Recently, two respected co-workers left one of the organizations where I work just weeks apart, and with each departure, I found myself unexpectedly sad. These were professional colleagues, not even people who I spent time with outside of work. Yet up came a strong sadness, without warning, taking me a bit by surprise.
Historically, I’ve avoided sadness and other difficult emotions. I find that I’m not alone. Almost everyone who comes to me for healing work recognizes they need to shift something. Many aren’t aware that what they need to shift is a deep sadness, carried for months or even years and often masked by anger, depression, stress, busyness, and other emotional layers of protection. It’s often surprising and personally challenging to confront someone else’s sadness, because it inevitably taps into my own raw, unhealed places.
Through years of my own work, I’ve experienced the value of working through and allowing emotions as a healthy part of a self-care routine. Though we often think self-care means avoiding anything painful or disturbing, in reality, healthy self-care entails allowing and supporting ourselves to move through difficult emotions and painful experiences. In moving through, we may temporarily feel discomfort, but we also have the opportunity to discover our strength and to experience the contrast between the shadows and the lighter side of life. It’s like a controlled forest fire; sometimes we need to allow parts of our internal forest be burned up in order to make way for new growth that follows the devastation.
That’s why it’s so important to have a dynamic toolbox of self-care techniques to address emotional triggers and deal with sadness and other emotions as they come up. Below are six tips that I’ve cultivated (and am still learning) for my own self-care routine and share with women I support in their own healing work.
Give in – When you feel the waves of sadness coming, don’t fight it. Yes, it can be scary to feel the intensity of those feelings. Yet like waves, they will pass and bring with them a sense of clarity and cleansing.
Breathe – Most of the time when we encounter something difficult or painful, we hold our breath. We take shallow breaths, which restricts the oxygen to our lungs, cells, and other organs. Taking deep, purposeful breaths is not only relaxing, it gets the oxygen where it needs to go to counteract the fight or flight response which happens with stressful experiences. Childbirth classes teach breathing exercises for a reason—because it helps to get you through painful experiences.
Hold space – Don’t let your feelings wash in and drown you. Set a sacred container for the sadness to enter and be enclosed in a safe and intentional way. This can be ritualistic, such as setting up an altar, or involve enlisting the help of a trusted counselor. It can also be energetic, by creating clear energetic boundaries for your personal space, practicing mindful movement like yoga, and using healing techniques, such as energy work and Epsom salts baths, to keep moving the shifted energy out.
Take a break – Working through intense emotions is difficult work. It can’t always be completed in an hour, a day, or even a week. Sometimes it takes years, depending on the magnitude and depth of the situation. Give yourself the gift of taking time out to take care of yourself in other ways. Go to work, tend to your family, nurture yourself with good food. But be sure not to let the important work go until it feels complete.
Be open to more work– Sometimes we feel things are complete and we’ve moved on, only to unexpectedly face them again. This is normal. We did all the work we needed to earlier. We weren’t ready for this wave. Or the timing wasn’t right then, and now it is. Follow the same process of giving in, staying connected to your breath, holding sacred space for yourself and your feelings, and give yourself a break when you need it.
Know when to ask for help – Sometimes, no matter how much you breathe and feel and hold space, it’s simply not enough. You need something more. You must be willing to be honest with yourself and ask for extra support when you need it to see you through safely. This might include talking with a good friend, finding a support group, consulting a therapist, or scheduling a session with an energy healer. This might be a whole team of people supporting you. As long as you get the help you need.
What experiences do you have with sadness? What self-care practices help you get through difficult emotions? Do you feel like you need support working through sadness? Feel free to reply with your comments or questions and let’s chat about whether energy healing might be the support you need. I’d love to be on your team!
Love and light,