5 ways to move through feelings & get unstuck

Let me give you some background on today’s blog: I had an eating disorder for many years in my 20s.

It was bad and lasted about 5 years until I started the deep inner work of healing what got me there in the first place. I don’t talk about that part of my life a lot because it’s not directly related to the work I do, but this food thing is a problem for many women – so it’s time for me to share more about my own journey in hopes that it continues to heal us all!

While my life is profoundly different today than it was back then, I still have to practice feeling my feelings every single day.  That’s what this blog is about today.


The thing about emotional eating is that the eating is simply a symptom for something else.  

Usually the food is simply a sign that we’re having feelings that we may or may not be in touch with.

Life is constantly happening and we have endless feelings about what’s happening. But usually, we’re moving so fast that we don’t actually know what we’re feeling.

If we’re not in touch with our feelings as they arise, they get lodged somewhere in our body.  If we don’t feel our feelings all the way through, they get stuck.  And when they get stuck, we feel even more uncomfortable which leads us to reach for a “quick fix” to feel better fast – like food, or wine, or work, or tv, or social media, or shopping, or men.

We all have tools and strategies to prevent us from experiencing the occasional discomfort of simply feeling our feelings.  

Before I go on with my personal story about ice cream, I invite you to pause for a second and think about this:
What are the quick-fixes you use that help you avoid your feelings? 
No judgment here.  This is a judgement-free zone. Just be honest.  This is how any change happens – we must first get real with ourselves.
So, here’s what happened with me and ice cream:

Two weekends ago, my husband (the fire fighter) calls me to let me know that he’s been deployed to one of the wild fires in Southern California.

This is the 4th straight year this has happened – so you may think I’d be totally used to it by now.  The truth is that I thought I was cool with it, too.

Here’s what I said to him: “Oh, okay… wow….ohh….I didn’t know that was happening.  Okay….  Really?  Where?  Alright – no big deal! I love you.  Be safe and see ya when you get back!”

Can you see what I did there?

I was having all kinds of feelings at the beginning, but then immediately CUT them off and pretended I was fine!

I’m so good at jumping out of my feelings that I didn’t even realize what I was doing – until the icecream started calling.

Sunday night.  Monday night. Tuesday night.  Wednesday night.  Thursday night.

Every single night I found myself wanting to end my day with icecream.

I realize that might not be a big deal for some people.  But, for me, craving icecream every night is a red flag. It’s a warning sign and a symptom that I’m having FEELINGS that I haven’t gotten in touch with yet.

When we feel uncomfortable, we do whatever we can to try to make ourselves feel better.

Most of us reach for quick-fixes to self-soothe.  Sometimes, those quick fixes aren’t enough, so we blame or get angry at other people to diffuse our feelings.  It’s easier to blame someone else that feel our own shit.  Other times, we end up internalizing our feelings and depressing them deep within ourselves (thus, we get depressed!)

But – eventually – feelings always come out. All stored energy must be released somehow.

The amazing thing about feelings is that they can’t stay hidden too long.  You see – our bodies aren’t working against us!  They are trying to help us heal.  But we must listen.

Finally, by Friday, I realized that I was clearly out of touch with the truth of what I was feeling…

I was actually SCARED!
I was SAD!
I was lonely!
I was worried.
I was angry.
But, mostly, I was in fear. 

Even though my logical mind knew there was very little chance anything would happen to my husband while he was away, my primal brain went into fight or flight.  I went into total lock down.  Not only did I want to eat icecream every night to help “soothe” the pain I was unconsciously feeling, I was also in a tremendous amount of physical pain as well.  My body was aching and sore all week long.  It was trying to get my attention!

Our bodies are always speaking to us.  We just have to listen.  

When we’re able to simply get in touch with our feelings and allow them to flow through us, our bodies can release and our minds no longer need a distraction like icecream. 

Luckily – I have a practice and tons of tools I use on a daily basis to ensure that I FEEL my feelings rather than numb out.  Sometimes they work quickly. Sometimes they work slowly. But they always work.

I’m sharing a few of the tools below but many of the ones I use behind closed doors can only be taught in person (screaming, yelling, shaking, dancing, moaning, breathing, breaking, and so much more fierceness.) But, for now…


Here are 5 tools to use to feel your feelings:

1) Identify your red flag:
My personal red flags are either icecream or over-working.  Whenever I’m thinking about icecream every day or want to over-work and not rest, there’s SOMETHING I’m not feeling.  So your first step is to identify your red flag behavior. Once you know what your red flag is, you will be able to know that something is happening for you.  It’s an amazing warning sign that’s flashing its light trying to get you to pay attention.
What is your red flag behavior?

2) Notice without judgment: 
Whenever you see your red flag popping up over and over again, simply notice without judgment.  I noticed I was eating ice cream at night.  I noticed I was thinking about it each day.  I noticed there was something going on.  Just get curious.

3) Write about it:
Sometimes, writing is the last thing I want to do when I feel this way but I always feel better after I do it.  You can simply take a blank piece of paper and write “I’m scared because….” or “I’m angry because…” or “I’m feeling all these feelings”  and then just WRITE your beautiful heart out.  Don’t pick up your pen.  Just let yourself go. Sometimes it helps to set a time for 5 minutes to make sure we dont quit before the good stuff.

4) Talk about it:
Find your special people who you can talk about this kindof stuff with!  It’s so important to be able to say “here’s what I’m feeling” without needing someone else to do anything about it.  Often times, I will tell my friends what I need…”I just need to say this.  I’m feeling really angry because. I dont need any advice.  Just wanted to say it and let it go!”  And that’s it!

5) Share about it:
Whenever we have feelings, it’s so important to get them out.  Emotions are simply energy in motion.  It’s something that wants to move through your body – so whenever we share about it in some way, we are helping to move the emotion through us so it doesnt stay stuck in our body.

The more we practice this, the easier it gets.

Usually, for me it doesn’t take 5 days to figure out I’m having feelings.  But, this was a big one – and clearly, it led me to write this to you. So, may my journey be of service to you in some way!

May we all continue to give ourselves permission to feel everything and have the courage to move through challenges head-on with grace and gratitude.

Sending you all so so much love,

Ps.  I’m considering holding a Wild Woman’s Retreat this Fall.  I’ve found an incredible off-the-grid farm that sleeps 8 women.  I’m thinking about me, you and a small handful of other women getting in touch with the land and our own primal fire and fierceness for an entire weekend.  I have to book the space by the end of July so if this is something you’re interested in, please email support@juliesantiago.com and let us know.  If it feels right, we’ll hop on the phone and discuss details.  Only hit reply if you’re serious about exploring this together since there is only space for 8 sisters.

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  1. Kathleen Daley says

    Thank you for this blog post!!! And believe it or not mine is ice cream too !! I have found remarkable help in sharing through private “coaching” groups on social media .. these days there is a group for every topic under the sun … fitness .. nutrition .. spirituality… personal development … it has helped me identify these red flags bigtime throighnsharing with like-minded individuals and in a safe environment; however the important step for me (and most challenging!) is taking action after I identify !!!

    Thank you again for your insight and honesty in the quest to help others…

    • Hi Kathleen, I am curious as to what groups you use on social media? I would like to look into some different ones, if you don’t mind sharing?

  2. Jude Covacevich says

    I love your posts Julie. They are so REAL. Authentic and honest…now that is refreshing. I hope your husband returned safely and gave you the best HUG!
    I have a great friend to talk to about what I am feeling….sometimes I cannot speak to my partner…and if that dear friend is not around…I have another dear friend to speak with. OMG this truly helps. I sometimes need to get it off my chest and in the conversation other things reveal themselves and I truly get to see what these feelings are.

    I am so Grateful for these two very wise and loving Friends and Sisters. Thank you for all you bring to Community dear Julie. <3

  3. For me it was ice cream too. It was many years ago, a couple of decades, and I was having an infatuation with my british boyfriend who had talked around getting married, and then suddenly decided to cut his stay short, he had a six month visa, so he left to go back to the UK and he was inviting me to come. this was a kind of offer that meant my whole life was decided overnight and by him. i was mildly excited about london and so on, but in the weeks leading up to my leaving for the UK, i did eat haagen daz a lot, vanilla. I didn’t even want it. I might have realised that there were lots of changes i wanted to make in life, there were lots of things i didn’t want, including selling up everything i own for a plane ticket. but i did do that and we did get married and it lasted 11 years. I think stress eating is definitely a symptom that one is avoiding a situation that requires effort and commitment.

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