It is 7:35 am on Monday and I am exceedingly grumpy this morning.
I feel a child’s tantrum brewing in my belly, but it’s being contained by the social dictates of acceptable behavior. Still, holding it in doesn’t make it any more comfortable.
Quite to the contrary actually, the attempt to control my upset is creating an irritating restlessness throughout the rest of my body, which is further radiating through my perception onto all things outside of me.
I find myself projecting my discontent onto the tea-kettle, my meowing cats, the voices on the radio, my obligations for the day, and the Universe as a whole.
Some might say that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.
While I don’t enjoy feeling this way, my greater Wisdom tells me that this frustration has a purpose and needs to be acknowledged.
Sure, I can come up with thousands of reasons for why I’m experiencing this grumpiness. (Being in graduate school for five years will challenge even the most enthusiastic student to keep smiling.)
But smile is exactly what I know I must do if I want to feel better.
Because right now it’s graduate school, a few years ago it was my wanting to move to a new city, and next year it will be something else entirely that I blame for my emotions.
There are always going to be things to point at to explain how I’m feeling, but while directing my attention away from the feelings themselves is the easy thing to do, it’s really not the most productive.
I know I’m not the only one who does this.
Even if you think that a specific emotional response was caused by circumstances outside of yourself, the truth is that the potential for a different reaction lies within you.
As humans we have a tendency to categorize our emotions as “good” or “bad,” and we like to assign responsibility for these emotions outside of ourselves.
When we do this, we give our power to the circumstances instead of working to find a solution within.
In reality, if you take a moment to investigate an emotion as it arises, without labeling it, you’ll find that it’s just an impulse of energy inside your body that can be moved in another direction.
And when you continue to judge and categorize your emotions you are actually missing out on the opportunities that even your less favorable emotions have to offer.
When you deny your emotions instead of feeling and expressing them, you end up living your life in reaction rather than positive action.
All emotions, even the uncomfortable ones, serve a purpose.
Joy is obviously there to make us feel good, and we all want more of it. It lightens our spirits and makes our lives feel more fulfilled.
But even joy has it’s downside when it’s not processed and moved through the body properly. If someone experiences too much joy, as in a manic episode, then joy can actually become extremely destructive.
Fear also has a clear purpose, namely to protect us from potential danger. But when fear is in excess, it can hold a person back from taking risks and making things happen in the world.
Grief, too, has it’s useful place. Grief helps us let go of what was so we can open up a new space for what is to come. Avoiding grief can lead to depression, so it’s very important to let yourself feel it fully to process it out of your body.
Anger might be frowned upon in our society, but it too is very important, and you should honor your anger.
Anger is the powerful force behind manifesting what you want in the world, and as long as you focus your anger productively rather than taking it out on others, it can be used to create great things in your life.
Frustration is pent up anger, and that’s exactly what I was feeling when I got out of bed this morning.
I felt stuck, because I had to wake up with the alarm in order to make it to class on time, and I have to keep going to class if I want to graduate. I didn’t find a way to focus my anger productively, so I ended up projecting it on everything around me.
But the moment I paused, closed my eyes, and breathed into my anger instead of avoiding it, I regained the power over my reactions and was able to begin to transform it.
How to Transform Your Frustration and Feel Better
Acknowledging your feelings without shutting them out is the first step to transforming them.
If you’re able to observe how you feel, without judging the experience as good or bad, you are going to have an easier time in both experiencing the feelings as well as letting them go.
The first thing you should do when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed is pause, close your eyes, and feel the emotions in your body.
Ask yourself where they are, and without labeling them as good or bad check in to see if you notice any shapes, colors, sounds, smells, or textures associated with your present feelings.
Investigate if there is any way in which your emotions want to be expressed.
For example, this morning I spent a minute stomping my feet.
It may have been silly, but in doing so I was able to release the pressure that was building up from the frustration inside of me, and also made me laugh because I knew how ridiculous I must look, which further lightened my emotional load.
Jumping up and down and shaking into the places where you feel the emotion can also be a really effective way of shaking your stuck feelings loose so you can more easily move on.
Show yourself some compassion.
When you’re grumpy in the morning you do your finest impression of your 4-year-old self.
Instead of getting more grumpy as you repeat the stories you’re telling yourself about why you’re grumpy, find the compassionate adult inside of you that can soothe the upset child.
Find a way to focus your energy productively.
If you work on a project to focus on your frustration, you will have a productive outlet for your frustration rather than letting it fester inside of you.
In fact, you are reading this article because I funneled my own frustration into writing this article.
Even if it’s the last thing you want to do, smile.
Smiling actually has a physiological reaction on your brain that makes you feel happier, but you have to lift your cheeks and smile into your eyes to make it work.
Laughing at yourself is also a great strategy!
Exercise and go outside.
Exercise and spending time in nature have both been proven to make people feel happier, so combine them for a double boost!
Our emotions in and of themselves aren’t bad, it’s when we label and suppress emotions that problems arise.
So next time you get up on the wrong side of the bed, feel what you’re feeling in your body in the moment, and open up to the possibility that it will soon change.
Just because you are a little uncomfortable when you wake up doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the colors in the sky, the fresh air around you, or the satisfying taste of a warm cup of coffee.