It is not healthy to ignore your emotions.
Emotional awareness can improve mental health because feeling, identifying, and processing your emotions is better than stuffing them away. You may be tempted to not process your emotions for multiple reasons. Whatever the reason may be, ignoring your emotions does more harm than good.
Why You Might Ignore Your Emotions
There are many reasons why you might ignore your emotions or choose to not deal with them. Growing up, you might have been taught that showing emotions is a sign of weakness. You also might have been taught that showing any emotion is bad, that there is only one acceptable way to express emotions, or that in order to “keep the peace” you need to hide your true feelings. This is nothing to be ashamed of, and there is still time to unlearn what you were taught before.
Another reason why you might ignore your emotions is that you had to put them aside for survival. Vulnerability seemed like a liability. This might have been proven to you by a negative experience with vulnerability in the past, or situations where you felt that emotions negatively affected your judgment.
In those moments of survival, you might not have been able to take the time to process the emotions felt during those survival moments. After the fact, that you still have not had time to process those emotions and out of habit, you have begun to ignore emotions even when things are safe and stable.
How Ignoring Your Emotions Affects Your Mental Health
Regardless of why you have not been able to connect with yourself emotionally, it can take a terrible toll on your mind and body. Ignoring your emotions can contribute to your stress levels, raising your blood pressure, disrupting sleep, and causing fatigue. Those who do not process their emotions, especially after experiencing trauma, can develop PTSD symptoms.
If you are not aware of your emotions you might struggle to relate with others on a deep level. This can cause feelings of isolation. You might also not honor your own boundaries because you are not aware when you feel uncomfortable, afraid, or violated. This can negatively impact self-esteem and personal identity.
When ignoring your emotions, you might form unhealthy coping mechanisms such as self-medication in the form of substance misuse, overworking, or over-exercising. Perhaps you overeat or undereat as a way to deal with emotions. You might even self-harm or develop suicidal thoughts as a way to escape your emotions. It can be easy to spiral when emotionally unaware.
How Emotional Awareness Helps
Developing emotional awareness can lessen the effects mentioned above tremendously. It reduces stress, raises self-esteem, and allows you to develop healthier relationships, process emotional experiences, and have an earlier awareness of when you may need help.
Emotional awareness can also help you develop a healthier sense of self. Your passions, motivations, and values are wrapped in your emotions. By knowing how things make you feel, you know what you care about. This allows you to not only honor your boundaries, but develop a more complete perspective of your place in the world.
Being aware of your emotions also opens the door to better self-care. Your body and mind are interconnected. If something is wrong with your body, if a need is not being met, your emotions will indicate that something is wrong. You might get cranky when you are tired, angry when you are hungry, or anxious when you do not feel safe. Knowing and owning these feelings can help you take better care of yourself and meet these needs.
How to Be Emotionally Aware
This practice allows you to sit with yourself uninterrupted and really feel in your mind and body. Mindfulness exercises like yoga, tai chi, and meditation can allow you to slow down and process the day. Mindfulness allows you to catch each thought and emotion that comes, honor it, and then let it go.
There are many different types of journals you can start to help you gain a better understanding of your emotions. You can write about your day and how you felt. You can use a journal to track your mood throughout the day, and what caused that emotion. It can also be used as a venting space to get out the negative feelings that are plaguing you.
Talking about your emotions with another person can be very helpful. A therapist can help you connect where emotions came from, teach you healthy coping mechanisms, give you a space to talk about your problems, and enable you to work through solutions.
Develop Deeper Friendships Through Emotional Honesty
You might be afraid to be emotionally open with your friends. Although, emotionally shallow friendships can only cause feelings of isolation and even resentment. If you are in a romantic relationship, you might lean on that one relationship for emotional support, which can lead to codependency and fatigue. It is healthier to have a support system of many people you can talk to when things become difficult.
Name Your Emotions
It might feel silly, but the best way to increase emotional awareness is to name the emotions as they come. Your emotions might come at you fast, and before you know it, you feel overwhelmed. Take time to slow down, name how you feel, and accept that it is what you are feeling.
Another important thing to do is to own your emotions, without judgment. Shame can cause people to disregard their feelings. You might feel like your emotions are wrong, given the situation, but the truth is that people have complicated responses to things. Recognize your emotions, understand where they are coming from, and own them.