Do you have a hard time expressing your emotions? If so, you’re not alone

According to registered clinical counsellor Johanna Wickie from Jericho Counselling Clinic in Vancouver, North Americans pride themselves on living in their cerebral cortex and of being rational, non-impulsive “masters of their domains.“

“It’s often a learned behaviour,“ explains Wickie. “As children, we express how we feel, but as we age, society tells us some of those emotions are acceptable in society and some are not. We feel we will be perceived negatively, and so rather than being honest with people and ourselves, we often push those so-called negative emotions away. Women are often as likely to do this as men.“

So why should you learn to let loose? Well, some studies have linked the repression of negative emotions to increased stress and ill health. However, developing this emotional intelligence is a skill, but one that can be strengthened through practise.

Wickie recommends starting with baby steps:

  1. Create opportunities for recognition: Slow down, hit the pause button and take stock about how you feel in the moment. Check your breathing, do your muscles feel tight, are you feeling flushed?

  2. Put words to what you know or suspect is going on: If you are feeling tired say to yourself, “I’m tired.“ Don’t be afraid to open up and tell other people.

  3. When someone asks you how you are doing, don’t use masking words. If you respond with “fine,“ “great,“ or “OK,“ you are shutting people down. Instead, think of this as wonderful opportunity to provide a more open response. If you say, “today is a crazy day,“ it’s a great way to build a connection with someone.