First of all, I am not denying that many people feel stressed and depressed and I am not suggesting for a second that these terms are not valid descriptions of people’s experience.
I have used them to describe my own emotional experience and within my blogs!
The difficulty I have with the terms ‘stressed’ and ‘depressed’ is that we have come to use these words as a shorthand for too many of our emotions. As a result, I believe we are in danger of losing touch with our emotional vocabulary and with our emotions themselves.
OK, they are useful umbrella terms in day to day conversation but underneath the ‘stress’ or the ‘depression’, there is likely a myriad of emotions going unrecognised, un-named and unprocessed.
Whats more, when we overuse terms like ‘depressed’ in day to day conversation to mean sad or fed up, it can diminish the meaning of depression if you are experiencing an episode of clinical depression.
What happens if we lose touch with our emotions?
It may feel safer or more socially acceptable to tell someone you are feeling stressed or depressed than it is to say you feel:
- empty, deflated, defeated, bereft, sorrowful, rejected, apprehensive, bored, or have a sense of impending doom.
But what happens when we only acknowledge the label ‘stressed’ or ‘depressed’ to ourselves?
We could miss the nuance of our experience…
We could avoid acknowledging and feeling emotions that could help us to understand something about ourselves or our situation…
Or we may just feel overwhelmed and confused because we don’t really know how we feel.
Think for a minute about the difference in how it feels when you think of the word ‘depressed’ in comparison with ‘bereft’.
What do they feel like? Can you tell the difference?
When we don’t define the emotion it hinders appropriate action
When we can’t express what we are feeling to ourselves or to others, it could also prevent us from taking appropriate action or having our needs met.
For example, I have recently noticed that my 6 year old will tell me he is hungry when he is actually bored.
He is expressing to me that he has a need and he wants his internal state to change but he sometimes mis-labels what he is experiencing.
If he is actually bored but tells me he is hungry, I will give him something to eat but then in 10 minutes he will come back to tell me he is still hungry.
His true need has not been met.
If, on the other hand, he can identify and tell me that he is bored, the solution to this problem is different!
We might get out some different toys or activities or go out to play! (He has now started to differentiate between hunger and boredom with a little prompting).
Emotions are there to be felt!
Even the emotions we experience as negative are there to help us make sense of our internal and external world.
Just identifying our emotions helps us to acknowledge and process them. Being specific about what you are experiencing is far more helpful than using a catch-all term.
Of course, you may actually feel stressed or depressed, in which case these descriptions are absolutely valid.
But if you find yourself frequently using these words with other people or to yourself, or if you rarely use any other ways to describe your emotions, see if there is anything else hiding beneath them.
Don’t stop at negative emotions either! Identify your positive emotions too!
Don’t you think elated, ecstatic, overjoyed, victorious, invincible or carefree feel better than ‘good’?
Have a lovely, emotional day!
Lemon Squeezy makes wellbeing easy!
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