Tracey Briggs, MA, AFAA-CPT, NASM- CES, FNS
Employee Wellness Team
Did you know that feeling bad about feeling good is common?
It’s called a meta-emotion, a feeling that occurs in response to other feelings. According to a study in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion, feeling guilty about experiencing joy, happiness, or wellness during difficult or challenging times is a negative-positive meta-emotion.
These feelings can manifest around the holiday season and are powerful because they are linked to depression and can indicate our level of emotional awareness.
Meta-emotions play a serious role in our mental health. The denial or nonacceptance of emotions is related to all sorts of negative outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and lower overall well-being.
It’s a social comparison thing. If you see a lot of fear, anger, and pain and recognize that what is happening around you doesn’t match your experience, you conclude, “there must be something wrong with me.”
Layer these emotions with the upcoming holiday season, and it can also bring about added stress and depression. And it’s no wonder since the demands of the season can be monumental.
So, what do we do about all of this? Recognize that when we try to push away our feelings, they start bubbling up in odd places. Difficulties may arise in our personal relationships and professional dealings. It takes a level of emotional intelligence to realize that we can, and need to, feel what we feel.
Use the following steps to acknowledge your awareness of your emotions:
It’s important to normalize negative emotions and to acknowledge our feelings. Studies show that suppressing emotions can cause physical distress and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Discuss These Feelings with People You Trust
Talking about it with others is a practical move because shame tends to fade when you bring it into the light. Open discussions allow you to acknowledge that you are fortunate and grateful. On the flip side, it can also be an emotional boost for you to support your friends and loved ones who may be struggling. Realize that it’s OK to feel just OK and you can even take it one step further by asking yourself “How can I be of help to other people?”
Reduce self-judgment by understanding that we’re capable of having many different emotions. Accepting that you are OK can reduce the intensity of the guilt and provide clarity and validation.
If you need more than these self-help steps, UNM has support for you. The UNM Mental Health Resources webpage offers many options, including Counseling, Assistance & Referral Service (CARS), Therapy Assistance Online (TAO), UNM Women’s Resource Center Counseling, and the Agora Crisis Center just to list a few.