Published: 26 November 2018
How to open up to others and get it all off your chest
We all go through difficult emotions from time to time. The best way to deal with difficult emotions is to talk them out, but this isn’t always easy to do. Getting things off your chest helps you to feel better and can help you to decide what to do next.
Dealing with difficult emotions
When dealing with difficult emotions, sometimes our natural reaction is to try and shut them down or bottle them up. Many people do this because the fear of feeling those emotions is so strong. They may be afraid that they will ‘feel too much’ or that they won’t be able to control the intensity of the emotion. For example, they will get so angry that they fear they will ‘burst’ or that if they start crying they won’t be able to stop.
It can be extremely difficult for some people to work out what they are feeling especially if they have tried to suppress their feelings for so long. Here are some ways to face your difficult emotions.
Be aware of your emotions
Try to tune into how you are feeling. Start by trying to notice what you are experiencing without any judgement. Ask yourself if you are experiencing things like anger, happiness, sadness, fear, or shame. Once you work out what you’re actually feeling, just acknowledge that the feelings are there without trying to change them. This can take practice if you aren’t used to it.
Accept your emotions
This means that if you are feeling sad, upset or angry that you simply accept the feelings without questioning why, or trying to shut them down. This is a much healthier alternative to trying to bottle them up. Accepting them is a really important step in understanding them and dealing with them, whatever they are. This takes a lot of practice so don't give up if it doesn't seem to work straight away.
Allow yourself to feel your emotions
Feelings can often be painful, and our natural reaction can be to try to avoid feeling them. But this actually isn’t helpful and can lead to you feeling stuck. Working through your feelings is a much more helpful response in the long run.
Many people can be afraid of actually feeling their emotions as they are so scared of being overwhelmed by them. But when you feel strong emotions it’s important that you don’t ignore them. Instead, allow yourself to feel them knowing that it’s perfectly okay to feel however you feel.
Be mindful and focus on the present
When we focus on the present we are less likely to spend time panicking about the future or worrying about the past. It can be difficult to sit with our emotions and recognise them for what they are, but if you give yourself the space to try, it can really be a powerful way of helping to deal with them.
Opening up to someone
Finding someone to talk about mental health can be difficult. It’s important that you choose someone you know you can trust, and who won’t judge you. Have a think about someone who has been there for you in the past. It might be a parent, a guardian, a GP, youth worker, teacher, friend, brother or sister.
Whoever you talk to, it’s important that you’re not put off if it’s not a great experience. If you have a bad experience, try not to let this get in the way of you reaching out again. Keep talking until you get the support that you deserve.
It can take a lot of courage to take the first step and open up to someone. Here's how you can prepare for the conversation:
Be prepared and know what you want to say. It might also help to prepare in advance for every type of reaction so you know how to respond, including both positive and negative reactions. Have some printed information or links to information online ready if you think that will help them understand better.
Choosing the right time
You might always be tempted to put something off because it’s ‘not the right time’, but realistically there may never be a perfect time. It might help to try to talk to someone at a time when they’re not busy and you can sit down together without being interrupted.
Send them a text if you’re not ready to speak to them face to face
If you are finding it too difficult to speak face to face, send them a text message or private message on Facebook to start off the conversation. You could say something like “I need to talk to you about something that’s been bothering me for a while now. I’m a little nervous talking about it so that’s why I texted you. I’m finding things difficult at the moment.”
Some people also find it useful to write their thoughts down on paper and to give it to someone as a letter.
Starting the conversation
Start off by telling them that you want to talk to them about something important. Let them know that you are worried about how you have been feeling and that it has been concerning you for a while.
Tell them the ways it has impacted on your daily life. You may have noticed changes in your appetite or in your sleeping patterns for example. Or maybe you are spending more time in your room alone and avoiding people. You may have noticed that your mood is lower than usual or that you are much sadder than usual.
Tell them how they can help and be ready for questions
Let them know how they can help you. Maybe they can make more time for you, or maybe you want them to accompany you to a doctor or counsellor for some support.
Try not to be put off if you get a lot of questions. Your friend or family member will most likely have lots they want to ask you. They might want to know how long things have been like this, or what they can do to help.
Remember that everything won’t be fixed after just one conversation so be patient and don’t try to rush things. However, you have taken the first step towards getting the help that you need.
Contacting a text or instant messaging service
There are several text based and instant messaging active listening support services available in Ireland. Some young people find it easier to discuss and disclose their feelings over text and instant messages rather than talking to someone over the phone or in person.
Here are a few text or instant messaging services you can contact in Ireland. Standard texting rates may apply:
● Childline: Text 'Talk' to 50101 to talk to a trained counsellor by text message, or visit their online chatroom here. Available from 10am - 4am every day. You can also call 1800 66 66 66 to speak to someone on the phone at any time of day.
Getting professional help
Going to a professional for your mental health can seem daunting, but this is a great step to take in improving your mental wellbeing. Many people go through their GP to find the right service for them. Others may seek out counselling, in person or online, by themselves.
Talking to your GP
It can be difficult to talk to your GP about your mental health, especially if you’re not used to talking about how you feel. Your GP should treat you with the utmost respect and be non-judgmental in their treatment of you.
Before your appointment make a list of any concerns or questions you may have. If you have a question don’t be afraid to ask it.
Focus on talking about the way you feel and what has been going on for you in the weeks before your appointment. If you find it difficult to talk about what’s wrong, say so. This will prompt your doctor to help you to talk. Be as honest as you can. Talk about what help you would like and what you would like to happen next.
Your doctor may refer you on to someone else who can help, or they might give you tips on how you can improve your mental well being yourself. These might include tips for good mental health such as exercising and eating right, or ways you can improve your sleep.
Going to a counsellor
Counselling is a type of talking therapy or psychological therapy. It involves talking to a counsellor about your problems. Counsellors are trained to listen sympathetically and can help you deal with any negative thoughts and feelings. They are also skilled at helping you express your worries and concerns. Learn more about talking therapies here.
Counselling is a safe space to hear yourself think out loud about your life, express how you're really feeling, and discuss concerns and worries with someone who won't judge you. Your first meeting with your counsellor is a chance for you to talk about the difficulties you are having, how they are affecting you, and what you would like to get from your counselling sessions. Most counselling sessions last about an hour.
It can be a great relief to share your worries and fears with someone who acknowledges your feelings and can help you reach a positive solution. Counselling will help you to discover new ways of coping, making changes and developing new skills and finding what works for you.The main aim of a counsellor is to help you work through various issues so that you can cope with your problems better.
● Jigsaw is a youth counselling service for people age 12-25. There are 13 Jigsaw centres around Ireland. Visit Jigsaw.ie for more.
Online counselling has become popular because you can do it from anywhere, and it helps to reduce some of the nerves that might come up when doing it face-to-face. It’s also a good first step in becoming more comfortable with counselling so that you can move on to an in-person service later if you want to.
Online counselling is usually available through instant chat, therapeutic email, or video counselling.
● Turn2Me.org are a free online counselling service funded by the HSE. Eight sessions are provided and clients may choose to have more or less sessions, following initial assessment. Sessions take place on a weekly basis by arrangement with your assigned counsellor.
Everything you say is kept confidential when you use a professional service like counselling. The exception to this rule is if the counsellor or medical professional feels you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, or if they learn that someone is harming a person under the age of 18. In these situations, they may need to involve someone else, like a social worker, a parent, or the guards. You can ask the person you’re seeing about their confidentiality policy before you start.
Helping a friend or family member
There are many simple ways to support someone who has a mental health difficulty. You don’t have to be a mental health expert to talk about mental health, as it’s often the little things like asking someone how they are which help the most.