Holding things in probably seems like a good strategy because it enables you to keep going. But it comes at a detriment to your health.
Unprocessed emotions become stored in organs, muscles, skin, tissues and glands. These all have receptors on them which access and store emotional information. This means that emotional memory becomes stored in many places in the body, not just the brain.
This has been studied at length. Body mapping has even been done, where researchers used computer-based topography to visually capture changes in the body based on emotion.
Source: Nummenmaa, Gleneran, Harbi & Hietanen, 2013
As your body fills up with emotions, it’s a bit like a dam getting fuller and heavier. The pipes start behaving inefficiently, the sides start to crack until it all becomes too much and it overflows – or the dam itself breaks.
Negative emotions that are stored in the body create tension in your muscles and organs, including your digestive system. This tension prevents your food from being digested, absorbed, processed and eliminated correctly, and you end up with digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, reflux, pain and unpredictable bowels – chronic constipation or diarrhoea.
Tension makes your body feel unsafe, which activates the flight or fight response in the body, and this essentially shuts off any chance your body has of healing itself.
A great way to relieve some of the tension and help your body relax is by moving emotions through the body. Bodywork such as massage, acupuncture or reiki can be great for this, but a daily practice of stretching, meditating, journaling or simply doing something you enjoy like a walk in nature is helpful as well.
In the long-term you’ll need to look deeper into your beliefs around why you feel the need to keep pushing and have trouble expressing how you feel. What are you worried will happen if you rest and open up?
I’m certainly one to keep pushing and pushing and never giving myself the time to rest and restore. I also tend to hold things in rather than talking about it. It wasn’t until I peeled back the layers to investigate my belief systems around why I felt the need to keep working myself into the ground and worked through that, that I finally saw massive improvements in my health.
By getting curious about your own beliefs and stories, I’m sure you’ll begin to see shifts in your health, too.