What is an Emotional Detox, and When Should I Do One?

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Ongoing pressures at work and home, constant exposure to social media, and lack of free time can cause you to feel anxious, gloomy, and drained.

Getting rid of toxic emotions is good for your mental health and sense of well-being. You might need an emotional detox if you feel on edge, easily upset, or overwhelmed by negative thoughts.

What are Emotional Toxins?

When we don’t have the tools to deal with our feelings, we can get stuck. For example, you might find it hard to manage guilt or shame. So, you ignore these feelings or cover them up with anger, keeping emotional toxins in your life.

But emotional toxins can also build up because of things like childhood trauma or unhealthy attachments.

In the same way that overprocessed and undigested foods drain your energy, negative thinking can overprocess your emotions and make them toxic.

What is an Emotional Detox?

Emotional detox is a process of releasing unresolved or overprocessed feelings that have become stuck and keep you from feeling and accepting all of your feelings.

Signs You May Need an Emotional Detox

If you feel tired, easily triggered, unmotivated, or just “off” for reasons you can’t quite put your finger on, the reason for this may be unresolved emotions that weigh you down.

You may feel an emotional detox if you feel out of control and unable to go about your everyday life.

So, you might benefit from an emotional detox if you:

  • Feel negative and more irritated than usual
  • Struggle with depressive thoughts and feelings
  • Feel moody and short-tempered
  • Have difficulty sleeping
  • Have no interest in things you previously enjoyed
  • Feel exhausted when you wake up
  • Have nightmares
  • Feel anxious about the future
  • Lack motivation
  • Have relationship problems
  • Experience anger outbursts
  • Feel overwhelmed
  • Have difficulty making decisions
  • Using alcohol and substances to manage stress
  • Dwell on the past
  • Feeling not good enough
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What Does an Emotional Detox Involve?

The purpose of emotional detox is not to eliminate unpleasant or painful emotions such as sadness, guilt, or hurt. Instead, an emotional detox aims to allow you to better process and digest your emotional experiences and return to your natural state of happiness.

According to Sherianna Boyle, emotional detox should involve nurturing your body as well by getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and eating healthily.

Once your body is taken care of, you can go on an emotional detox through a three-step process:

1. Clear

This step involves noticing what triggers you and sets you off. Once you know what sets you off, you can use yoga, mindfulness meditation, or exercise to stimulate your vagus nerve and calm yourself down.

2. Reflect

Boyle distinguishes between mental self-reflection and sensory self-awareness. To look inward, you need to have a healthy conversation with your body and learn to recognize feelings as feedback from your self-inquiry.

3. Emit

The last step involves:

  • Focusing on the present moment.
  • Creating internal boundaries.
  • Transforming your reactivity into something new.

This can help develop a sense of safety and stability, so you feel strong and authentic.

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How Long Does an Emotional Detox Last?

There are no fast solutions when it comes to unpacking, digesting, and releasing unwanted emotions. So, be ready for your emotional detox to take a while, but don’t give up. The process may be challenging and take a long time, but it can be done and will bring many benefits.

How to Do an Emotional Detox?

Here are four ways to do an emotional detox and digest emotions that keep you stuck in unproductive patterns of thinking and behavior.

1. Take a Break from Social Media

Constant connectedness causes tension, anxiety, sadness, and low self-esteem. Therefore, taking breaks from social media can be a highly valuable part of your emotional detox.

Figuring out why you use social media and how you feel about it is an excellent place to start when you want to set limits on it. 

Even if you don’t feel like you’re addicted to social media and can’t stop, taking a break from it can be healthy.

Most social media applications are mindless because they are designed to keep you browsing, comparing yourself to others, and seeking approval on social media. This can have a severe impact on your mental health and well-being. Try being mindful of this activity (the opposite of mindlessness) and paying attention to what’s going on while browsing.

Also, try taking a 15-minute phone break before bed or in the morning.

2. Ask for Help

If your attempts to go on an emotional detox are not working, consider seeking professional help. A mental health expert can help you overcome anxiety, work through past trauma, and do your inner child work, all of which can help you process your toxic emotions.

3. Be Aware of Your Emotions (and Have a Plan)

Practice journaling or mindfulness to identify and reflect on your emotions. These practices can help you understand what sets you off or causes stress so that you can make an emotional detox plan tailored to your needs.

4. Make Your Space as Comfortable as Possible

Your living space can help you feel safe and empowered to start an emotional detox. Create a soothing environment at home by decorating your home with calming colors, reducing outdoor noise, and using refreshing scents. 

5. Breathwork

Breathwork has been known to release emotions and can be a catalyst for an emotional detox. If we think about it many of the emotions that we stuff down get held within our chest or gut area. Breathwork involving circular patterns, such as a deep breath in the stomach, then the chest then out through the mouth, can offer energetic movement to truly release those emotions that have been held inside, thus leading to a real release and detox. (feel free to check out my page on breathwork)

Get the Most of Your Emotional Cleanse

Boyle says, “As we process our feelings, our ability to empathize with others without reacting gets better.”

In our lives, most of us are subjected to stress, microtrauma, or even big “T” traumas. Such emotional experiences can clog up your emotional flow, causing problems with your mental health, relationships, and other parts of your life.

Learning how to deal with your feelings could help you protect your mental health, feel more like yourself, and enjoy your life.

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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