5 Steps to Feeling Your Feelings
How to Process Emotions
Stop using food as a buffer for your negative emotions
We talk a lot in this podcast about recognizing the thoughts that precipitate our emotions. Remember, all emotions are the result of a thought. But we also really need to spend some time talking about the power of those emotions over our actions.
We do a lot of things to avoid negative emotion: we eat, drink alcohol, watch tv, scroll social media etc, all in an effort to BUFFER those feelings we don't want to feel. Not only do we avoid feeling those negative emotions, but we then go further and avoid situations, relationships, opportunities, etc. that might trigger us to feel that emotion we're avoiding. Our life gets smaller and smaller, avoiding the negative means we also get less of the positive.
We do that, because honestly feeling those negative emotions like sadness, shame, pain, guilt, loss, etc. SUCKS! Feeling those feelings is not a fun or enjoyable process so of course we avoid it! But we also avoid it because we just don't know how to deal with those feelings. No one ever taught us how to process emotion so that we can move past it, and it's a CRUCIAL skill if we want to live a bigger life.
In the worlds of therapy, medicine, and coaching there are several modalities for releasing "stuck" emotion, and many of them are very effective, but they also require the help of a professional. In this episode I'm going to give you a simple 5 step system that will help you coach yourself through negative emotion and help you feel your feelings so you can move past them.
The 5 steps are:
1. NOTICE - when you're buffering
2. NAME the negative emotion
3. FEEL the emotion - in your body
4. PROCESS the emotion - go deeper
5. RELEASE the emotion
Can you imagine what if would be like if you no longer NEEDED to buffer with food? How freeing would it be to have the skill to process those negative emotions, to not be afraid of feeling them anymore? Think of the choices that you might make differently, the opportunities you might seize a hold of if you are not afraid anymore to feel those negative emotions? Your life could open up exponentially. It' s not the easy way, but no one ever said you'd get an amazing life by doing the easy thing.
Full transcription available at the bottom of this post
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Welcome back to the No Nonsense Wellness Podcast, episode 50. Today we're going to talk about feeling your feelings. Something we've talked about a lot in this podcast is the importance of not ignoring your feelings. We usually talk about that in terms of eating, instead of feeling we're buffering what we're trying to not feel by eating, drinking, exercising, scrolling social media, there's lots of ways that we avoid negative emotion. But truly the key to moving forward is learning how to feel your feelings, but that's a skill that most of us don't actually have. No one's taught us that. So today, I'm going to give you five steps, to be able to feel your feelings, to process those negative emotions so that you can move on with your life. Okay, let's go.
Welcome back to the no nonsense wellness podcast, the place for women who are trying to do all the things and stay healthy, sane and actually enjoy life in the process. Hey, I'm Tara, a trained therapist, a life coach, a nutrition coach and a fitness instructor. And I'm on a mission to help you take back control of your mind, health and life. Each week, I'll be cutting through the nonsense and getting real with you. I'll bring you the insight and information you need to take control of your weight and health. Find food freedom. And finally break free from the thoughts that are sabotaging you and holding you back. You, my friend, are powerful, and the world needs you to start showing up in a bigger way. It's time to get unstuck and start moving forward. So let's pop in those earbuds, tie up those shoes, let's walk and talk.
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Okay, so onto today's conversation, I am really good at intellectually understanding my feelings and emotions, right. And maybe you are too that's something we talk about a lot in this podcast, I'm really good at identifying the emotion, understanding it on an intellectual level, why I feel that way where that emotion is coming from what thoughts precipitated that emotion, right, all the things, I'm really good on an intellectual level, identifying those things. And those are the things that I teach a lot in this podcast, most of us are really developing that skill. And that's awesome. That's so important. But it's not enough. What I'm not as good at and what you might not be as good at is feeling my feelings. And what I'm really talking about here is feeling the negative emotions. I'm good again, understanding that I'm having a negative emotion, and why I might be having that negative emotion, but then I tend to shove it down, distract myself so that I can just move on. What happens then though is that it always comes back to haunt us, doesn't it? And we're always taught culturally, aren't we to just suck it up, move on. Suppressing negative emotion is seen as healthy, it's seen as strong, expressing these emotions are seen as weak. And I really want you to challenge yourself on this one. If these were lessons that you were taught as a kid, to suck it up, move on, pull on your big girl panties. I'm gonna challenge you on this and suggest that maybe that's what's keeping you stuck. Instead of suppressing. Instead of just shoving it down and moving it on.
Perhaps it's time we start feeling the feelings. Now we talk a lot in this podcast about the importance of not avoiding your feelings, and we avoid our feelings in lots of ways. We avoid them with food, with drinking, with scrolling social media, with watching TV, some of even with exercise. All of those things are just a temporary reprieve. What we do then is just stuff them down and continue to avoid them. And not only are we avoiding feeling our own feelings, but we get so scared of actually feeling our feelings, that we start to avoid anything that we think might trigger those feelings, will avoid situations, opportunities, relationships, experiences, all so that we won't be triggered into feeling the emotion that we are so terrified to feel. Now, I want you to take a second here, and just hit pause on this podcast if you need to. But I really want you to explore within yourself, can you think of things, emotions and particular feelings in particular that you are avoiding no matter how you're avoiding it, there might be multiple ways that you're avoiding feeling this thing. Can you also think of situations that you've avoided doing something that you think might even trigger that feeling, it's really important that we start to identify these things in ourselves.
So you can see how easily we get stuck in our avoidance and buffering behaviors, the only way out is to feel your feelings, you have to feel them, you have to process them, you have to understand them, and you have to release them. When you no longer have to avoid an emotion. When you no longer are afraid of feeling something, then you no longer need all the avoidance behaviors. You see how that works? If I am eating emotionally to avoid feeling something, okay, let me just give you a quick scenario here, I come home from work, I'm super stressed, I'm super overwhelmed. And I don't want to deal with the fact that I feel like I'm failing in my life, that's my emotion, I feel like I'm failing, I sit down on the couch, I start eating crap and watching Netflix so that I don't have to think about that feeling. And I certainly don't want to feel it.
Now imagine if I really just processed that if I processed a feeling of failure, if I really sat with that, and I'm going to tell you exactly how to do that. But if I process that through, and now that emotion no longer has any hold over me, I'm no longer afraid of that emotion, I'm no longer afraid of feeling it, I no longer have to avoid it. And that means I no longer have to do this overeating Netflix crap that I'm doing on the couch. In order to avoid it, I can just make better choices now. Because I don't have to do the things that helped me avoid feeling the things. Once you open yourself up to this idea, you will have such a much bigger and more rich life, you will be so much more open to experience. And I'm not talking about just good experiences. I'm talking about bad experiences too. Because you know what? Whenever you open yourself up to life, good and bad both happen. And we have to be so willing to go through the bad so that we can feel the good. Otherwise, it's just like this flatline. Does that make sense? If your life is flatline, because you're avoiding all the bad, you're also not getting the good. If you allow yourself to feel the negative emotion, you will open yourself to feeling more positive emotion.
So how do we do this? How do we actually feel our feelings? So I'm going to give you five steps. These are five kinds of steps that you can do on your own. Now, in the world of therapy and medicine, and coaching, there are tons of ways that you can do this. And what I want to tell you is that there's ways that you can do that on your own, which is what I'm going to teach you here. But there are tons of other ways that might require a mentor to lead you through a doctor, a therapist, a specialist in different modalities. There's lots of different modalities that help you kind of tap into your feeling and release it. And so what I'm going to give you here today is just one of those ways, but it's a way that you can do on your own.
So the first step, the obvious first step here is to not avoid it. You cannot avoid your negative emotions. And what's required here is a decision: you have to decide that you want to feel your feelings. Right now what we're doing is we are unconsciously deciding which is still a decision, but we are unconsciously deciding that we want to avoid feeling those feelings. So the first step is that you have to decide that you want to feel your feelings. You are willing to go through it even though you know it will suck and you know it will be hard and you know it will not feel good. You have to be willing to go through it. You have to decide that you're willing to go through it. So when you notice that you're feeling a negative emotion you have to catch yourself before you can begin that buffering behavior. And that's what we talk about a lot in the Healthy Mind Healthy Body program. And I've also talked a lot about in this podcast, how to catch yourself, before you begin that buffering behavior, the scrolling, the Netflix thing, the eating the whatever the drinking.
Let me give you an example from my own life that I just noticed that I did very recently, which kind of spurred me to talk about this. I'm sitting on the couch, I'm watching a TV show, the subject matter of the show triggers a negative emotion that's deep within me, my deep seated fear is a fear of not measuring up, not being good enough. That's something that's deep within me, I know it's there. Intellectually, I know where that negative emotion comes from. I know what happened in the show that triggered that negative emotion for me in that moment, I know that I can identify that. But instead of sitting in that for a second, I'm really feeling it and trying to understand it, I immediately picked up my phone that was next to me and started scrolling through it. Like I immediately tried to distract myself from the feeling of not measuring up, I immediately buffered so they would not have to really feel that feeling of fear or even shame, because I know it sucks to feel like that. And I don't like to feel like that. And so I immediately tried to distract myself. So what I know that I need to do was notice that I buffered which I did after the fact right? Put down the phone, pause the show, take a few minutes to just really sit and process that feeling. And that's what I'm going to show you how to do here is how to process. But the first step is to notice like, Ooh, okay, I'm buffering right now, I am avoiding something right. Now, what is it?
And that's step number two, you have to name it, you have to identify the thing, you have to identify the motion, the emotion that you're avoiding, you have to give it a name. There are some core negative emotions. The four core negative emotions are pain, fear, shame, and guilt. And I would also add, probably these all fit under those four, hurt, anger, sadness, and jealousy. Those are going to be the biggies, the big negative emotions that you're going to feel you really need to understand it, name it, this is the intellectual part, we're not even in the processing part, this is still the intellectual part, I have noticed that I'm buffering something. And so now I'm going to name that something. What is the emotion that I am trying to avoid right now? What triggered this? Where is it coming from? Why did I start thinking about this so that I felt like I needed to buffer it right? on an intellectual level, I want you to name it and understand it makes sense.
Okay, so then step three, I have to not buffer I have to willingly choose to put down my buffering technique, put down the food, put down the phone, turn off the TV, put down the wine, whatever it is that I am currently using to buffer that negative emotion, I have to see it and stop it. And now I'm going to understand this is where I start feeling the feeling. Okay, so far, we have recognized that we're buffering, we are naming and understanding the emotion that word buffering and why it's there and where it's coming from. And now we are going to feel it. Emotions are not just something that happen in your brain, emotions happen in your body. And this is so important. And this is the thing that you're never taught. So what you need to do then, is get really quiet and really tune in to where you feel the emotion in your body and what it feels like. Now you cannot do this with distractions. You cannot do this while you're looking at your phone or watching TV or sitting in a room with other people. You probably need to leave the room and go sit by yourself somewhere.
Feel it in your body. Where do you feel it? What does it feel like? Is it hot? Is it cold? Is it tight? Is it small? Is it big? Does it feel like a wave? What does it feel like in your body when you sit with this negative emotion really describe it? If you find it hard to do this, and you might find this really hard to do at first. It's a skill that you've never tried before. Here's what you're going to do. When you notice your buffering, you're going to name what you're buffering, right name, the emotion, then you're going to remove yourself, go to a room, get quiet by yourself. And you're going to try and feel it in your body. And if you're having trouble feeling it in your body, do this. I want you to imagine that I have a syringe, right I'm giving you a shot. And I'm going to inject you with that emotion, the emotion that you've named, call it fear, sadness, shame, guilt, whatever it is. I'm going to inject you right in the arm right into your body. Because of some of my autoimmune stuff, I was getting vitamin B infusions and different vitamin infusions. And when you get, I don't know if you've ever had that, but when you get a vitamin B infusion, you can feel it literally from your arm, where it goes in, you can feel it like a warm wave just flow all the way through your body, like you can feel it hit your veins, and you can feel it just pump and spread through your whole body. So I want you to imagine that, but I want you to imagine I have just injected you, instead of with vitamins with that negative emotion. Where do you feel it in your body? How does it feel? How is it spreading, pinpoint the location? What does that location feel like, for example,
sadness might feel heavy, it might feel heavy in your chest, it might feel heavy in your stomach, it might make your lungs feel like they kind of constrict and tighten up, you might notice that your breathing changes, like really start to take notice this emotion, how it is operating in your body, you really need to connect to this. And this might take you a few times to really start to identify. But this is what you're going to do. This is literally how you feel your feelings. You do not feel your feelings in your head, you feel your feelings in your body. It's so important that you just allow your body to feel what that emotion feels like. And then really describe it in detail, write it down, if that helps you. So you identified let's say shame. And now you are going to write down shame feels like bla bla bla bla bla bla bla, however it feels in your body. That's how you are going to get better at identifying these things as well. Because you'll know that when my body feels like this, when I feel this negative emotion in my body. I know what that is. Oh, I know what that is. That's shame. That's what shame feels like.
So now we're going to move to step four. So we have decided that we're willing to feel our feelings, we have named the negative emotion when we notice ourselves buffering, we notice what we're buffering from, we have now learned how to feel that feeling in our body. And now step four is we're going to mindfully explore the root of that emotion, when you allow yourself to feel the surface emotion. So let's say it's anger, right? Anger is an easy one, we can all identify when we are angry, and we can identify that it's anger, right? When I can identify that it's anger, then I can sit with that and feel it. And I can really start to tap into the deeper emotions that are really at play, maybe it's hurt, maybe it's sadness, maybe it's fear, maybe it's shame, maybe it's guilt, all of those things might show up on the surface as anger, but it's not really what's going on anger is just a symptom of the deeper emotion that's really happening.
And that's the next step here, you're gonna get to what's really at the core of your pain of your negative emotion. So just as always, I want you to get really curious, start to ask yourself, so you're still sitting here quietly, right? I felt it in my body. And now you get curious, ask yourself questions. Don't get really attached to any thoughts, just kind of let the thoughts come into your brain, let it flow through. Don't know blame, blame, by the way is avoiding that is an avoiding technique. So if I'm sitting there and I'm like, I'm feeling angry, and here's where I'm feeling it. And I'm angry because my husband bla bla bla, blame is avoiding, you are deciding and understanding what's going on for you remember, you cannot control what anyone else is doing. And so if we're trying to blame other people for how we feel, we're never going to move forward. So do not blame anyone for what's going on inside your own mind in your own body at this moment, that's avoidance behavior. So I want you to sort of picture your initial emotion being on the surface of a lake. Okay, so let's go back to anger. And anger is on the surface of the water. Like really, the imagery is really actually powerful in your brain. So imagine the water, and on the top of that water is anger, and it's just floating there. And you know how anger feels. And so I want you to picture anger floating on top of the water. And now you're gonna put your head under, and you're gonna start diving down. And I want you to see what you see, as you dive down. I want you to feel what you feel. As you dive down, I want you to go a little deeper, what's beneath the surface, what's just beneath the surface, my relationship stress about our relationship that's just beneath the surface, what's a little bit lower? It's a little bit deeper feelings of inadequacy about my relationship. Okay, what's a little bit lower than that? feelings of inadequacy about myself. Okay, and do you see where We're just going a little deeper and a little deeper. And as you go down level by level to really understand what's at the root of that anger that's on the surface, you're going to pay attention again how it's feeling in your body. That's going to be so important because that's how you identify, you know what anger feels like. But now you will have an understanding of what inadequacy feels like, What shame feels like, where do you feel it in your body?
Do you see? It's all related, right? We're using our mind to explore our body, inside what's happening when we feel those emotions, we're making all the connections, the mind body connections, that's what we're here for. Right? We always talk about healthy mind healthy body, well, you can't separate the two they work together. And this is how. So we've gone through four steps. So far. First is we're recognizing the buffering behavior, we're being willing to go through the negative emotion, we're being willing to process it, we identify that emotion, we learn how to feel it in our body, and really understand how to do that. We've learned how to mindfully explore that emotion and go a little bit deeper and figure out what's really lurking underneath the surface for us.
And now we need to talk about step five, how to release this, how to set it free, so that you don't have to buffer from it anymore. For a lot of people. This is a physical release, letting negative emotion go is a physical release. Remember, because emotion is physically happening in your body. So often it requires a physical release to get rid of it. Let me give you an example. I personally am a crier. I cry it happy, I cry it sad, I cry commercials, I cry. I am a crier, my typical way to release emotions is to cry it out. It's like my body physically releasing suppressed emotions, I just cry, it physically comes out of my eyeballs. Does that make sense? Sometimes people find that they need to actively release an emotion. Like screaming, you've heard of like primal screams, that's a thing for a reason. Sometimes you have to scream and let it out. Or sometimes punch and let it out right punch a pillow, take a boxing class, I will tell you from personal experience, there was one point in my life where I was having a lot of issues in a personal relationship
and I was suppressing a lot of anger. And below the anger was a whole lot of other stuff. And I literally started going to a boxing class so that I could punch it out. And the physical release of punching the anger out helped me get to the deeper level of what was really going on for me. And then I could work on releasing that. Does that make sense? So physically doing something can help you release it. Now I want to draw a distinction here. Because sometimes people go to work out as a buffering mechanism. Okay, so sometimes people's exercise is I don't want to feel the feeling. So I'm gonna go run around for a while to avoid it. And that is not what I'm talking about. I was taking a boxing class not to avoid my feelings, but actually feel my feelings and literally punch them out. So I really want to make sure that you are understanding for yourself which one of those two things you're doing okay? Some people physically release, literally like throwing up.
Sweating, pooping, burping, throwing up, don't be shocked if you start going through this process and really understanding what emotions are doing inside your body. If those emotions physically want to come out in some way. I'm not saying that that will happen. It doesn't happen to me. And I don't know anyone personally, that that happens to you. But I know it does happen. So don't be shocked. If you poop out your emotions, or you throw up your emotions, right? Have you ever been so upset? I know you've had kids so upset that they literally throw up, right? My kids have done that. They literally cried until they threw up. Okay, well, that's kind of what we're talking about here. Right? They physically released that in the form of throw up. So I'm definitely not saying that this is going to happen, I'm just saying it could so don't be totally shocked by it.
So another way that I physically release is praying it out. And for me, that also involves crying. So it's like twofold for me. I'm physically crying. And then I'm also praying at the same time, I'm giving up that negative emotion. I'm giving up those feelings to a higher power. I'm praying, and I'm crying. And those are the biggest emotional releases for me personally. I just hand it to God. I trust that he's got me in his hands. I trust that there's nothing that he can't handle. I trust that I cannot do this by myself, that I am failing at trying to do this by myself. I repent for trying to hold on to it for so long. And I literally like give it up physically I cry it out, mentally I give it up, I get rid of it, it is the biggest possible release in the best possible way. So if you're a prayer, I highly recommend praying to release these negative emotions.
And sometimes, sometimes, it doesn't just happen like that, it doesn't just release, sometimes things are really stuck in there. Right, sometimes we get to a real deep seated thing, it's been there for a really long time, it's like this tiny little monster that's inside you and doesn't want to give up, its hold on you. And sometimes we have to be okay with just carrying it around for a while, release of those felt emotions doesn't always happen quickly. Sometimes it takes a while, sometimes we have to just be okay with carrying it around with us for a little while. I want you to imagine this, imagine that you've got a backpack on and in that backpack is this negative emotion, and it's not releasing it staying stuck in there, you're aware of it, you've identified how it feels, you felt it, you've maybe felt it multiple times, you're just kind of carrying it around with you for a while and that backpack, and it's okay, it's okay, it doesn't need to affect you all the time. It's just gonna sit in that backpack, and sometimes you're gonna feel it, and you're gonna be like, Oh, I know what that is. I know, I know that feeling. It's still in my backpack, I feel it, you're going to continue to name it, you're going to continue to feel it. When you feel the feeling you're going to remind yourself like, let's say it's shame, because that's such a big one for so many of us. And if you've never read a Brene Brown book, I highly recommend you do that. Because you will be so surprised maybe not that surprised at how much shame so many of us carry around. So many use that for an example. Shame is a hard one to let go of shame is a hard one to release. And so sometimes you just need to put it in that backpack and just carry it around. And when you feel it, when you identify it, you're going to know, this is what shame feels like, it's still in that backpack. This is what shame feels like, you might have to remind yourself of that a lot, you're gonna feel it, you're gonna say this is what it feels like. And after a while of feeling it and naming it and praying about it and working on it, you're gonna realize that the backpacks not there anymore, you're gonna realize like, Oh, my load feels lighter. I'm not carrying around this extra thing anymore, it is actually gone. That actually can happen. But it doesn't always happen immediately. So you have to be willing to kind of carry it around for a while. Does that makes sense?
We need to get better at just sitting in the negative emotion and not always finding ways to avoid it or to even avoid the possibility of feeling it right. Sometimes it's not like we feel it and then we try to avoid feeling it more. Sometimes we literally avoid the possibility of feeling it. We avoid things in our life, people, relationships, opportunities, experiences, where there might be a possibility that it could bring this thing up for us. Have you ever met someone? Or maybe you are someone who we would say maybe is non committal in relationships scared about long term relationships? Well guess what? The reason that that's happening is because you got some deep seated negative emotions in there that you are not feeling you are not processing and working through and releasing. And so you are avoiding relationships, not because you just like being single and whatever. What you're probably doing is avoiding relationships, because you are avoiding the possibility of feeling this negative thing that you don't want to feel inadequacy, rejection, failure, whatever it is, you might be avoiding relationships so that you can avoid feeling this thing. We have to identify, we have to understand that that's what we're doing. We cannot learn from things that we avoid. You have to do the hard in therapy, there's a saying it's called “follow the resistance”. No, I'm not talking about Star Wars. I'm talking about whatever you're resisting the most, whatever you're buffering the most, whatever you're avoiding the most. That's exactly where you need to go in order to move forward. You have to stop avoiding feeling your feelings.
It's important in this process to give yourself tons of grace though, you must give yourself some grace. This is going to be a crappy process. It hurts. It's not fun. It is not enjoyable in any way. It is honestly kind of terrible sometimes. But we have to be willing to do it because imagine what's on the other side. Let me just paint this picture for you. If you are feeling the thing and you're buffering it you're avoiding it and you're avoiding situations that might bring it up and then you deal with it. You sit in it, you sit in the gross, you cry it out, you feel it in your body, you feel it multiple times in your body, you process this thing. And then it no longer has power over you. Imagine how free you now are. Imagine how unafraid you now are in your life. Let's go back to shame. If you really sit with shame, if you understand shame, if you deal with shame in your own body, in your own mind, how you feel about it, what experiences you've had, if you do that, if you go through that process, you will not be afraid to feel it again. Can you imagine the things that you might do in your life, the choices that you might make differently, the opportunities you might seize a hold of if you are not afraid anymore to feel shame, because it's the thought of feeling it that we're afraid of it's not even the feeling of it that we're afraid of. It's the thought of feeling it that we're afraid of? What if you weren't afraid of that anymore? What if you were not afraid of failure anymore? You failed, you dealt with it, you went through the emotions of it, you felt the heavy crappiness of it, and then you moved forward? What could you do in your life, if you were no longer afraid to be afraid, if you were no longer avoiding the feeling of fear, your life would open up exponentially. And that is so important. That's what we're talking about.
Now I know, I've gone away from food and fitness. But that's why we're here. If we're going to talk about wellness, I need to talk about all of you. And this is so important. So as you go through this process, give yourself tons of grace, tons of grace for it to suck, embrace the suck. That's a saying for a reason. You need to be really empathetic and kind to yourself, know that what you've been through is hard. Acknowledge how hard you're working, acknowledge how hard this process is, acknowledge how bad you're going to be at it for a while and how Okay, that is, there's nothing wrong with you. You just have never learned how to do this. So I hope that you can practice this, I hope that you can start putting this into motion, and really start being willing to feel the crappy stuff. Because if you are willing to feel the crappy stuff, good stuff gets so much bigger. If this was helpful to you, I want you to share this with your friends posted in your stories take screenshot tag me in it, share it with your friends, I feel like this is a skill that almost every single one of us that hasn't been through graduate school as a therapist and even many who have needs to learn needs to use and needs to put into practice so that we can move forward with confidence and without fear in our life. Let me know if you have tried this. Let me know if you have questions about this process. I really want to help you through this. So hop in the community group on Facebook, send me a message send me a DM just get a hold of me share it with your friends and until we talk again, my friends, BE WELL
Thanks so much for being here. If you found value in today's episode, will you do me a favor and head over to iTunes? Find the no nonsense wellness podcast and subscribe and leave me a review. It would mean the world to me and help other people find the show. And I'd love to connect with you more. So find me on Instagram. I'm @tarafaulmann. Take a screenshot of this episode and share it in your stories and tag me. I'll see you over there.