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Expressing your feelings

Expressing how you feel can help you cope when life throws you challenges. But saying how you feel isn’t always easy. We’ve got some tips to help you get those feelings out.

Two teens on park bench, one saying "I feel..."

Why do we have emotions?

Emotions are there to help us – they give us loads of information and serve three main purposes...

1. Give us info about situations  

2. Help us know how to respond and behave 

3. Help us communicate and connect with others 

So, if everybody has feelings why can they feel so scary to share? 

Being vulnerable about how we’re feeling can be influenced by many different factors.

We learn about dealing with big emotions when we’re young, from how we see our family and people around us dealing with their big emotions.  

If you feel like it’s ok to express uncomfortable feelings at home, you may find it easier in general to get in touch with your feelings. Expressing your feelings in a healthy way takes practice and can look differently for everybody

Did you know? How we express our feelings can also be influenced by our culture! Every culture has its own rules and standards around how we express feelings like joy, anger, shame and boredom.

Power of vulnerability

Not sure where to start when it comes to expressing your feelings?

A lot of it has to do with embracing vulnerability! It’s really normal to be scared about getting deep but we promise the benefits speak for themselves.

Entering D&M (deep and meaningful) territory has benefits including:

  • Boosting your confidence  
  • Building your resilience 
  • Strengthening your relationships  
  • Increasing your acceptance and empathy toward yourself 

How to express feelings

Ready to get into your feels but not sure where to start?

There are heaps of different ways we can express our feelings and they don’t all revolve around talking. We can express feelings through movement, art, dance, writing and even our facial expressions and body language.  

Fun fact: when we think about animals, we can tell a lot about their feelings by their behaviour and none of it has to do with them talking! Unless you live in some kind of fantasy world where animals communicate through words…

What happens when we don’t express our feelings?

When we bottle up our feelings, our brain can enter fight or flight mode.

This physical reaction to stress can have an impact on lots of things in our bodies and make us feel anxious or depressed. 

Here are some ways you can express your feelings…

1. Write it down

Imagine having a space where you can share your innermost feelings, thoughts, fears, and dreams in a place just for you… oh wait, it exists, and it’s called journalling! Writing down our feelings can help us process them – plus it’s a great way to relax and de-stress.  

Although writing things down can be a great way to explore feelings., A few studies have found that people who write about a traumatic event immediately after it happens, can end up feeling worse about it. This is because they’re not ready to face the situation yet and need time to process before cementing their feelings on paper.  

2. Listen to music

Ever heard a song and felt like it just gets you? Listening to music can be a great way of expressing our feelings. If you feel so inclined you can even sing along, nothing like belting out some Billie Eilish or Olivia Rodrigo!

3. Movement

When we experience intense feelings, lots of things can happen inside our body. Anxiety is actually a muscle activator meaning it makes us want to move! Getting your body moving can be a great way of expressing our feelings.

4. Get talking

Connecting with our friends, family and even sometimes professionals – like Kids Helpline, can be a great way to process and express our feelings. You don’t have to feel the feels alone. Even the big milestones or moments of happiness are great to share too! 

Not all ways of expressing feelings are healthy

Unhealthy ways of expressing feelings can look like lashing out when we’re feeling frustrated or even punching things (think walls, pillows etc) when we feel angry.

We might turn to unhealthy coping strategies in times of stress, sadness or overwhelm – these are called ‘maladaptive coping strategies. They often bring temporary pleasure, but have undesirable consequences. These can look like: 


Using alcohol or drugs to ‘numb’ or ‘cope’ with feelings  

Binge eating 

Isolating from family and friends  


Impulse spending/gambling  


Ruminating (thinking about the problem over and over again) 

Spending too much time on social media 

Emotional eating/food restriction


Withdrawing/isolating yourself 

If you are struck with a strong feeling and not sure what to do with it, you can try the following:

    • Take a break from the situation  
    • Try some deep breathing or relaxation techniques – lots of emotions have a direct effect on our body too and it can help to get that under control before tackling the feeling 
    • Talk to a trustworthy adult about it 

    Feeling stuck on expressing feelings and wondering why?

    Expressing our feelings isn’t always easy, and different challenges can stand in the way when it comes to getting real with how we feel.

    We can get stuck if we’re sharing/expressing a big topic, like our sexual or gender identity, or we feel there is pressure on us to express our feelings in a certain way.

    Here are some tips on how to express your feelings to someone else:

    1. Ask their consent. Before launching into a deep convo give them the heads up that what you’re about to share is serious and important to you. Make sure they’re in the right head space to support you!

    2. Make what you want/need from them clear. Do your need someone to listen or do you want advice? Being open about what you want from the beginning can help make sure you get what you need out of the conversation

    3. Use ‘I feel’ statements. Remember, you’re expressing YOUR feelings! Focus on how you feel and avoid putting the blame on others e.g. ‘You make me feel…’

    4. Learn more about feelings and emotions. Doing some research can help you better understand your own feelings and work out the best next steps.

    Someone shared their feelings with me, what do I do next?

    Feeling a bit lost for words when someone shares something with you is normal – especially if they’ve caught you off guard or you’re concerned about the ‘right’ thing to say.

    1. Let them know you’re grateful they confided in you. Sharing feelings can be scary so make sure you thank them for trusting you.

    2. Avoid deflecting or comparing. When you share something deep with someone only for them to brush you off like it’s no big deal, it can feel hurtful. Make sure you let your mate know that their feelings are valid.

    3. Ask them what they’d like from you. Open the lines of communication and ask them whether they just need you to listen or help them work out next steps.

    4. If you need clarification, just ask! If you’re having trouble understanding how your friend is feeling you can ask, ‘From what I’m hearing, you’re feeling (insert feeling here) – is that right?’

    Ever laughed when someone shares something serious with you?

    Nervous laughter is known as an ‘incongruous’ emotion – meaning it’s a reaction you might have that doesn't match the situation you're in.

    Some research suggests that nervous laughter can be a mechanism to regulate emotion or even as a defence mechanism.  

    Reminder! If you’ve had a bad experience expressing your feelings, it doesn’t mean all experiences will be negative.

    It’s important to express your feelings - the good and the difficult

    Expressing feelings can help you to feel better about yourself and the situation.

    It can feel awkward at first, but the more you talk about feelings the easier it will get. 

    Practice helps too! Start off easy by expressing positive feelings – “I feel loved when my dog comes to greet me when I get home, because it shows that he missed me”. Once you’ve mastered them, move onto more challenging ones.

    Don’t give up. Remember, expressing your feelings can be difficult and we’re here to help. Give us a call or start a WebChat today and a counsellor can help you talk about and express your feelings.

    If you need more information for other digital services and resources, check out Head to Health.

    Wanna talk to people ✨just like you✨?

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    This content was last reviewed 01/08/2023

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