What’s your first instinct when you are upset? Do you keep it to yourself or do you find someone to talk to? If you choose the latter, venting your feelings may help short term but may do more harm in the long run.
How Venting Your Feelings Helps: The Pros
- Reduces stress. Sharing your emotions reduces stress and makes us feel more connected to others. Venting your feelings helps you feel understood, seen, and supported when others provide empathy or sympathy for your situation. A head nod, an encouraging word, or a “me too” can go a long way toward making you feel better. Plus, sometimes it just feels good to let it all out in the presence of a trusted friend.
- Gain insight. Venting your feelings also helps you gain insight into what caused you to feel upset in the first place. Processing out loud with a friend or family member helps you hear yourself and hear their perspective as well. In the future, you may be able to avoid a similar situation that triggered your negative emotion, whether it was anger, frustration, or sadness.
- Avoid harmful behavior. Keeping your emotions bottled up may cause them to eventually “leak” with less productive behavior. Whether it’s self-harm, like abusing drugs or alcohol, or losing your cool with others, venting your feelings can release the pressure that builds in your emotional world. Letting out steam with the right person in the short-term can be a way to prevent an explosion down the road.
When Venting Your Feelings Doesn’t Help: The Cons
- Feeling misunderstood. When others don’t respond as we’d hope or offer the support we desire, venting your feelings can backfire and leave you feeling worse than before you expressed your emotions. Whether you feel judged or or abandoned when you vent, you may be left feeling more alone than before venting your feelings. Others can disappoint you by being too busy, too tired, or too overwhelmed to offer the help you need when you need it.
- Chronic complaining. Anything you repeat becomes a habit. Venting your feelings too frequently can become a toxic habit if you’re not careful. You begin to see negativity in the world around you as your brain becomes accustomed to venting your feelings. Because stress can be contagious, others may begin to avoid you as they sense it in you. Choosing your moments of venting wisely and being selective about it is important to prevent it from becoming a way of life.
- Elevated stress. While stress can be reduced in the short term by venting your feelings, it can also elevate your blood pressure and cortisol levels both short-term and long-term. In the long run, overcoming chronic stress and anxiety requires more than venting. Dealing with the underlying challenges you are facing is more helpful than venting your feelings in the moment.
Be mindful of your patterns of venting your feelings to elevate the short-term positive benefits of it and reduce the long-term negative repercussions of venting too often. Tending to your emotional wellbeing is a necessary pursuit for a healthy and happy life.