Shake off that stress: cathartic ways to express yourself

Do you sometimes find your emotions getting the better of you, leading you to take out your frustrations on others? Do you keep them tightly bottled up inside where they’re hurting you? Sometimes rest or quiet meditation is not enough, and you need to do something more intense to get those overwhelming feelings out. There are healthy ways to go about it. By expressing the way you truly feel, you can get yourself back on an even keel and regain control of your life.

Let yourself go on the dancefloor

Almost everybody loves to dance, even if some people feel shy about doing it in public. You don’t have to use your whole body so it’s something you can do while sitting at your desk, or you can join a ballroom dancing club or throw yourself into the pit at a thrash metal gig. The important thing is to find a way of dancing that really works for you. Participate in a formal dance that really speaks to your soul or set aside your worries about what other people might think and really get creative. If you dance hard or for a long time, you will also benefit on a physiological level from speeding up your metabolism and flushing out stress hormones.

Pursue your artistic passions

If you want to show other people how you are feeling, or even just to externalize your feelings in a physical way, there are all sorts of different artistic techniques which you can use to do so. Jordan Wolfson has made a big impact by using animatronic sculptures and 3D VR imaging to address difficult themes, but you can also do it in ways that, at a basic level, don’t require any special skills or training, such as painting or making simple clay sculptures. This allows you to develop your talents and experience the satisfaction of creating something as well as dealing directly with the things which have been troubling you.

Turn up the volume

When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to feel the desire to shout and scream, and that’s not just about expressing anger – it’s a cathartic release in itself. If you can find somewhere to engage in it without bothering other people, such as a remote field or a sound studio, simply let rip with your voice can do you a world of good. Some people do it by singing along to music, and even without the singing, turning the music up loud – whether you’re playing or just listening – can be a great release. Your choice of music makes a statement about who you are. It lets you impress your personality onto the world and feel heard, and as such, it’s a very effective antidote to frustration caused by self-repression.

Fight it out

Although direct displays of aggression are, for good reason, generally frowned upon, there are contexts in which they’re acceptable. Fighting within a system of rules, in a location where you know that somebody will be ready to step in if you start to lose control, can do wonders for your mental health. Whether it’s boxing, wrestling, martial arts or something else, it offers all the benefits of hard exercise, plus – if you take a few blows – an endorphin rush that will leave you with a feeling of calmness and serenity. Training in a discipline like this will also give you better tools for managing your emotions in the long term.

Purge-it with words

If you prefer to do something more discreet, it’s also possible to get a lot of things out of your system by setting down in words how you really think or feel. Therapists often suggest writing letters, even if you don’t intend to send them – even if you write them to people who are dead or imaginary. Other people find it easier to get their feelings out if they use fiction, imagining themselves as characters so that they can address difficult incidents in their lives without them feeling quite so close to home. You don’t have to show anybody what you write. You might not even decide to keep it. If writing itself feels too laborious, try recording your thoughts on audio or video.

Truly cathartic activities are always demanding. You need to push yourself to get results, and the process can be quite harrowing. When combined with creative activities, however, whether they are physical or intellectual, this can drive a deep learning process, enabling you to make progress that would otherwise be very difficult. When you express yourself truly, you can learn more about yourself in the process. You will not only get rid of your immediate stress, but you’ll also get better at dealing with stress in the future, and you may discover something wonderful in the bargain.

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