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Working Through Your Emotions with Your Hands

For many of us it’s hard to process emotions like sadness, anxiety, anger, jealousy, shame. Which is why we typically just pretend they don’t exist. Or we downright dismiss them. It’s painful to face such, difficult, and well painful, emotions. It’s especially hard when you tell yourself that you can’t do it, when you work yourself up.

But you can.

You just need some helpful strategies. Using your hands is one powerful strategy for processing your feelings. Using your hands can help you release your emotion. It can help you let it go. It can help you channel the angst and frustration. It can help you move your emotion along, outside your body.

Below are some ways you can use your hands to work through your emotions, to explore what’s happening, to ease your anxiety, to get grounded, to get out of your mind and into your body.

  • Start a small garden, or create a flower box.
  • Rip weeds out of your lawn.
  • Take a pottery, painting, photography, knitting, cooking or woodworking class.
  • Create a collage with images that represent your feeling.
  • Bake something from scratch, maybe something that requires kneading dough.
  • Get several index cards. On each card, draw a different facet of your emotion, or a different thought that accompanies your emotion, or a different sensation you’re experiencing, or anything that you need to explore and release.
  • Scrub something.
  • Put on any kind of music that resonates with you right now, any kind of music that you feel like listening to. Use only your hands to dance.
  • Tackle a decluttering project, maybe something that’s been weighing on you, weighing you down.
  • Explore an activity you’ve never tried before. Find an activity by looking at creative sites for kids (like this one), since play is vital for adults, too.
  • Use clay or Play-Doh to construct anything.
  • Take out a big piece of paper, and any writing utensils you have, like crayons or markers. Put on music that helps you connect to your emotion, and start filling the page with your scribbles and sketches. Don’t focus on the final product. Focus on embodying your feeling and letting it out.

Certain emotions can make us feel uncomfortable and antsy. We can feel awkward and itchy inside our own skin. Working with our hands helps to calm our bodies and our minds. It provides a necessary pause. It provides space to help us explore our feelings and then take compassionate action: We feel anger. We pause. We realize the anger is connected to someone crossing an important boundary. So we politely, clearly talk to that person, and maintain our boundary. 

And after you’re done with your hands-on activity, look at your palms, your fingers, the lines and wrinkles, the details. In other words, study your hands. Then thank them for helping you do the important work of caring for yourself, the important work of honoring your heart.

Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash.
Working Through Your Emotions with Your Hands



APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Working Through Your Emotions with Your Hands. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 30 Apr 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2018
Published on All rights reserved.