will likely be many more weeks before I touch another living thing.

That’s when the tears started. I cried on and off for what seemed like longer than a reasonable amount of time. I tried to go to bed and realized there was no point.

So now I sit here writing. With dried tears salted to my cheeks and new ones intermittently streaming down my face.

I cry because I am grieving. I cry because I am uncertain. I cry because that’s what I do when emotions overflow. Their only way out is through tears.

Tears and writing.

I write because, I’ve realized in the last several months, I might be a writer more than anything else. I write to process. I write to create out of my grief. I write to share and find connection. I write to give words to emotions that right now are only coming out in tears.

I write. And I cry. And eventually I will go to bed.

Tomorrow will be better. And, at some point, this grief will come again. It has to. We are not meant to be without human touch. We are not meant to be alone, especially in a time of crisis and change and uncertainty.

We are meant to dance and sing and hug and play and cry and grieve TOGETHER.

And despite my amazing friends and family, despite my spiritual community and entrepreneur network, despite all the incredible support that I know many are not so lucky to have – I am alone. In the most literal, physical sense.

I don’t have uplifting words to end this monologue. This is just where I’m at right now. I’m leaning into the swirl and writing from inside the mess, from inside the grief, from inside a truth I never anticipated needing to face.

That is all.