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Surfing My Feelings

Issue 30

I survived hurricanes aboard my sailboat, yet somehow it was inner turmoil that threatened to sink me.

Overwhelmed by BIG emotions, I was adrift—I don’t know for how many days, months—in a sea of darkness. It was either let myself sink or swim in intense pain. I knew I had to find my way back if I was to reclaim my life but floating in numbness was almost pleasant after the suffering. I wanted to heal, even thrive, but how could I get from how I was feeling to where I wanted to be? I had to find a way to navigate my emotions and sail the currents of my heart.

Is it an emotion or a feeling?

Understanding the difference between my feelings and my emotions gave me a new perspective on challenges, which helped me put emotional distance between myself and the perceived “obstacle.”

We say the word “feel” for both feelings and emotions, but they are two separate things.

EMOTIONS are sensory-based and start with physical sensations, like butterflies in your stomach, expansion or tightness in the chest, the welling of tears in the eyes, or the raising of hair on the arms. The body’s senses trigger chemical reactions, sending signals to the brain.

FEELINGS are the narratives crafted by the mind when interpreting those emotions, such as ‘I’m scared I won’t be able to make it,’ ‘I’m sad about not getting the job,’ or ‘I’m excited about this new beginning.’

It’s just a wave…

You are neither your feelings nor emotions, no matter how intense or overwhelming they may be. You are a human being experiencing them. Both will pass. The ocean does not define herself by the currents that run through her. Do not define yourself by feelings running through you. Breathe and connect with the sensations in your body, choosing to be fully present with the senses instead of focusing on the stories.

Decide what waves to surf

The mind-driven feelings are the ones that usually get me in trouble (this is true for most people). My inner chatter and fears hijack my reasoning and steer me in the wrong direction. When I lead by my senses and respond to my body’s intelligence, I make better, healthier decisions.

NO WAVE: Pay attention to your environment and look for signs of oncoming storms–aka challenges. They will initially show up as negative sensations in your body: tightness, difficulty sleeping, lack of energy, rapid, short, or hindered breath. If your body feels tight and contracted it’s a “No,” steer away from this situation.

YES WAVE: Your body feels more relaxed, enjoys deeper breaths, and extra energy, your chest opens, and you feel light.. Trust the subtle hints and take a chance. If you feel this way about a situation, say “YES” to the wave! Even if you don’t know where it’s leading you, figure it out as you go, your body is telling you to go!

Nervousness can go either way. It feels the same way in the body as excitement. The more you trust your body the more you will differentiate the signs and decide if it’s a nervous “yes” or a “heck, no.”

More ways to navigate your feelings

• Breathing exercises: Breathe in for a count of four, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold for four counts. Repeat this cycle for four minutes.

• Movement: If you’re struggling and pacing or standing, sit or lie down. Conversely, if you’re struggling while sitting or lying down, get up and do some cardio to move your energy and break the stagnation. Do the opposite of how your body is currently responding to big emotions.

• Journal: Describe how your body feels and question what it’s trying to tell you. Write non-stop for 10 minutes.

• Reminder: Set a timer for a daily mid-day break. Step outside for deep breathing and stretch your body, allowing your mental process to pause for a few minutes.

• Support groups: Reach out to local groups like NAMI Maine for emotional support, education, and assistance. Besides support groups, they offer a wide variety of free classes teaching coping skills, strategies, and important information for yourself and your loved ones affected by mental health conditions. You can change the story’s narrative inside your head. Use your emotions (senses) to align yourself with your intuition. Your body has your best interest at heart – literally!

Trust your inner navigator and remember, you are not the wave, surf on top of it, and enjoy the ride.

Excerpted in parts from SAIL ABOVE THE CLOUDS 2—How to Align Your Life by Carole Fontaine.

Carole Fontaine is a Certified Life Coach, Meditative Writing, Shakti Dance® yoga, and Reiki Master Teacher. She is the bestselling author of the S.A.I.L. ABOVE THE CLOUDS series which shares adventures from her 20 years of living aboard a sailboat and uses the lessons she learned to teach empowerment, stress relief, and mental wellness.

Carole Fontaine
Carole Fontaine
Carole Fontaine is the bestselling author of the S.A.I.L. ABOVE THE CLOUDS series which shares adventures from her 20 years of living aboard a sailboat and uses the lessons she learned to teach empowerment, stress relief, and mental wellness. She is a writer, graphic designer, creative muse, Certified Mindfulness Life Coach, Meditative Writing, Shakti Dance® Yoga, and Reiki Master Teacher. She speaks and teaches self-improvement and empowerment workshops on mindset and stress management.
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