I used to be really good at not talking about my feelings. I kept everything bottled up until I near exploded. Why? Well, if I opened up about my feelings then they became real; and, more importantly, I didn’t like to burden anyone else with my feelings. Fortunately, I’ve since made a couple of realizations: my feelings are real, regardless of if I talk about them or not. And another thing—the only person they burden is me when I refuse to let them free. Learn from my mistakes and trust me when I say you’re better off opening up about your feelings. Not sure how? Take a few tips from Psychotherapist Akiami McCoy:

1) Write them down.

McCoy’s first tip for opening up about your feelings is writing them down. “Write out your feelings in a poem, story, or list,” she says. Once you have them down on paper, then you’ll be able to vocalize them with greater ease. Or, if that nervous pit in your stomach doesn’t budge, then you can simply show your poem or your list to the person you’re trying to express your feelings to.

2) Draw them out.

Another way of expressing your feelings is channeling them into art. “Use art to draw it out,” McCoy suggests. You don’t have to be a talented artist by any means, the point is to take the pressure off of your clouded mind and get your feelings out there—or in this case into a piece of art. Once you’ve relieved your mind of these bottled feelings, you may find that you’re ready to talk about your feelings. Just use your drawing as a guide and release your thoughts.

3) Let them flow naturally.

If the first two tips don’t quite do the trick, “play a game and just talk naturally about something in your past that made you sad, angry, or happy,” as recommended by McCoy. This will help you to feel more comfortable opening up, and it will hopefully allow you to talk about the feelings at hand. The key is to make the conversation about your feelings a natural one, as opposed to a forced one—nobody should be or feel coerced into having a conversation they aren’t ready to have.

4) Make a recording.

If you’re having a difficult time talking about your feelings, another idea worth considering is making a recording. “Record yourself on a video or other recording device when no one is around, and then share it with the person who needs to hear it,” McCoy explains. Confrontation is tough for just about everybody, but this fear isn’t impossible to overcome. Give this strategy a test-run and see if it helps you to open up. Chances are, talking aloud about how you feel will instill the confidence in you to talk about how you feel with someone else. Or, at the very least, you’ll be able to show them the recording and help them to understand how you feel regardless.

5) Take up journaling.

Another effective tip for opening up about your feelings is to start journaling. “Use a journal to write out your feelings daily, and read it aloud to someone,” says McCoy. Journaling comes with a multitude of benefits, as it’s proven to relieve stress, lessen anxiety, and improve mood. In addition, getting into the habit of journaling will help you feel more comfortable about expressing yourself—hence, it will get you one step closer to discussing your feelings with other people. Until then, at least write all of those feelings down, and if you can, share your journal entries with someone like a trusted friend or family member.

6) Find a relaxing environment.

McCoy’s sixth and final tip is to seek out a relaxing environment. “Express your feelings in an environment that is less intimidating, such as a park: somewhere that makes you feel good,” she says. A stressful, loud, or otherwise uncomfortable environment can make any conversation a tough one—especially a personal conversation such as this. So, take McCoy’s advice and find a peaceful place for opening up about your feelings. This will undoubtedly take some pressure off and make for a productive conversation you’ll later be thankful for.

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