Three creative ways to process intense emotions

Updated: Mar 19

Sometimes emotions such as anger, frustration, despair, excitement, anxiety, fear, and sadness can feel too big to handle. Maybe it feels like they’re bottling up and you’re about to explode. You may not even be able to name the emotion(s) you are feeling because they seem conflicted and hard to describe.

All of this ok, and really quite normal for anyone to experience from time to time. You might feel like you need some relief from all of this inner turmoil but don’t know where or how to get it.

This blog post will provide you with three creative ways to express, expel, process, and give space to your emotions in a healthy way so you can externalize them from your mind and body and live a more balanced life.

You may have heard the term emotional regulation before, and this is another definition for what these exercises are designed to support. Good emotional regulation skills can enhance long-term wellbeing, improve performance at work, enrich personal relationships, and lead to better overall health.

Draw and colour your emotions

Do you have feelings of doubt pop up out of nowhere? Maybe you are fearful about something, or someone. Maybe you are so excited about something coming up that you can’t sleep. Maybe you have experienced loss and you are grieving.

Whatever emotion (or combination of emotions) are difficult for you to manage, characterize them by drawing them on paper with crayons, pencil crayons, or paint. Colour is really helpful to give life to emotions, so don’t hold back. If it is a threatening emotion, consider making light of it by turning it into a cartoon or an animal. If it’s heavy or sad, move through your emotions as you externalize them onto paper with colour, shapes, animals, faces, or a character. The only rule with this exercise is that there are no rules! Trust your gut and let your emotions lead.

Why does putting colour to emotions work?

When we can pull our emotions out of us, and “externalize them” they get to be acknowledged (which is often what they want) and you get to have some distance from them and understand them better. This exercise will also help you in your journey of letting negative emotions go by giving them space outside of your mind and body.

Journal or “free write” for five minutes every day

Journaling or free writing (literally putting your pen to paper and writing without thinking) can help you express suppressed emotions that you may not realize were there. As we go through our day things happen and we may have an emotional reaction to them, but the reaction is subtle enough that we manage to ignore it. This helps us make it through our day, but if enough of these small emotional reactions build up, we might explode at something that was seemingly not a big deal.

Why does journaling work?

Writing about your day can be a Segway into expressing any “suppressed emotions” so they don’t compound and become too difficult to manage. Journaling your thoughts and feelings before bed can also help with sleep and stress relief. Finally, journaling can help you understand yourself and your feelings better so you can feel more in control of your life regulate your emotions more easily.

Place emotions in your body

This is an exercise borrowed from the therapeutic work of Somatic Experiencing. When emotions come up, let this be a signal to pay attention to your body. Where does the feeling you have sit in your body? Maybe your chest feels tight, or your fingers tingle, maybe you get hot, or you get butterflies in your stomach. We often ignore these psychological reactions, but they have a lot of wisdom and much to tell us if we listen. Sit with the feeling in your body for a few moments when you locate it, and breathe into it. Simply observe what happens. You can take this one step further by drawing an outline of your body on paper, and colouring in where you feel each emotion. Use colours that best describe it.

Why does somatic experiencing of emotions help?

This is yet another way to give your feelings space to be heard, recognized and processed as they come. When we ignore our emotions, they can build up and can take us by surprise. Unexpressed and unprocessed emotions can also cause mental and physical illness, tension, and chronic pain.

We hope this blog post has given you some more ideas for how to regulate your emotions. If you feel like you are needing more help, please reach out to us at to see if counselling is right for you!

- The BC Borstal Trauma Counselling Team