The 4 Stages of Emotional Release

Tips from a chronic pain recovery therapist

If you’ve been on the path of mind-body healing for a while, you’ve undoubtedly heard over and over again that it’s important to process and release your emotions. But how?

Emotions are so taboo in patriarchal culture that most of us don’t learn anything about emotional hygiene growing up. Similar to how we aren’t taught how our bodies work when it comes to sex (another culturally taboo topic) we’re often left in the dark when it comes to emotional processing.

And this is a problem, because releasing emotions regularly is part of healthy emotional digestion. That’s right, your emotional system needs to move daily to maintain a healthy flow state, just like your digestive tract!⁠

If you don’t move your bowels for days and weeks on end, things get clogged up and uncomfortable symptoms will result. It’s no different with your emotional system…

The steps of healthy, regular emotional “digestion” and release are, in fact, analogous to the steps of bowel release:⁠

1. Soothe: We can’t release in a stressful, unsafe-feeling environment. Find or create a safe space in which to relax enough for release to happen.⁠ Maybe setting the scene for safety means closing the door, lighting a candle, putting on some soothing music, taking a moment to connect with your breath and stretch your body… How do you like to set the scene for feeling safe?

2. Stimulate: Offer your system an invitation to release. If it’s your bladder, maybe turning on the water offers a suggestion that stimulates release. If it’s your emotions, maybe a journaling prompt offers that invitation.⁠ Or perhaps meditation, tapping, mindful yoga, breathwork, somatic tracking… What’s your preferred emotional “stimulant”?

3. Release: This happens organically as a response to safety and stimulation. BUT, if things have been clogged up for a long while… you may have to rinse and repeat steps 1 and 2 on a regular daily basis for a while before things start moving again.⁠

4. Soothe: After releasing, we don’t want to shock our nervous system by jumping right back into a stressful or high-energy activity. First, soothe yourself to safely complete the release. Maybe spend a moment breathing, stretching, and patting yourself on the back to say: “well done, self!”

Consistent self-approval and encouragement will help your system feel good about releasing the next time around.

With warmth, gentle encouragement and a steadfast belief in you,

💖⁠ Anna

P.S. These stages of emotional release are all part of a new program I’m excited to bring to you in January!

From Chronic Pain to Passion is a 6-month group coaching program for passionate creatives that will guide and support you through the process of healing from chronic pain and reclaiming your energy to fuel your dreams!


Medika Life has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Medika Life

Anna Holtzman
Anna Holtzman
Anna Holtzman is a chronic pain recovery therapist and coach based in New York City.
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