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  • Writer's pictureNava Narayani

The Basics of Emotions When You Feel Lost + 7 Tips to Help You Through



Emotions are the paints to life's blank canvas, in my opinion. When you discover a new one, you've discovered a new color. Similarly to paints, there is a basic emotional palette, and then endless variations and combinations. In the art of contemplative psychotherapy, we practice meeting each emotional experience with present awareness and compassionate witnessing, like two hands meeting. Add in somatic therapy theory and we learn to map out the physiological sensations so we can embody and express the feeling. We learn what each symptom is informing us and what's needed to help it move through. Emotions are normal human reactions to human experiences. Clients have expressed that something they value that they gain from working with me is greater acceptance of themselves, however they are, and comfort in their emotions.


Not understanding what emotions are and how they work, it's easy to become overwhelmed, lost, and panicked in them. And as we get older, they get fancier. But, like anything, it's the lack of awareness and skill that makes them scary. Here's a few of my basics of emotional theory:


  • Label what you're feeling. Simple, yet effective. Don't believe it? Try it! Whether it's a big or small emotion, naming what you're feeling makes it known and therefore manageable. Keep it simple- "I'm having a panic attack." "I'm feeling anxious about finances." "I'm feeling irritated they said my name wrong." "I'm feeling sad." The wheel of emotions is.a common resource I use to help clients expand their feeling vocabulary. Check it out! There you can see the 7 basic universal emotions (debatable choices tbh), then they nuance out.

  • Name the physical sensations you're experiencing. Emotions come with physiological sensations. Put your attention to your body and notice what's happening: hot, cold, quick heart, pressure in the head, heaviness in the eyes, tingling in the toes, tension in the stomach, etc. This will help you understand what you're feeling and what you need. For help, check out this awesome study about mapping emotions in the body! Also, this body mapping chart on Etsy "What Is My Body Telling Me It Needs Right Now?

  • Use the metaphor of ocean waves. Emotions have a rhythm to them. Maybe you only notice it when it's at it's peak, but they have a beginning, middle, and end. Bear witness and watch the emotion enter your system, rise, crescendo, simmer down, and fall away. Notice the gap before the next one enters. Use your breath to surf through it, especially at the crescendo. Remind yourself- this too shall pass. It always does.

  • Calm, exert, or nourish? Once you have a handle on what it is you're feeling, next is discerning what you need. A quick way to categorize your options is do you need to calm down, exert or express energy, or nourish yourself? Make a list of your favorite activities for each category, and ask your friends what theirs are!

  • Use music, movement, or art to match, express, and shift the feeling. These tools allow you to meet the feeling. Hello darkness, my old friend. They can also help bring to the surface something that's lurking and needs help getting up and out. When you've had your fill of engaging with the emotion, shift the vibe and move on.

  • Check in on basic needs. Do you need sleep, food, water, hugs, air, or movement? What else might be in your list of basic needs?

  • Mindfulness tricks. Forget the hang ups of your life for a moment and come back to the simplicity of your present experience and focus on something pleasant. Engage your five senses to do so: notice what you can see, hear, feel, smell, and taste. Linger a moment on something that is pleasant to you. I like to say that while your mind can travel to all realms in time and space, your body is always in the present moment and your breath is your anchor to the body ;)


Emotional theory can get incredibly complex and, honestly, never-ending, but the basics can take you long way. Feelings don't need to hold you back in life, but rather fuel you forward as a guiding compass tool in navigating life, feeling alive, and fostering connection. I hope you have more moments of enjoying the rich journey to mastery. You got this!


As always, if you want professional support on your journey, reach out anytime here!



Egg photo by Tengyart

Splatter paint photo by Ricardo Viana

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