Define the Emotion

One of the struggles of living with mental illness is that after a while, our emotions can become kind of fuzzy. We’re not really sure what we’re feeling, we just know it feels like shit.

So when we’re not sure what we’re feeling, it’s pretty much impossible to try to do anything about it. How can you fix a problem when you’re not sure what the problem is?

silver imac near white ceramic kettle

Think of it as like a computer. Your computer isn’t working, so you start taking it apart. The truth of the matter is, it’s a software issue, not hardware, so whatever you do to try to “fix” the hardware, it isn’t going to make any difference. The same goes for our emotions. If we start trying to work through the feeling of general sadness, chances are we won’t actually address the issue at hand, which is, for example, we’re feeling abandoned, or hurt, or angry.

Identifying the emotion can also help those around us to have a better understanding of what your needs might be at that moment. If you let someone know you’re feeling angry, hopefully, they will adapt their behaviour to suit helping you not be angry, rather than fruitlessly trying to help you with an emotion they mistakenly think you’re experiencing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the person would hopefully realise you don’t need them to be asking 100 questions right now, rather you might prefer a few minutes alone to decompress.

So, over the next few days, try to identify your exact emotions. If you can’t find the right word, I’ve made a list of some below that might help you to get specific.

I am feeling…

  • angry
  • guilty
  • ashamed
  • scared
  • defensivewoman wearing pink crew neck t shirt standing and leaning behind white bars
  • anxious
  • stressed
  • tense
  • fragile
  • vulnerable
  • agitated
  • overwhelmed
  • frustrated
  • envious
  • jealous
  • irritated
  • trapped
  • unsure
  • isolated
  • ignored
  • powerless
  • lonely
  • hurt
  • rejected
  • hopeless
  • pessimistic
  • invalid
  • unimportant
  • wronged
  • on-edge
  • argumentative
  • pressured
  • unwanted
  • unappreciated
  • empty

It’s also helpful to try to identify our positive emotions. This way, we can make a note of what we have done, or what the situation is like around the time we are experiencing that emotion, and attempt to recreate it when we are feeling not so great. Here’s another list for you:

I am feeling…

  • calm
  • grateful
  • jovial
  • confident
  • proudtwo female standing near building structure
  • content
  • ecstatic
  • loved
  • appreciated
  • grounded
  • capable
  • strong
  • brave
  • determined
  • energised
  • delighted
  • hopeful
  • optimistic
  • robust
  • safe
  • accomplished
  • ready
  • bold
  • refreshed
  • pleased
  • joyful
  • serene
  • interested
  • amused
  • inspired
  • motivated
  • relieved



Do you sometimes forget to define the emotion? Can you think of any other emotions you have noticed that I haven’t listed? Did identifying the emotion help you in your situation? Let me know in the comments below!


Define the Emotion



  1. I track my mood daily and try to identify the specific emotions that are contributing to my mood. I find it helpful to have a list to pick from rather than trying to come up with things off the top of my head.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. thanks for the post. it’s a good reminder. i’m struggling a bit of late but i don’t pin down my feelings very well. i just know i feel icky. and i don’t look for or appreciate the good feelings when they wander by. i’m inspired to try and do it differently, at least for today (which is all we have).

    Liked by 1 person

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