Feelings Need To Be Felt

by Lynn Wonders on April 1, 2017

cryingIf I had a dollar for every time a client has apologized for crying during their first visit to my office I would be a very wealthy woman. I find myself telling all of my clients at some point that crying is not only allowed, but encouraged.

It is all too common that people in this society view crying and expression of emotions as something bad, wrong or weak. And it’s not only men who have a hard time expressing emotions. I see women and children holding back.

In the field of psychology there is a lot of common talk about “emotion regulation.” For the rare individuals who are truly overwhelmed by emotion so extremely and ongoing that their functioning is impaired, learning to “regulate” emotions through specific skills training is tremendously valuable.

But for the rest of us, we could stand for a little less “regulation” and a lot more allowing for feelings to flow.

Feelings need to be felt. Stuffing and suppressing emotions is a real problem for many of my clients. I find myself most often teaching people how to allow themselves to be friends with their feelings and how to allow the feelings to be felt and expressed.

I’m not suggesting that emotions should be allowed to take over our interactions with self and others. On the contrary, when we allow ourselves to feel honestly and express openly we actually can take greater responsibility for our actions and our choices.

The magical gift of tears

Intense circumstances can trigger intense hormonal responses in the body often called “stress.”  Particular hormones such as cortisol are released as the body’s way of going into protection mode. But when we experience high levels of these stress hormones without proper outlet or release, our health is endangered over time.

Tears are a mechanism through which the brain and body can RELEASE excess stress hormones.

YES. When you allow yourself to cry,  you are RELEASING STRESS.

And you NEED to release stress. Your brain and body need the equilibrium that can occur after a good cry.

Other benefits to feeling our feelings

When we allow ourselves to feel and express our RAW emotions for others to witness, social research suggests that feelings of sympathy, empathy and connectedness to others most often follows. When you allow yourself to show your true feelings, allow yourself to cry,  you are demonstrating to others you are real, you are human and you are willing to be a bit vulnerable.

Deal with your discomfort and stop apologizing for your feelings.

Whether you are the one emoting or you’re in the presence of someone else experiencing a wave of feelings, it’s important to not allow discomfort to dictate. Remember, feeling and expressing feelings is healthy.

If you feel a wave of emotion come over you, stop apologizing. You didn’t choose to feel what you are feeling. Acknowledge and allow the emotions you are having to move through you. It’s healthy. It’s human and it’s important for your growth and healing.

And when you are with someone else who is having a wave of emotions, it’s important not to shut them down.

Tips on how to respond when someone else is crying and expressing emotion

  1. Keep in mind if someone is crying, they are releasing stress and that’s a healthy thing.
  2. Notice any discomfort you may feel and take a breath. And another breath. Just be and breathe for now.
  3. Do NOT shove tissues in their face at the first sight of tears! We may mean well but when you push a box of tissues in front of someone when they begin crying it can be interpreted to mean they need to dry their tears and stop crying. See #1 and #2. After they’ve been crying and seem to need a tissue you can gently ask, “Would you like me to get a tissue for you?” or just have a box nearby.

Check in with your feelings regularly.

Consider it like a devotional time for your emotions. Dedicate time each day – maybe throughout the day – to check in. Ask yourself internally, “How am I feeling? What emotions are hanging around inside of me?”

Do a body scan. Often emotions are trapped in tight muscles or achey joints. Breathe into he physical sensations and see if you can connect the sensation with a particular feeling or memory.

Keep a journal

The tried and true old advice is still good advice. It can be very helpful to write about your experiences, your feelings, your fears, your visions, your dreams. It will help you to stay in touch with your feelings.

Start a conversation

Don’t be afraid to talk with someone about what you’re feeling. It can be helpful to process and work through what is happening for you on an emotional level whether with a counselor, coach, friend or trusted family member.




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Mindfulness for Children: Helping Kids Feel Calm

by Lynn Wonders on October 29, 2016

mindfulness for childrenThe practice of mindfulness has been scientifically proven to change the brains of adults in positive ways. The Center for Mindfulness at University of Massachusetts Medical School has ongoing ample scientific research data to prove how mindfulness supports many healthy, positive changes to human beings.

While we don’t yet have a lot of research about how mindfulness can help children, it’s a safe assumption that mindfulness for children is just as effective (if not more!) in helping kids to find calm more readily, regulate behavior and emotion, improve focus and get along more harmoniously with peers, family and adults. Children’s brains are still forming at a rapid rate. A recent study showed after 8 weeks of regular mindfulness practice a group of adults’ brains showed on MRIs to have grown gray matter in the parts of the brain responsible for rationalizing and regulating and shrunk the parts of the brain that react with fear. Can you imagine how mindfulness practice can affect the formation of the child’s brain?

Despite some misplaced concerns of parents objecting to mindfulness being taught in schools based on a misunderstand as to what the practice is about, mindfulness is actually a secular practice that can compliment any spiritual belief system or stand alone and it’s important for parents to understand better what mindfulness is and how it can help children.

By definition of Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, mindfulness is the practice of paying attention on purpose in a very particular way without judgment. It’s the practice of slowing down our fast moving brains and noticing with great attention where we are in time and space in this present moment without jumping to conclusions or analysis right away.

Now, pause just a moment and just imagine if children with hyperactive behavior or anxiety could learn to do that?

In our offices at Wonders Counseling Services, we work with children to do just this through particular play therapy techniques. I have been training therapists in mindfulness within play therapy for several years and have reports from therapists all over the country who are seeing profound results with their child clients and their families who embark upon this practice.

Mindfulness for children is something that must be taught and ideally practiced by the parents and teachers as well for optimal results.  Here are some practical tips for how parents and teachers can begin practicing, teaching and observing mindfulness in daily life.

Slow Down. . .

  1. Provide enough time before and after transitions from one place or activity to the next.
  2. Practice slow breathing. As a matter of regular ongoing practice, breathe in fully filling the lungs and slowly release the breath to a count of 7 on the exhale. Practice this with your children regularly, not just when someone gets upset – by then it may be too late!
  3. Practice walking more slowly, softly and with great attention instead of rushing about.
  4. Stop over-scheduling yourself and your children. Too many commitments and activities does not necessarily make a happy, fulfilling life. Create white space in the schedule – time to breathe, be spontaneous and creative with your kids.
  5. Practice sitting and just being. Notice the feelings of antsy-ness and boredom and just keep sitting and breathing and being. It trains your brain to go beyond the urgency of impulsivity and to be in the present moment.

Mindful Mealtime

  1. Mealtime is the perfect time and place to practice and teach your children to be mindful. Take your meals at the table together as a family.
  2. Light a candle. Play some soft music. Ban electronics. Create an atmosphere that will cue your nervous system to relax and be present.
  3. Take time to taste your food. Sit and savor your food, tasting and chewing thoroughly before swallowing.
  4. Enjoy the togetherness of family. As you eat, look at your family members and really listen to what your children choose to share with you. Let go of the urge to correct or discipline at this time.
  5. Include clean up as a chance for mindfulness with everyone pitching in and helping get the dishes rinsed and loaded. Teach your children to move through this process slowly and with awareness.

Mindfulness at Bedtime

  1. Bedtime is another ideal time to practice and demonstrate mindfulness for children. Again, set the atmosphere to be conducive to quieting the mind and relaxing the body observing soft lighting, soft music and scents such as lavender or vanilla.
  2. As you tuck your child in, invite her to notice 5 things she sees and hears in the present moment helping her mind to be fully present.
  3. Practice mindful breathing to settle the mind and body, preparing for sleep. You might introduce a counting cycle of breath such as one I teach my child clients called square-breathing. Inhale slowly to the count of 4. Hold the breath in for 4. Exhale slowly to the count of 4 and then hold the breath out for the count of 4. Repeat 4 times completing the square breath and closing the eyes.

Mindfulness for children is a learned experience and one that undoubtedly will assist you and your children in cultivating a more peaceful life experience while also training the brain to be able to more readily overcome anxiety, inability to focus and daily stress.



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Play at All Ages

October 5, 2016

“You can learn more about a person in one hour of play than in a year of conversation.” – Plato Photograph by Judy Bruner of JBruner Photography www.judybruner.com Play is good for us. At all ages. It’s bad enough that many adults don’t understand the essential value of play for children and how play is […]

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Mission Statement for a Parent

May 10, 2016

In my years of leading parenting workshops and supporting parents in family counseling the most important aspect of these workshops and sessions is helping parents get clear on creating a mission statement for the very important job of raising their children. I tell parents of young children, “Imagine your child in cap and gown on […]

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Couples Who Play Together Stay Together Happily

February 17, 2016

According to Howard Markman, PhD of University of Denver’s Center for Family and Marital studies, the more couples invest time and energy in having fun together the happier the couple will be over time.  Research also supports that happily married couples live longer, healthier lives. It can be all too easy to slip into the […]

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Life Support for Women Over 50

January 24, 2016

   A Mid-Life Support Group For Women Over The Age of 50 8 Weeks of Face-to-Face Group Support Sessions Facilitated by Lynn Louise Wonders, LPC Come and learn something each week AND participate in supportive group discussion. Share, learn, listen and feel supported and connected with other women facing similar issues of mid-life. Some of […]

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Adolescent Stress & Anxiety Support

January 6, 2016

Adolescent stress and anxiety is a serious matter. Teenagers are under more pressure than ever. We see this with our clients every day and we are here to help. Stress & anxiety for teens can be helped through effective group therapy and training. Click To Tweet Leigh Swanson, LPC will be launching the Adolescent Stress […]

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Mindfulness Meditation Changes Your Brain for the Better

December 14, 2015

People who regularly practice meditation can attest to the positive effects of increasing calm, reducing stress and enhancing ability to develop insight on one’s life. Now, we have ample research to back up the positive impact meditation has. Dr. Sara Lazar, expert in neuro-science at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, recently conducted a […]

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Me, My Shell & I: The Journey of Solitude & Self-Reliance

October 30, 2015

The metaphor of finding the importance of relying on oneself can be seen in the life of our mollusk friend the snail. Throughout her life’s journey, the snail finds shelter and security for herself utilizing her entire body as a sensory tool for what lies ahead. Though she may encounter obstacles along the way and […]

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Parenting Young Adult Children

September 13, 2015

by Lynn Louise Wonders, LPC, RPT-S, CPCS Every Monday night we have family dinner at my house. All three of our children know this is sacred gathering time. It doesn’t hurt that they know this may be their one delicious home-cooked meal for the week. My sons (now nearly 19 and 22) live together  (by […]

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