Several years ago I heard a mindfulness teacher say, “name it to tame it.” At the time, it didn’t resonate with me. At all. However, since then, I’ve come to appreciate the incredible power in the expression.

Have you ever noticed a kind of restlessness or even sense of helplessness that comes along with feeling “off”?  Knowing something is not quite right, but not being able to put your finger on it? This undefinable sense of disquiet can lead to frustration or irritability, which only exacerbates things, and round and round it goes. 

In the name of responsibility, needing to get things done, being accountable to other people and even just not wanting to feel “weak,” we tend to ignore or push away unpleasant feelings. I’m not talking about the obvious ones like disgust, anger or sadness. I’m talking about more subtle emotions like boredom, apathy, or my new favourite, languishing. (“Languishing is essentially described as a feeling of emptiness, numb, feeling stuck, feeling as though we have no motivation, no ability to focus, tasks take longer,” as explained by psychotherapist, Sarah Ahmed, on CTV news last spring.)

The thing about an ignored emotion, big or small, is that it’s a little bit like black mould – you can only ignore it until you can’t. I think we’ve all experienced the explosion or meltdown (our own or another’s) that happens not because of the circumstance at hand, but because of something that’s been pent up and allowed to fester. But the good news is, mindfulness can help ?  

If we can become aware of a challenging emotion, it loosens its grip and gives us the opportunity to make a shift.

The next time you know you’re not quite yourself, get curious about what you’re feeling. You might even look up a list of emotions to see which words resonate. Just being able to identify what it is (name it) can give some relief (tame it). At this point, don’t worry so much about the “why,” rather lean in to the way this particular emotion shows up, physically. Letting something be without resisting it often allows it to pass. And if that’s not enough or you’re looking for a more proactive solution, carve out some time to engage in something you know makes you feel good – listen to your favourite song, cuddle your dog, get your sweat on, drink and savour something warm, take a bubble bath – even if you have to force yourself, you’re worth it. Energy is constantly in motion and we can change our own if we don’t like what we’re feeling in any given moment.