Don't swallow your fears, or for that matter, stop bottling up your emotions, it's unhealthy for the mind, body & soul

Reminder: don't swallow my fears any more
Talk therapy is one of my favorite stress management tools. In Latin America and the Caribbean, there were these old school healers who cured people through talking. They were called consejeras and as healer Elena Avila explained when I interviewed her for the spirituality chapter in my book, "The New Latinas Bible," these  old school healers allow people to "un-drown from soul to soul or heart to heart." During these sessions, the talk healers allow the person 'to speak until everything is released from the body, soul and heart." The ritual is beautiful too: while the patient is undrowning her emotions the healer rubs rosemary oil on her third eye. Incense fills the space with therapeutic scents.

I'm not really sure how to find a talking healer in the US and when I do, I will blog about her. However, I was inspired to write about this after a young college student asked me for advice on how to handle her fears.  

The young woman shared that she was feeling lost and the sting of feeling like an outcast because of her Mexican American heritage. Studying in a place where the majority does not look like her, and feeling the pain of living while brown in a country that doesn't appreciate diversity or the contributions of Mexican immigrants, was causing her stress. The young college student told me that each time she walked into a class, she felt she was wearing a mask and that all eyes were on her. She was living in fear and shame of being the other. This brave student also shared that me had asked for advice to an older Mexican American woman who told her to "swallow her fears and keep it moving."  I was outraged by the reckless advice. I told this young woman that as soon as she could she should go to a forest and scream for as long as she could. Cry if she must, then, she should find someone she trusts, a friend, therapist, spiritual healer and begin to talk about her fears.

Swallowing your emotions is one of the most fatal things you can do. Bottling up your feelings is like pretending that what you feel is fake. Pushing emotions back in when they want to come out will cause you physical illness. For starters, the chronic stress that happens when you are not dealing with these emotions needs a place to go and if you don't find ways to let it out, the stress will go live in different parts of your body. Those knots on your shoulders will get bigger and bigger, stomach, head and back aches will be more common, and, as some natural healers have cautioned, the stress caused by unprocessed emotions may cause cancer and other diseases. (Not to mention, unprocessed anger will lead to ugly violence.)  Recently, scientists have found a link between cancer and stress, confirming what healers of non Western traditions have said for centuries. Stress weakens the immune system allowing malignant cells to grow.

So, next time you got some strong emotion, be it fear, sadness, rage, name your emotion here, find a way to let it out that is not harmful to you and to others. It will do your body (and mind) good.

Things to do today if you have been holding it in for a while:

  • Accept that these feelings are real. Denying them is to deny that you exist.
  • Let it out. Cry,  (tears are a natural form of physical cleansing.) 
  • Scream in a forest, before an ocean lake. Let it out...  Holler. 
  • Call or visit a trusted friend and talk about your feelings.
  • If you don't have anyone (and you do, you may not be aware) sit by a lake, a body of water,  under a tree, go to a place of worship, or just sit at home alone, and talk to yourself. Some people call that a form of prayer, to yourself, to the universe, to your God. 
  • Meditate. Find stillness a few minutes a day. Tune in to the beauty and peace that resides inside.

Above all, please, don't swallow fears any more.