It seems like every time you do something that’s supposed to be “good” for you, it makes you feel worse. Going on dates or taking risks at work sap you of energy, personality, and joy, and replaces those things with anxiety and fear. The further you go through life, the more battered and bruised you feel. Emotional support from friends and family doesn’t help. You find no comfort in the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” because you don’t feel stronger. Just tired.
The fascinating thing is that on a macro scale, things do seem like they’re getting better. Technology and society are progressing, yet it feels like every person we meet is individually feeling worse. Burnout is at an all-time high. Why is that?
How emotional processing works
According to Dr. Alok Kanojia, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, it’s because we’ve lost sight of the ability to emotionally process.
He says that by looking at evolutionary psychology, we can see that humans weren’t having nearly as much trouble with emotional processing 10,000 years ago. This is because, in the past, humans spend a large portion of their time doing things like crafting, cooking, cleaning, or simply existing. What do all these things have in common?
- They require very minimal mental effort
- They often require higher amounts of physical effort
The greatest example of this is simply going for a walk. Even just forty years ago, going for a walk was typically a silent activity. There was space for the mind to wander, to think about daily problems, and to emotionally process. Now, when we go for a walk, we listen to a podcast, music, audiobook, or anything we can do to keep our thoughts away.
Without this idle time, our negative experiences begin to build up. When a new negative experience occurs, we choose to distract ourselves from thinking about it. The next day, that negative experience is still at the forefront of our minds, and we continue the distraction cycle.
Yet, when we have a positive experience, we devour it. We spend all our time thinking about it and replaying it in our heads until it is thoroughly processed. Still, those negative experiences and emotions remain.
As this cycle continues, we tend to see that life is filled with negative feelings and experiences even when that is not truly the case.
So how do we fix it?
The simple answer is to process those negative emotions. Dr. Kanojia suggests setting aside time for emotional processing each day. This can be as simple as spending 15 minutes in silence, taking a walk without any distractions, or even journaling.
The idea is to give our minds the space to wander and process those negative emotions, rather than distracting ourselves from them. By doing this regularly, we can prevent those negative experiences from building up and causing burnout, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
When we don’t give our minds the space to process negative emotions, these experiences can build up and cause burnout, anxiety, and other mental health issues. By making emotional processing a habit, we can prevent negative experiences from building up and enjoy a happier, more fulfilling life.
If you find that you’re still struggling to manage your emotions or experiencing ongoing difficulties with your mental health, seeking therapy can be a helpful step. A trained mental health professional can provide you with the tools and support you need to navigate through difficult emotions, process traumatic experiences, and build a more positive life. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and there’s no shame in reaching out for support when you need it.
Do you live in the Charlotte area and need support with emotional processing? Our Charlotte counselors are here to help. Give us a call at 704-800-4436 or shoot us an email today.