In burnout, we are typically over-run with all kinds of negative emotions, that wear us down, reduce our effectiveness at work and impact our mood and energy. Once we're very tired, this experience can become the norm and our defence against it is often to shut down our painful feelings, so we can get through our day.
Sadly, we cannot selectively shut down our emotions. When we try, we also block our positive emotions. In chronic anxiety or burnout, you may be familiar with this.
The key to moving forward is allowing our emotions back in. We're human, there really isn't any other choice. So, in this episode, you will learn how to gently do that, so you can start living a full life again. Feeling our feelings is one of the essential tools of burnout recovery and allows us to redress the balance and feel positive emotions once again.
Self-Compassion, Kristin Neff
Ep#94 When its not safe to feel safe
Ep#92 How to create safety with your magical Vagus nerve
----------------------------------- Burnout Resources:
Get 1-on-1 burnout recovery coaching at https:/mini.dexrandall.com
Burnout Recovery eCourse: https://go.dexrandall.com/beatburnout
For even more TIPS see
or join the FACEBOOK group for burnout coaches only
See https://linktr.ee/coachdexrandall for all links
Dex (00:00:09) - Hi everyone. My name is Dex Randall and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello, my friends, this is Dex, and I'm very pleased you're here for this week's episode on feeling your emotions. Can't wait. You knew this episode was about emotions, right? And you're still listening? Never mind. Don't worry, I've got your back. I'm not trying to make your life harder, but if you freaked out already, you might want to listen to episode 94, which is a little bit more about creating safety. But here's what we're going to do today. I'm going to ask you to identify right now what emotion you're experiencing. You might not even know. Think about it right now, right before we start. Although if you're driving or minding kids, please don't do the exercises in today's podcast. Rather, listen to it when you've stopped, because the exercises might well take your attention away from what you're doing.
Dex (00:01:11) - So for the rest of you, can you name the feeling you're having right now? Can you identify it? Just one word like Contented. Frustrated. Anxious. Relaxed. One word. Not a whole sentence. Because if you have a sentence, that's a thought, not a feeling. Maybe you're trying to explain how you feel with your sentence rather than having the feeling itself. So if you're in burnout, you probably will want to give me a sentence. Why do you think that is? For some people it can be because they want to justify their feeling. I'm feeling pissed off and I want to tell you why. I want to tell you who the culprit is. I want to justify my pissed off ness. I want to be right or righteous, or at least have a little bit less guilt about being pissed off. So hands up, who's feeling guilt right now? Okay. If you are, it's a feeling. No worries. We can run with that. But for some though, you might want to give me, when I ask you for a feeling, you might want to give me a sentence simply because the feeling isn't pleasant and your natural instinct is to avoid feeling it.
Dex (00:02:21) - So you go for words instead. And I think also for many people, especially those in chronic stress, anxiety and or burnout, they won't be able to connect with their feeling. They might not even understand the question. They might not know what they're feeling, or they might be numb or foggy inside, zoned out of all the feelings, frozen, or maybe just kind of lost in a dark fog of unpleasantness. So today, what we're going to do (drivers not you) but the rest of us, is we're going to feel a feeling. We're going to do a little exercise here. And let's first, for those of you who can't find your feelings, let's just quickly define what a feeling is. Or emotion. I mean, I use the terms feeling and emotion interchangeably. I'm not talking about having a feeling, as in I've got a hunch about something. I've got a feeling something's happening. You know, I have a feeling my friend won't show up. Not that kind of feeling. I'm also not talking about I feel like X, Y, and Z, which is really just saying.
Dex (00:03:28) - I know I have no rational basis for this belief. Like I feel like my friend is thinking this. What we saying there is, I know I have no rational basis for this belief, but I'm keeping my belief anyway, and I'm just checking out if you're going to buy it from me. I really think of this as when somebody starts a sentence with, I feel like this is what's happening. To me it seems a little bit like arguing for the implausible. So that's not what I mean here by feeling either. I'm using feeling to mean emotion, and the definition for emotion on Google is really a little bit obscure and hard to pin down. The best I could find was. Instinctive or intuitive feeling, as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge. I think we should just use Shakespeare. But anyway, let's not get into a semantics war. I actually prefer the energy version of this. Potentially it's a bit more scientific, actually, where events in the world trigger brain responses in us, reactions, thoughts, memories, whatever.
Dex (00:04:39) - And that triggers hormones. It's basically a chemical response which produces energy messages that we feel as sensations in our bodies and interpret as emotions. But having said that, that is rather complex. So perhaps let's start like this. Let's think about today. An emotion is a chemical message sent from our brain to our body and experienced by us as sensation. I personally think of it as e-motion energy in motion. Knowing this and also knowing what a hugely important skill it is to live in the present moment so our life doesn't pass us by in this kind of dreamlike state where we feel disconnected and can change nothing. So being in the present moment is one of the antidotes to burnout. Because in burnout, we're generally lost in worrying anxiety about the future or depressive thinking about the past. So being in the present moment is actually all by itself, a very important faculty that we'll develop. And when we're feeling an emotional sensation in our body, we must be in the present moment. There's no other way to feel it.
Dex (00:05:54) - So now that you're looking forward to the project immensely, let's proceed with getting up close and personal with our feelings. You in? Half my listeners tuned out, right? Okay. For the rest of you. Well, we could get into a debate about how men and women typically feel emotions. And I think it's a debate I'm unusually well placed to have right now. Let's just feel. So here's what we do. If you do know right now how you feel. Congratulations! I'm going to come back to you in a moment, because there are plenty of people here who won't know. And if you don't know how you're feeling, you can use a tool called the Self Coaching Model to help you identify or locate how you are feeling. It's a tool invented by Brooke Castillo of the Life Coach School based on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy. And I teach it to my clients to help them analyze their own reactions to things that happen to them, so that they can understand why they're getting results they don't love in their lives, and how to change that.
Dex (00:07:04) - So the self coaching model or usually we just call it the model, asserts that when some event happens out in the world that you notice and react or respond to, you first form a thought about what happened, effectively, you're going to have an opinion about it. And when you have that thought, the thought generates an emotion. And when you have that emotion, the emotion will drive whatever actions you take and your actions determine the result you will experience. It's all about cause and effect. For example, the event or the circumstance that happens. Let's use. I'll give you an example here. So the event that happens is. The cat. You come into the kitchen in the morning and the cat isn't moving. And your thought about this is, oh, no, I don't have time to go to the vet. When you have that thought, it causes you to feel anxious. When you feel anxious. You try to get the cat to move your pace around the kitchen. You worry about your 9 a.m. meeting.
Dex (00:08:05) - And the result you create from those actions is you're actually generating more anxiety and you're doing nothing useful about the cat. Okay, so that was a kind of speed version. But really, just to show that the feeling of anxiety in this example didn't come from the cat sitting there not moving. It came from the thought. I don't have time to go to the vet. Okay. So sometimes if you can track down the thought you're having. You might see what feeling it provokes. If that was your model, the one I've just read out. If you're going through that model thinking, I don't have time to go to the vet, you might realize you feel anxious. Okay, now you know what you're feeling, right? So. As you're listening to this right now, I'm just going to pause for a moment and ask you to try this for yourself. This is the exercise as you are right now. What thoughts are going around your head? Are you thinking about anything? Well, if you're busy listening, maybe too busy to have thoughts.
Dex (00:09:09) - Other thoughts? Think of something that was some thought that was going around your head earlier today. Did you have a negative thought about anything? Today was something that happened earlier in the day that brought up a negative thought in you. So what is that negative thought? What happened? What was the negative thought you had about it? Maybe you're having one right now. You can call it to mind. Did anything bother or upset you today that caused you to have a negative thought? If you can find that negative thought about something that happened, how did you feel when you thought that? Or if you can recall that situation and the thought you were thinking, think the thought now and see how you feel now about that situation. You probably have the same feeling. You probably have the same thought. So think it now if you like and see what feeling comes up for you. This exercise. Okay. You know, some of my listeners will have been through this many times before and know how to do it.
Dex (00:10:11) - Some of my listeners will be fresh. So it does take a little bit of practice, and you might not find your feeling the first time. But whether you identified the feeling or not. And I'm going to continue on here using the example of feeling anxious. Think your negative thought again and see if you can find. Energy moving in your body. If you identified a feeling, it will be the energy of that feeling that you're focusing on. So in this case it was anxious if you had a feeling of anxious. Can you feel the energy of anxiety in your body? Can you? Where is your attention drawn in your body? I mean, what is that energy state? So I'm going to talk you through it. How to track that down a little bit. Only please do this if it is safe for you to do so. So if you're okay to close your eyes right now, close them. And I would like you to continue to take and continue to take big, slow, deep breath right down into your body.
Dex (00:11:25) - And in your mind, just watch the breath. Follow the in-breath as it goes into your mouth or nose, down your throat, your lungs, your chest on down towards your abdomen. You can even follow it down to your legs and feet. Just imagine it going all the way down your body and as you're breathing in, feel it going down your body and observe the energy of your emotion as sensation in your body. Wherever it shows up. Just see which part of your body has tension in it or cause you. Who's your attention to it? And that sensation might be present as a vibration or tension. You might feel it as a clenching or a tightness or a block in your body. It might be heat or pressure. What? Emptiness. Or restlessness. You might even see it might have a shape size, a color. Or it might have a density. Might be solid or fluid or vapor. Just allow your body to tell you what it wants to tell you, and allow it to give you its message.
Dex (00:12:44) - Just accept whatever's happening very gently, with compassion. And if you feel any aversion during this exercise or any discomfort, just notice where that is in your body too and gently let it be. If you feel anger, just notice its agitation and heat. Where is that for you? Quite often we have maps of of our emotions in our bodies. For example, anxiety shows up for many people as tension in the stomach. Self doubt may be under the rib cage. Grief perhaps. In the lungs. Responsibility. Perhaps in the shoulders. And of course, you can find sensations anywhere from the top of your head, all the way to your hands, all the way down to your feet. So really, just keep taking long, soft, deep breaths, letting them flow through or around or past any sensations that you have. Pay attention to those sensations as an observer, a neutral observer. Just be conscious of your long, deep breaths rising and falling in your body, and see where your attention is drawn.
Dex (00:14:01) - And wherever that is. See if you can feel the quality of those sensations. Describe those sensations to yourself. Where are they? In your body. What do they feel like? Are they still or moving? Are they increasing or decreasing? Are they intensifying or dispersing? What's changing about the sensations as you observe them, if anything. Did they conjure up words? So images or thoughts in your mind? What is this emotion telling you? Because the sensations of any feeling, really, they're just messengers. The energy of them, once we are listening to and receiving the message will fade away in as little as 90 seconds. Emotions can't harm you unless you resist them, because then you lock the energy of them into your body. And that energy isn't designed to be trapped in there, and it will block the natural flow of energy in your body. So a word really on resisting emotions, something that many of us do very much in burnout because many of our emotions are very persistent and very painful. So resisting your emotions is what blocks your ultimately is what blocks your success, your performance, your connection, your creativity.
Dex (00:15:30) - Because we can't really selectively block an emotion. We'd love to. I know, but it doesn't work out that way. If we block one, we're basically blocking all, we're freezing up. So if we're resisting our emotions when we're blocking that energy in our body, it's blocking connection and relationships, and it stops us achieving or even taking action on our goals because we're worried about the way we'll feel. It prevents us changing our emotional patterns and habits. And it entrenches negative beliefs. It reinforces our negative beliefs about ourselves and about the world. Unfortunately as well, it renders emotional intelligence unavailable, thereby preventing genuine safety, collaboration, teamwork and leadership success. It adversely affects mood and morale. It finds painful experiences inside us and it promotes depression and despair, keeps us stuck in old problems and dynamics, and prevents us taking the leap to learn and experience new things. It stunts our personal growth effectively. Everything grinds to a halt and it can often lead, resisting the painful emotions, to being full of negative emotion.
Dex (00:16:53) - And then we want to withdraw. Isolate, stay separate from people. And and then we become lonely. So I don't know about you. I've tried resisting my emotions, particularly in burnout, but it didn't work out too well for me. So ask yourself how that's working out for you. Is resisting your emotions a successful strategy? And for many people it isn't you. You know, your experience is whatever it is. So that's resisting emotions. Let's have a word on avoiding emotions, because the process of avoiding emotions is basically addiction. To be fair as well, before we get into anything else, if you experience addiction, it's not your fault. It's simply a coping mechanism. But it's a coping mechanism you may no longer need. You might not need to hang on to it anymore. If it's become maladaptive for you, if it's not working out very well for you. And the path really out of burnout is necessarily one away from addiction as well. Because in addiction, we're kind of shut down, aren't we? And we're also involved in the very psychologically involved in a process that in general isn't giving us what we would like.
Dex (00:18:08) - Because really, we engage in addictive behaviors and consumption in order to change our emotional state. When we're having an emotion we don't want, we run away from it. Into our addictive process, typically towards a more desirable emotion, which is, if we're lucky, created momentarily by our addictive substance like sugar or behavior like gambling. We get a little uptick, get a little high, don't we? Subject to how long we've been in the addiction sometimes, but because we need this ever increasing dose of our addictive process or substance or strategy kind of becomes untenable, doesn't it? We can't get enough of the thing, but we can't give it up either. And the addictive experience itself becomes very stressful for us. But luckily, being willing to feel every emotion allows us to walk away scot free from addiction. If you think about it, we go to addiction to change our emotional state. If we don't need to run away from our emotions and change our emotional state, suddenly addiction doesn't have the same function in our lives.
Dex (00:19:19) - So what we do then is we can walk away. We can move away from addiction and retrain our brain towards other rewards that we still do want and can get in other ways. And speaking personally, I do think that's a job worth doing, and it's certainly a process that you can learn in coaching to work more skillfully with most addictions. And for those of you familiar with eastern medicine, you know the the vital life force in the body is called qi, and the natural function of it is to flow through your body, nourishing and supporting your bodily functions. That's the eastern philosophy, and the body map of the emotions heavily influences the eastern medicine practice, where very simplistically emotions are linked to the body's organs. For example, the liver is linked with anger. And blocked emotions are seen as blocked energy in the body which causes disease. And repeated blocks cause extended disease. Trapping your emotions effectively causes physical and mental loss of well-being or illness. For many mental, physical and spiritual reasons. Being at home to the experience of your emotions is a great habits cultivate.
Dex (00:20:44) - It frees up energy in your body. It releases tension and promotes relaxation, sleep, and good health. Helps you understand, accept and be present to your emotional messengers. Helps you release habitual stress patterns. It brings you to rest in the present moment, where often nothing is actually wrong. It facilitates emotional intelligence. It deepens emotional bandwidth in relationships. It saves all the effort you go to to suppress, avoid and hide emotions. It reduces addictive urges, promotes self acceptance and authenticity. It helps you temper the side effects of repressing emotions or acting them out. And it promotes a sense of gratitude for one's body and life. And so I think it promotes also spiritual well-being. And ultimately gives you the power to shift your emotions more easily and start intentionally creating positive emotional experiences like joy, compassion, love, gratitude, contentment, empathy, and all the rest. However, of course, if you weren't able to connect with your emotions in this exercise, don't worry. Sometimes it takes time. Particularly in those of us who sought safety in disconnecting from our painful emotions.
Dex (00:22:09) - Mind you, the body is very smart. Usually will only yield up the kind of feelings, thoughts and memories that we're capable of dealing with in that moment. It doesn't usually want to overwhelm us. So I would encourage you to continue down this road of working with your emotions and feeling your feelings really is an invitation to be in the present moment, to be relaxed about who you are. It's a gift. If it's very hard for you, I recommend other practices that can stimulate this, like yoga, your personal meditation that invite you to connect with your mind, body, spirit and authentic self as well as your good heart. In fact, almost any body based activity where you're operating from the body like exercise, sport, stretching, singing, chanting, sex, drumming, sport, even walking the dog in nature, all of those things can be very useful in opening the body up to feeling. And if you are in burnout right now and you're not willing to connect with your body, perhaps you don't yet like your body or you don't feel safe to connect with it.
Dex (00:23:23) - Then again, be kind to this human that you are, the human who is suffering. Offer yourself as much compassion as you possibly can as if you would to a suffering child having the same experience. It's okay to be you as you are right now. You belong on this planet, just like everybody else. So you can assume your rightful place. Self compassion itself can be cultivated as a habit, as a practice, and I can highly recommend that. It worked enormously well for me early on in the piece, when I was coming out of burnout, just to recognize that I was a decent enough human being, just doing my best like everybody else. And if you're in burnout, I can teach you all of the things that I've talked about today, if you'd like. There's also quite a good book by Kristin Neff on self-compassion that I'm going to include in the show notes for you. And if you have any inkling from today about connecting with your body and emotions, you can support that by relistening to this episode and practicing the exercise of coming home to your feelings in the present moment.
Dex (00:24:32) - Because when you are willing to feel any emotion that can come up for you, you will be unstoppable. As a human, you will be able to achieve anything you like. It's actually going to change your life forever. So for those of you who are experiencing burnout, please do come and talk to me at Dex Randall about how to recover quickly and sustainably. Get back to your best performance, leadership, and most of all, enjoyment inside working out. If you enjoyed this episode, please help me reach more people in burnout by rating and reviewing the podcast and by subscribing. I would really appreciate that. And if you know someone who's heading towards or in burnout, please send them this podcast link. I recommend for new people that they listen to the first five episodes to get started. So thank you very much for being here today. If you're in burnout and ready to recover. Come and join my Burnout to Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me, at burnout.dexrandall.com, and just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.