Everyone feels anxious now and then. It’s a normal emotion that we all experience. For example, we may feel nervous when faced with a problem at work or school, before taking a test, or before making an important decision. This sense of anxiety is described by many as “butterflies” in their stomach and can sometimes make us feel nauseous and even prevent us from eating or feel hungry. It is important to learn to become aware of our own feelings and how they feel in our bodies to be able to know the difference between physical fullness and emotional fullness and how anxiety affects us.
Emotional fullness is when you feel full of emotions but don’t recognize them. You just simply feel full. This physical sensation isn’t the result of something you just ate and might be accompanied by other physical sensations that don’t allow you to eat or enjoy your meal. Some kids and teens might complain about “a stomach ache” when they are nervous. Allowing them to talk about their emotions and make sense of them can alleviate some of the uncomfortable feelings in their bodies.
You can teach them to differentiate anxiety from emotional fullness by pausing and teaching them to bring their awareness to their emotions and physical sensations. You can ask them to close their eyes and check in with their bodies. What do they feel? Where do they feel those emotions? How do those emotions feel in their bodies? You can also help them differentiate anxiety from emotional fullness by making sense of it. If they ate a few hours ago and still feel full or if it’s time to eat but they aren’t hungry it’s important that they learn to ask themselves: “Is this emotional fullness or physical fullness?”.
Kids and teens need a lot of coaching and unconditional love to learn how to expresses their emotions. They might act them out and become “difficult” or complain about physical symptoms. If you know physical fullness isn’t connected to illness or food, you can bring up emotions and how they can make you feel full. By allowing kids and teens to express their emotions and validating them you are letting them know that it’s ok to feel and talk about what’s going on in their lives, their fears and hopes. You don’t need to fully understand or agree with them to listen and validate their experience!