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If You're An Emotional Mess Thinking Of Your Child Going Away To College, Read This

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How To Not Be Sad With Negative Emotions & Feelings When Your Child Goes To College

Parents, do you want to learn how to not be sad but still feel your emotions when your kid is moving on to better things like college?

No fear! There’s a survival guide for you.

You've spent years honing your parenting skills. You've consumed a lot of parenting tips. So, when your kid is leaving for college (or even heading to kindergarten or preschool), you are going to be full of big and often conflicting emotions and feelings.

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Your logical mind can tell you that everything is "fine", that your child is supposed to be going to college or kindergarten, that this is actually a magnificent opportunity.

Yet, your emotional mind will probably be in a completely different place full of fear, sadness, regret, guilt, worry, you name it. This inner conflict may make you feel like crying with joy in one moment and crying in angst in the next.

Feeling sad about the whole thing is normal and to be expected.

You've spent years caring and parenting. You have poured your heart and soul into this little being (who’s not so little anymore) and it’s time for them to step out, in some way.

Of course, this is scary. Your child is starting a new chapter that doesn’t revolve around you. Of course, you’re going to feel some strong emotions. You might feel sad, excited, lonely, proud, worried, apprehensive, guilty, regret, and grief.

No amount of parenting advice can truly prepare you for that. 

Might some of these be difficult to feel? Yes. Has something gone wrong? No. Are all of these easy feelings to feel? No. However, feel them, we must.

I am in the business I’m in to help teach people how to feel their feelings instead of running from them. Why?

Resisting our emotions is where suffering happens. We are afraid that if we allow ourselves to feel the sadness or loneliness that we’ll go down a deep dark hole and not be able to climb out. The opposite is true.

When we run from or resist emotions they become bigger and more problematic in our life. This is when worry turns to anxiety, resentment turns to rage, and disappointment turns to despair.

While not all emotions feel pleasant, when you allow yourself to feel your feelings, the feeling will pass. Emotions are energy in your body. They are an energy that needs to be processed and passed.

You might cry. You might rage. You might feel pretty awful as you ride the wave of emotion, but it will pass. It is only when we suppress our emotions that we run into trouble.

How do you send your child to school and survive? How do you process through these emotions?

Here are the 4 survival steps you need to take.

1. Name it 

Name your feeling. Name your emotion. A feeling is one word. But, there is a long list of emotions and feelings for you to choose from. 

Put a word to what you’re feeling to begin the process.

2. Describe it 

What does your feeling feel like? Feelings are energy in motion and are physical sensations in your body.

Where do you feel it in your body? Does it feel hot or cold? Sharp or soft? Do you feel short of breath? Nauseous? The more specific you get the better.

RELATED: The Sneaky Way Empty Nest Syndrome Creeps Up On You Before Your Kid Goes To College

3. Allow it

Keep your mind on the physical feeling. Breathe. The feeling will pass, usually within 90 seconds.

Stronger emotions are less comfortable to feel but don’t jump off the wave mid-stream. You can handle any emotion or feeling that comes your way.

4. Write it out

When we are in the state of busy and move move move, we don’t realize which thoughts we’re choosing to focus on. This is dangerous as the thoughts we focus on create the feelings we feel. Part of being an emotional adult is learning to manage your mind. How do you want to feel about this?

Set a timer for 5 minutes and dump your thoughts out of your head on to paper or a computer screen. You have more than 60,000 thoughts a day and if you don’t pay attention to them they run the show.

Dump them out onto paper to see which thoughts you’re focusing on. Those thoughts are creating the feelings you’re feeling. Taking just 5 minutes to answer the questions "What am I thinking?" or "What am I feeling?" will significantly help you. 

If you want to keep feeling the way you’re feeling, keep thinking the thoughts you’re thinking.

Now, do it.

I hear from so many people who want to feel better. Warriors, I’m sorry to report that feeling better doesn’t just happen.

We must do something. This is that something.

Sit. Write. See where your mind goes. You are not your mind. Look at your thoughts with curiosity and keep writing.

Do you feel sadness in your body? Where? What does it feel like? Do you feel lonely? Get super descriptive. Emotions are energy and by describing how the actual emotion feels you allow it to move through you. Feel it and breathe. You’re getting there mama.

Each of these steps is equally important yet in my experience, people tend to skip steps 3 and 4 and choose instead to resist the emotion.

How do we resist? We all have our personal favorites. Some of us resist feeling our emotions by getting really busy, filling our life so full we don’t have time to notice what’s going on.

Some of us eat to shove the emotion down instead of feeling it. Some of us drink or shop or clean to numb out. Others use Netflix, Facebook, or get over-involved in our kids’ lives.

As a whole, we spend an awful lot of time and energy avoiding our feelings. However, it’s actually easier to feel the darn things than to spend all this time avoiding them.

Does this 4-step process make the emotion go away forever?

No. That’s not the point of life. You’re here on earth to feel big emotions.

What does this process do? It allows you to not eat, shop, yell, or drink your emotions. It lessens the emotion, in that moment, and allows you to feel, breathe, and move on in your day like the powerful woman you are. It allows you to show up in your life fully alive instead of resentful, nervous, and with your brain in 4 different directions.

I went through the first 30+ years of my life dulling and numbing my emotions: with food, exercise, busy-ness, you name it.

There was a piece of me that was afraid to feel my feelings as I thought I’d end up on the bathroom floor sobbing and unable to get up, believing that if I allow myself to feel sad, I’d enter into some deep dark hole I couldn’t escape from. It’s actually the opposite.

Depression is the suppression of emotions so landing in that dark hole or on the floor comes from resisting our emotions instead of feeling them.

I no longer choose to bypass feeling my difficult emotions. I choose to live a full and vibrant life and because of that, I am going to feel a full and vibrant array of emotions.

I embrace my tears as I embrace my laughs —both add a dimension and fullness to my life that is part of my experience here on earth.

And, you're not alone. Anything you’re feeling as your child moves into a new stage is fine.

Depending on which thought you’re focusing on you will feel something. You may feel sad, happy, lonely, heartbroken, worried, or full of pride. All of those are fine. What wouldn’t be fine is to not feel or to tell yourself to stop feeling what you’re feeling.

It’s also not okay to sit and wallow. Do the work. Set a timer and begin to process these strong emotions in a kind and compassionate way.

It’s not okay to be mean to your inner warrior by telling yourself to get over it or to move on. That only leads you to drama and destructive behaviors.

Feel. Cry. Laugh. Do what you need to do but mostly? Treat yourself kindly and with compassion.

I’m here for you, warrior.

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Susie Pettit is a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Coach and Podcast host of the weekly Love Your Life Show. Sign up for Susie's Weekly Wellness Newsletter.

This article was originally published at SMB Well website. Reprinted with permission from the author.