Ask a Therapist: On Emotional Rest
Q: I feel like I am hiding. I seem to be living to please others and my own voice gets lost in the process. I feel emotionally burned out - can you help?
A: Despite the stereotype, therapists want to know how their clients FEEL about things for good reason! All of life is connected to emotion and yet few of us understand how to name and process our feelings in healthy ways. We find ourselves navigating the world around us with a view to making it work for other people without also thinking about the emotional impact that people-pleasing behaviour has on our well-being.
Emotional fatigue can emerge when we are not attuned to our own emotional landscape in a way that allows us to honour and prioritize our own needs above the needs of others. When our feelings are repressed and/or we are not able to honestly express our own experiences we can burn ourselves out carrying that emotional load.
Sometimes we have not been good at maintaining boundaries around the expectations of others in light of our own preferences. Other times we may have suppressed our own perspectives and concerns to avoid burdening others or to avoid their criticism. If you are a caregiver of any kind, you might experience this type of emotional exhaustion more readily than others because so much energy is directed to care for others that there is not enough left for yourself.
In order to restore some emotional capacity and release the emotional burden, it is important to find safe places to share vulnerably and transparently about what you are feeling. We need to express our pain and our stories in an authentic way and to be listened to and validated without judgment. We all know the comfort that comes after a sincere venting session or an encouraging conversation with a friend who understands how we are feeling.
This need for uncensored self-expression is a common impetus for people to reach out and seek therapeutic support because a counsellor can facilitate that process of unburdening in a meaningful way. Sometimes it can be hard to open up and honestly say how you feel to the people around you in your regular life because it feels so raw and exposing. A therapist can provide support that might feel less intimidating and also help you to find strategies to continue to prioritize your emotional needs.
If you are feeling emotionally exhausted, don’t continue to isolate yourself. Take some time to find the people in your life who will hold space for you to share authentically and who will help you give a voice to your feelings. Restorative emotional work is a vital component of every comprehensive self-care plan.
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