Holding in emotions or not feeling them doesn't mean they go away. Feelings can be like the flu.
It's tough being around loud, pushy people who voice every emotion they feel when they feel it. On the opposite end of the spectrum are easier to be around, quiet people who don't complain and keep their feelings to themselves. As it turns out, your body begins suffering physical symptoms when you hold unresolved emotional feelings inside. Research supports that the more the emotional baggage is felt internally, the worse it is for the body. Nowhere is this demonstrated as clearly as heart disease, or with emotional issues such as depression and anxiety.
Women's bodies also suffer from emotions held in. According to experts in mind and body medicine, our emotions affect our bodies because they're linked to our bodies via our immune, endocrine, and central nervous systems. Just as a broken heart affects our heart and can lead to death, what we feel affects our body and how effectively it works. For women, emotions such as unresolved grief or anger at a partner can cause intestinal problems or headaches as easily as it can cause chronic pelvic pain, and many other health issues. Holding in emotions weakens your body's immune system, which make it tougher to ward off colds, infections, and when you do get sick, you have a more difficult time getting well.
Looking at a list of body functions affected when women or men hold in their emotional baggage is staggering. This is why when you become ill, it's so important to evaluate what you're feeling, and what you have been feeling for the past six months — because some illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may take months to become symptomatic.
- Constipation or diarrhea, as well as stomach pain/ulcers
- Back/Neck pain
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain or loss (eating disorders always have an emotional aspect)
- Sexual problems
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cancers (for example, pancreatic cancer may present with depression before the patient is symptomatic with cancer)
Emotional healing is very different from physical healing. When I worked with cancer patients, I was reminded of this fact many times. The tumor went away, and the body healed, but the mind lingered, sometimes for years, over the experience of losing hair, a body part, or trust in your body. Counseling becomes a wonderful way to release pent up feelings so you can heal emotionally. There are many ways you can help a loved one or yourself unpack emotional baggage; try these suggestions and practice them frequently:
- Laugh as much as you can. Watch funny videos and allow yourself to laugh out loud.
- Cry when you need to. Don't hold it in — just let it flow.
- Practice voicing, "I’m angry." You don't have to act on it, just say it out loud and say why.
- Mindful actions. Before you take any medication for a headache, stomachache, backache, to stay awake, or to fall asleep, ask yourself: What am I holding on to? Begin jotting things down. This small action offers huge rewards.
- Massages are a common treatment for people who have gone through horrendous crisis, and they're also a wonderful treatment for fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. Breathe and let go of held in emotional pain as the therapist works on the body part that holds the physical pain.
Medical care has come a long way with advancements in treating so many illnesses. Your body is more than physical though: there is an emotional and soulful part, which is more complicated to treat. Knowing yourself and being able to express uncomfortable feelings is healthy, not only for your mind, but for your body and soul as well.
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