Sunday 21 October 2018

Nerd Church - That Feeling When... Why Labelling Emotions Is Healthy (Ft. #Science)

(Warning: this post discusses mental health stigma, and grief.)

In the UK, there's a TV programme live on Sunday mornings sometimes called Sunday Morning Live.

(I know, right? How did they come up with that name?!)

It's a sort-of chat show with a moral/social/ethical/semi-religious basis.

It can be decent. It can be awful.

Largely I only watch it because before 1pm on a Sunday I don't exist beyond zombie coffee-drinker; my anger at the more extreme guests tends to help me wake up while the rest of the programme is still happily sleepy.

artsy face with multicoloured ink blots/paint

Anywho, last week, they were asking whether there's a mental health crisis in the UK.

Now, you can argue statistics and definitions on that one until you're blue in the face and unable to look at another decimal point or percentage sign for a good long time...

...but we can all agree that good mental health is... well... good.

Or so I thought.

Because there was a woman as a guest who I can only remember as 'the chick whose hair does that thing,' which is only helpful if you're me. ๐Ÿ˜…

And next to her was your bog-standard angry allocishet able-bodied white dude who thinks snowflakes are ruining everything.

(Snowflakes are unique and beautiful, k? K.)

MCR on Yo Gabba Gabba. Gerard Way: 'Every snowflake's different just like you.'
Via Giphy

Anyway, both of them seemed to feel that teaching children about mental health was not, in fact, a good thing.

To the extent that chick-whose-hair-does-that-thing actually referred to an activity teaching kids about feelings as 'abuse.'

'But Cee!' I imagine you crying out, 'what was the heinous activity?! Why would she think it's awful enough to warrant that description?!'

Well, the kids were asked questions like, 'How do you feel when your mum won't let you do something you want to do?'

And amidst the choruses of 'sad' and 'angry' they had to pick a laminated paper emoji which they felt showed the emotion.

That was it.

That, apparently, is damaging to children and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of mental-health problems.

Brendon Urie making a 'ugh, no' kind of face
To be honest, I think Brendon Urie is like, the perfect emotion-identifying task! Lol

Via Giphy

Firstly, let's say this yet again:

EVERYONE has mental health, just like everyone has physical health.

You can have bad mental health, good mental health, or mental health that's somewhere in between.

Everyone can take care of their mental health, just like everyone can take care of their physical health.

And one excellent way to take care of your mental health is to understand what you're feeling.

Even just being able to describe your emotions helps you to deal with them. It's actually a biological thing.

The amygdala (which is a bit of your brain,) highlights emotions that it thinks you SHOULD BE PAYING ATTENTION TO because you might need to, y'know, DO something about it.

If you know what you're feeling, your amygdala stops sending out the message on such an extreme level of high alert.

You literally feel it less keenly.

In my humble interpretative theoretical opinion*, this is cos, y'know, you already GOT the message, and are hopefully assessing the situation to see if you need to, like, run away from the thing that might be tryin' to eat ya!

*I can be smartical. *Nods sagely*

Brendon Urie nodding and shrugging like 'yup, makes sense'
Told ya. Brendon all the way.

Via Giphy

Nearly four years ago (and man, it feels like yesterday and forever ago,) my mother's parents passed away.

Yes, both of them. Within four days of each other. Over Christmas.

We had a joint funeral for them. Which was... something that'll never leave me.

But in a way, it was actually kinda nice - as nice as, y'know, funerals can be.

And I sat with my Grampa - my father's father - all day, with my arm looped through his and him singing Calon Lรขn in a classical style as loud as he damn well pleased.

And in my head I could hear what my Nan and Gramps would've thought of the whole thing (which quite frankly, was hilarious,) and it was OK.

Because I had somewhere where it was OK to just... feel.

Nothing can prepare you for the weird variety of feelings that losing two people at once can cause.

And the thing is? I learnt then what I know now with total conviction.

Grief doesn't give a sh** about 'should.'

Grief will feel however grief feels.

For a little while, I was convinced I was a bad person, because I missed my Gramps more than my Nan.

But it was only natural.

I didn't love one of them more than the other.

I loved them both equally, with all my heart.

But I'd always been closer to my grandfather than I was to my grandmother, and his death was more of a shock to us because it was more unexpected.

Grief doesn't care about 'should.' Grief will feel however it feels.

And once I'd accepted that WHATEVER I was feeling was OK - and I could talk about it, write about it, whatever, and not be 'wrong'... it didn't go away, but I could manage it more.

The ability to describe and/or express your emotions is key to good mental health.

Which for those of us with mental health problems (Hi!) means that it's an important part of getting, and staying, healthy.

Sometimes it's not easy. Sometimes you don't even know where to start. But the more you do it, the more beneficial it will be for you.

And no, it doesn't always have to be in the form of words - in talking, or writing.

For some people, due to culture, circumstance, individual feelings, or just cos you don't want to, that isn't gonna be the go-to answer every time.

You can express yourself in other ways too.

...Music, art, whatever.

(Creative stuff, on the whole, seems to be seen as the most beneficial.)

Or, if you prefer structure, this website has some worksheets you can use - but everyone's different and not everything will be helpful to everybody, so be careful, k?

Oh, and personally I find that activity books for kids, or creative journals like 'Wreck This Journal' do similar things with a less clinical tone.

Whatever works for you, y'know?

But knowing just what it is that you're feeling - even if you only explain it to yourself - is important.

Our brains seem to thrive on the whole emotion-consciously-processed deal-y.

So conscious acknowledgement of what your emotions are = good.

(And yes, screaming into a pillow totally counts.)

Brendon Urie spinning around and cheering
Via Giphy

So however you feel, don't be afraid to let it out.

It might be useful to set aside some time for writing or drawing or whatever about how you feel.

And if you're struggling, take extra care of yourself, ok? Seriously dearest nerdlets, I love ya, take care.

There's info about helplines etc. at the end of the post for those who are really struggling.

The science suggests that the more nuanced you can make your categorisation/description of your emotions, the more you are able to deal with them.

That comes with practice. And being allowed to show how you feel.

That comes with children being taught that what they feel is valid.

And what they feel has words, expressions, and other ways of filing it away in our weird hooman bean brains.

That comes with kids shouting 'happy!' and 'sad!' and picking out emojis they feel match that emotion.

If you're struggling with ANYTHING emotionally or mentally my dear nerdlets, PLEASE get help.

There are also suicide prevention and/or mental health helplines you can use.

Have you given this much thought?
Do you have something you like to do to vent some emotion?
Do you think creative things are the best ways to express yourself?
Talk to me! ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’ฌ

You can follow me on Twitter @CeeDoraReads, on Dora Reads @ BlogLovin, and on Google+. For more ways to support me, check out the Support Me page

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Please share and comment, dearest nerdlets! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Last updated: 24th Oct 2018


  1. I really loved this post, Cee! I am just now coming to terms with my mental health and I have decided to go to therapy to find out what is really going on. It always comforts me to see posts like this because it reminds me I’m not alone.

    1. *Hugs* I hope you get what you want out of therapy and don't have to wait too long for an appointment, or pay too much if that's the way it works in your country!

      I'm glad you loved my post Em! Your comments always make me smile - thanks so much! <3 <3 <3

  2. Love this post! Hard to believe that anyone thought that a simple exercise of labeling emotions is abuse---all I can think is that she's been through a few things and she's projecting. I agree that it's healthy to be able to identify what you're thinking---thanks for pointing out the science that backs that up.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. I know! It was... so weird! But then, she's been on before to say that feminism is trash, so I don't think her opinion counts for much tbh.

      Yup. S'good for you. Science says so. *nods sagely*

  3. Mental Health is something we all have and you don't have to have a mental health illness to need to learn how to care about your mental health. And it would be so beneficial for children to know about it learn about it too! I also think that labelling emotions is so healthy, as you said. In fact, we teach children to learn about how to label their emotions so they know how to handle them and what isn't or is appropriate behavior when handling negative or potentially dangerous emotions like anger or sadness. So yes! Educate kids and adults alike!

    1. Hell yes! Nothing else to add to that - I totally agree! :)


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