Holding Space for Difficult Emotions - Mom Edition

Holding Space for Difficult Emotions - Mom Edition

By: Nicki Reid, Bilingual BA

Being in the wellness space, I see an array of information. What I don’t see enough of are discussions about the other side of well-being; you know, the part that makes us human? The days when just existing feels like too much to do, let alone mothering, and we are consumed by exhaustion, grief, fear, doubt, and more. So let’s talk about it. What do you do when life is happening at full speed and you are dealing with health conditions, uncertainty around finances / food / housing, and/or disharmony in your relationships - whether it be with friends, work, family, your partner, your children, or heck, even yourself? And then there’s the weight of current world events to deal with, which can add to the pressure you’re already under. It might be easy to implement wellness tips when things are going well, but what about when things aren’t going so well - like when the world feels like it’s on fire and is on the brink of ending?

There was a point in my life when I would keep myself as busy as possible to avoid dealing with difficult emotions. I HATED feeling my emotions, they were too heavy, too intense, and they always left me feeling drained. If I’m being honest, I would rather not experience them altogether. It didn’t help that I didn’t have the language to express what I was experiencing, nor did I have the tools or resources to help me process them. As a result, I resorted to unhealthy ways of coping.

Due to the intensity of this pandemic and despite many years of healing, my old ways of coping reared their ugly heads and they were STRONG. I knew that giving in and drinking my woes away or working myself into the ground to distract me from the intensity of my emotions were not the solutions I truly desired or needed. They wouldn’t help me feel or be better in the long run. This is not to discourage anyone from embarking on their healing and well-being journey, but to serve as a gentle reminder that it is exactly that, a journey, not a destination. So if you’ve found yourself in this space, you are not alone, keep going - one foot in front of the other.

Over the years, I have learned different tools and strategies that have helped me process difficult emotions. For example, when I have experienced something that is intense or that has triggered me, I know that I will need a safe space to unpack it. That safe space is either created for me by others; such as my therapist, coach, or trusted loved ones (such as my husband), or it is a space that I create for myself. This brings me to the first tip:

Create a safe space. A safe space is a (non) physical space where one is free of (mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual) harm. Over the years, I have learned that we can experience harm externally (from others), and internally (from ourselves). This may look like negative self-talk (judging or criticizing yourself for something that you said or did), or thinking negative thoughts about yourself or your abilities. So when you’re creating a safe space, it should be free of negative or harmful thoughts. 

Holding space. As a coach, yoga, and meditation guide, I hold space for my clients and students. But what does it look like to hold space for oneself? 

Holding space for oneself looks like:

  • Creating a container or safe space that will allow you to show up exactly as you are.
  • Being aware of what is happening in the present moment and accepting whatever (emotions, thoughts, sensations, sounds, etc.) arises with non-judgment, simply observing them (aka practicing mindfulness).
  • Practicing empathy and self-compassion. Think about if a friend came to you and wanted to share something that upset them. Would you judge them? Or would you welcome them with love, understanding, empathy, and compassion? We need to treat ourselves the same way we treat others (if not better). 

In life, we will all face trials and tribulations. We will experience the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Sadness, grief, anger, rage, etc. - emotions that are perceived as uncomfortable are often avoided. I remember being told at various times throughout my life that I should be happy, grateful, and smile whenever I expressed unpleasant emotions. Which I believe in, as evidenced by my previous blogs; however, I believe there is a time, place, and space. We need to make room for the expression of both pleasant and unpleasant emotions alike. It doesn’t help that collectively, we lack the skills to navigate our emotional lives. Emotional intelligence isn’t taught to us, to our detriment, and it needs to be because it is such an essential life skill to have; one I wish I had learned in my earlier years because we are complex sentient beings who experience a variety of emotions. We owe it to ourselves to express these emotions to the fullest extent that we are able to. So Mama, on the days when it all feels like too much and you have been struggling under the weight of everything going on, please know that it is perfectly within the range of your humanity to feel this way.

Hold yourself as a mother holds her beloved child. —Buddha

Give yourself permission to step back and create the atmosphere you need so that you can hold space for difficult emotions. Take care of yourself and be well Mamas.

Nicki Reid, Bilingual BA‍

Certified Transformational Coach | Wholesome Mind Health Coaching