What Is An Emotional Detox?

An emotional detox refers to a mindful practice wherein we take the time to process unresolved emotions, thoughts, and trauma that have been left to go stale.

What is an emotional detox and why is it important to our overall health?

The word ‘Detox‘ often refers to “a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances.” Upon hearing the word we tend to jump to the usual suspects of drugs, alcohol, caffeine or nicotine. We may even assume it relates to the latest ‘dieting’ fad but rarely do we think of our emotions and mental health in need of detoxification. 

An emotional detox refers to a mindful practice wherein we take the time to process unresolved emotions, thoughts, and trauma that have been left to go stale. Much like food which has been left to rot, our long overdue traumas and emotions can make us very ill But instead of chucking it all in the bin and starting over, emotional detoxing encourages us to properly and fully work with that which is causing us harm. We’re aiming to work through our troubles rather than shoving them to the side and labeling them as ‘do not open. Ever.’

How do I know if I need an emotional detox?

Are you afraid to say the word ‘no’? Maybe you’re constantly trying to fix other people’s problems? Do you often put the needs of others before your own? And, finally, are you a chronic overthinker who loses sleep over the smallest of things?

If you answered yes to any or all of the above then you’ll benefit greatly from an emotional detox. There are various mental and physical symptoms to consider when thinking about emotional detox. You don’t have to wait until you experience any of these to start your detox, instead, you should act quickly and often in order to avoid a build-up of negative emotions and trauma.

Watch out for the following:

Chronic headaches.

Often considered a sign of heightened stress levels (or the need for an eye appointment), frequent and uncomfortable headaches are a sure sign that you may need to emotionally detox. It goes hand in hand with reducing the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in the blood which can trigger a variety of adverse reactions in the body. 

If the headaches escalate to migraine level things can become debilitating, and you might find yourself on the couch or in a dark room for a number of days.

Frequent illness.

Do you often get colds and flus? Or maybe you suffer from constant stomach aches and cramps? Illness of any kind can be an indication that you need to slow down, listen to yourself and possibly detox from your emotional traumas. The odd niggle or stuffy nose here and there is normal, but if you’re getting sick every time you take a break from work or more often than the average person, then it might be time to dig deeper. 

Of course, it’s important to remember that illness can be a sign of many other issues. Our bodies react adversely to any major trauma and changes, so always get checked out if you’re concerned. Otherwise, an emotional detox won’t do you any harm! 

Unexplained and frequent pain

As discussed please be aware that unexplained and frequent pain could be a sign of something much more sinister. If in doubt, get checked out! This could include anything from joint pain to the aforementioned headache. 

Poor gut health.

The gut is notoriously known as the second brain. We tend to hold a lot of our stress, trauma and tension within this area, and it’s extremely sensitive to change. Some people are more sensitive than others, and you could find that your stomach tightens with the slightest hint of anxiety. 

Even when experiencing no other symptoms I would deem ‘gut health’ worthy of treatment all by itself. At the first signs of gut changes, I ask myself to slow down and re-evaluate things lest I repeat the last ten years of a painfully unhealthy GI tract. 

If you begin to experience unexplained cramps, changes in bowel habits, sensitivity to foods you were otherwise fine with or anything else untoward, I strongly advise speaking to your GP. If nothing else is out of the ordinary then an emotional detox should be the first thing on your list (along with hot water bottles and various herbal teas)

Trouble getting to and staying asleep.

Being unable to get adequate sleep is not only a sign of night-time anxiety but negatively impacts our mental and physical health. So, the less sleep we get the more troubled we feel, and the more troubled we feel, the less sleep we get. It’s a vicious cycle resulting in chronic sleep deprivation which in itself can be a very dangerous thing. 

Sleep is essential. Without it, you’ll not only suffer from a variety of mental and physical impacts, but you may even die.

While we sleep our body recovers from physical and mental strain. We go into a hyper relaxed state where our tendons, neurons, brain cells (etc) can all repair themselves in peace. So, it’s easy to see why it’s so important to our overall well being. 

Persistent trouble getting to sleep, like many things, indicates a problem either mentally or physically. It could be a case of making your bedroom sleep-friendly or simply shutting off from electronics a few hours before sleeping. Even bedtime meditation or yoga could do the trick! If you’re a frequent worrier, try keeping a journal where you can write down all your nagging thoughts before bed? Work through the worry, ask yourself why you’re feeling like that, is it justified, is it rational and leave it in the book for another day. 

** It’s important to acknowledge that there may come a time when you need pills, in which case ONLY to use them under the guidance of your medical professional. Never use illegally sourced sleeping medication as this could have fatal consequences. ** 
Weight changes.

Fluctuation in weight over a short period of time can be an indication of a problem either physically or mentally. You could have a suppressed appetite due to overwhelm, likewise you could also be eating more, both of which lead to weight changes. While many people admit to overeating due to anxiety and stress, there are others who find themselves unable to eat due to discomfort or lack of appetite. It’s important to spot the signs and take action to combat them. 

If you’re stressed or dealing with unresolved emotional issues, take action to recognize and process accordingly. Don’t allow it to continue to fester and, most importantly, take back control over your eating habits. Your weight may never be 100% controllable, and rightfully so, but it goes without saying that a healthy body makes it easier to maintain our mental health. 

**If you’ve suffered from an eating disorder in the past or if you’re in recovery, it’s important to speak to your GP as soon as possible to avoid complete relapse. I would argue and say this is more pressing than attempting an emotional detox. Instead, get professional help first and work on detoxing later.

There are also a variety of mental and behavioural signs that you’re in need of an emotional detox, including;
  • Easily distracted and unable to maintain focus. 
  • Unable to retain information, accompanied by a poor short term memory. 
  • Deep feelings of anxiety. Constantly worrying about everything no matter how small. 
  • Frequently ignoring your gut feelings, or any difficult feelings in general. 
  • Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope on a daily basis. 
  • Substance abuse and addiction. 
  • Self-doubt, so much so that it hinders you from moving forward.
  • Feeling stuck and out of balance.
  • Chronic self-comparison which often leaves you feeling disheartened.
  • Unable to trust your own instincts and easily swayed by others
  • Breakdown of or poor personal relationships. 

How to emotionally detox. 

There are so many ways we can go about an emotional detox and, like many things, there is no one size fits all approach. It’s about finding what works, and I mean really works, for you. Google ‘How to do an emotional detox’ and you’ll come up with a variety of ways to get started. I’m going to discuss some techniques that have worked for me in the past and I strongly encourage you to find what works and create your own tailored approach. 

  • Do Yoga (and maybe try some meditation)
  • Write or outwardly express your feelings in some way. 
  • Practice affirmations and gratitude. 
  • Step away from the screen! 
  • Stop running from your feelings! Welcome them like guests, chat with them for a bit and then send them gently on their way. 
  • Mind your gut. 
  • Be aware of your stress levels and work on daily self-care to help reduce these. 

There are many other ways you can take part in an emotional detox and, really, it’s a personal preference. What works for me may not work for you. Take time to get to know yourself and what makes you feel better in times of high stress. And if something doesn’t work for you the first time around, remember that a lot of self-care skills require continued use in order to reap the full benefits. 

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121 comments

  1. I totally need this! Besides from work, I stressed with my financial issues. Thanks for sharing a wonderful post!

  2. My son is only a teen but he has a couple of these symptoms. He’s been getting headaches and having trouble sleeping. He says he’s not stressed and he has a correct eyeglasses and contacts ‘script. Not sure what’s going on, but monitoring it.

  3. This is a wakeup call that I need to emotionally detox asap. I’m on maternity leave and exhausted and I just need some time to help my mental health.

  4. Lovely, lovely post! Thank you for linking the physical body and emotions together. Our physical bodies tell us everything we need to know about our state of holistic health. So good!

  5. This is an important post. a lot of us need to do this. We are so busy, so much is going on in the world today, social media — we need to take this to heart! Thanks for the reminder

  6. this is very important for someone who are nearing his senior years. I have so many stressors everyday. I am glad I know that yoga helps to get rid of stress.

  7. Yoga helps me a lot when detoxifying my emotion. Sometimes I sleep too, to stop myself from thinking and rest my body.

  8. Oh this is new to me. I think i badly need one. With all the stress from work and all the devastating effects of this pandemic, everything is emotionally overwhelming. I think i need to engage myself in some meditation exercices and also spend time away from online activities
    Thank you for sharing

  9. An emotional detox sounds like something I need. I’ve been realising recently how bad it is to feel overly stressed out all the time and how it makes IBS much worse. Loved the post xx

  10. Oh goodness, I answered yes to all the questions! I definitely get the gut issues when I’m emotionally stressed. Sometimes my stomach seems to know I’m worried about something even before my brain does! I love the idea of an emotional detox.

  11. An emotional detox. I think we all need that from time to time. These are some good tips.

  12. Thank you so much for reading. I also can relate to having a toxic relationship and it impacting my health negatively. Chest pain was something I had experienced too. Sending lots of love to you.

  13. I totally agree with all that you said here. I remember being in a toxic relationship, I have frequent anxiety attacks and gut problems that sometimes manifests as chest pain.

  14. Great tips. When I’m emotionally overstressed, first thing where it hits me is my digestion. Luckily I manage to stop myself at that point before it all become far more worse. I do yoga and I just started meditating. It’s life changing!

  15. oh wow! i did not know about this! i guess you learn something new everyday! thank you for sharing this information!

  16. Oh great! Thank you for all these information and tips. Maybe I need this emotional detox soonest.

  17. I thought it was my physical body when it first happened to me. But stress was so damaging to my gut that it was the main source of the issue.
    I hope you manage to find out what’s causing yours so that you can start to fix it.
    Sending much love.

  18. It certainly is. It’s just sad that it’s taken a lock down for people to realise that.
    Thank you for popping in and reading. x

  19. This is so timely! I literally told my husband yesterday that I need to figure out how to work through some issues that have been with me for far too long.

  20. Despite being fairly fit, my gut health is terrible. From reading your post it could be psychological and not physical. I will try your approach and see if it improves.

  21. Such a great post about mental health. Love the process you illustrated, and many will benefit from reading this article.

  22. I feel this quarantine is forcing people to detox their feelings and toxic relationships. And it’s something everybody should do.

  23. Hello! So far, so good. I’ve been focusing on doing productive stuff every day. I choose those that will have a positive impact on my mental well-being. If I feel positive, then that’s the same vibes that I will be putting out into the world. And you’re right, emotional regulation is so important, because human as I am, I still get irritated though. As long as I don’t dwell on the feeling and bad thoughts for too long.

  24. I love your process of the emotional detox. So many could and should do this to get their mind healthy in a time of crisis. Thanks for sharing

  25. Yes, Yes, Yes. I can’t get my brain to shut up. It’s impossible to get to sleep and when I do…it’s nightmares. I think it’s really time for an emotional detox…now to figure out a quiet place in the house to get tarted.

  26. Understanding the connection between our physical and mental health is so important. Addressing underlying issues, processing them, and letting them go is something that is incredibly hard – because we push them to the side for a reason. How powerful to have the tools to finally deal with them. Thank you for the information and encouragement to be healthier mentally in order to improve our overall health and wellness!

  27. I love this line –
    Stop running from your feelings! Welcome them like guests, chat with them for a bit and then send them gently on their way.
    I never thought of it that way, but it’s great advice.

  28. There are times when I feel like I need an emotional detox so I do for just 1-2 days and it works.

  29. WE have different ways to have emotional detox. Mine is SHOPPING! But I go to thrift shops (to avoid crazy expenses, lol), then go home have a long warm bubble bath with champagne. SOLVE!

  30. I think I do need an emotional detox. I have some feelings I keep inside for fear that I might hurt other’s feelings but it always ends up in me hurting instead. I try to spend time alone and the best time to do it is if I wake up at 3 am. Quiet surroundings for me is the perfect time to reflect and pray. It helps me a lot when I am able to do this.

  31. almost all the points you mentioned are so relatable and at some point or the other we all go through this and now I realise how important is this emotional detox for our mental and physical health.

  32. In this trying times we are prone to anxiety and stress and this will really help. Stay safe and well.

  33. It was perfect the first time. I learn so much from you as well! Keep it up great post.

  34. What an interesting post about emotional detoxing. We all live very complicated lives and life can get exhausting. I love all of your tips. For me, being outside in nature is a huge stress reliever. Thanks for sharing a great post.

  35. Thank you so much for stopping in and reading pet! I really appreciate it and always love to see you in my comments section πŸ™‚

  36. It’s certainly is a long game and it doesn’t happen overnight. Self-care takes practice, I’ve learned. Permission is a big part of it.
    Sending you lots of love.

  37. Emotional detox! Oh absolutely!!! I need it so much and do it often via yoga or being alone or being closer to nature.

  38. I think emotional detox could work forme. During that lock down I’m a little bit affraid of my mental health

  39. Yoga and meditation are musts for me. I also started journaling more this year. No wonder I feel more balanced. Even in the midst of this pandemic!

  40. I need an emotional detox. I often put the needs of others before my own. I am now well informed, and will follow the emotional detox tips that you have put across. Thank you for sharing!

  41. I love this idea. I’m a big fan of yoga to help me take some time and process. I’ve also practised gratitude which has helped me gain some perspective!

  42. Wow, I have never known something before as an emotional detox! Thanks for sharing this interesting bit of information!

  43. This is incredibly interesting. It’s also important to stay on top of mental health, but I’ve never thought of it from a detoxing perspective before. I’ve been trying to do some of your suggestions mentioned above (yoga, better sleep, etc.). But where I’m falling short is on screen time, and taking better care of myself physically. Thank you for bringing this important issue to the forefront!

  44. I’ve been suffering from quite a few of those symptoms and so have recently started yoga, which has helped massively. I loved reading this post

  45. Emotion Toxicity needs an abrupt action because it can lead to depression. Good pointers, i’d love too emotion detoxify through Yoga and Bible time

  46. Stress, anxiety, problems related to our moods and emotions have a huge (negative) impact on health. Understanding it and acting on it is a great help.

  47. It’s weird because my boss pulled me aside to tell me that she’s seen a change in me, that I’ve pulled together more. This comes with admitting a step back from the step up role I took. Instead I moved back to my old role, which I’m better at and brings me more joy. At the time I felt like I was admitting defeat but now? I feel like I did what I needed to for my emotional (and physical) well being.

  48. Thank you for this post, it has been really helpful. I struggle greatly with mental health and have done for the past 2 years. I have recovered from anorexia but still was having trouble with other mental health aspects. Yoga has helped greatly and I have a wonderful self care app to help me out now too. I also find that writing down things helps. I have a special notebook and every day I write a to do list to guide me and then write when I have worries. This helps me to sort out my issues and be happier! Thank you, this post is so positive. I love it!

    Em x

    https://loveemblog.blogspot.com/2020/05/7-things-all-new-bloggers-will.html

  49. I have never hear of an emotional detox before. This is definitely something I can get behind. I have a lot of emotional baggage that I could dump!

  50. Love the post Nyxie! This is something I have been working on for awhile. I’ve always had tension headaches, and trouble sleeping and focusing. I know exercise is a good stress reliever for me, and I have been practicing gratitude journalling for the past month which I really like so far! But I haven’t been working for the last 4 months due to a work injury, and I’ve been having a hard time relaxing. I feel like if I’m not constantly doing something productive I get very anxious! And I’m feeling like this isn’t very healthy.

  51. I am definitely in need of an emotional detox, especially these days when everything seems to change so fast and the future is so unpredictable. I’ve been suffering from headaches a lot lately, which I can only put on anxiety.

  52. Great post! I loved that you pointed out how our gut health can negatively impact our emotional health. There is a gut-brain communication path that most don’t think about.

  53. some of the mental signs you mentioned i totally have them! i choose yoga and writing to detox and work really good

  54. Much informative……it was quite interesting to learn about emotional detox…. suggestion are helpful … Thanks for sharing it…..

  55. I feel like we all need to do emotional detoxes more often, I know that I do for sure. I can see why this is helpful.

  56. This was an interesting read. I’ve never done an emotional detox, but in reading this, I really do feel like I need to! I’m going to have to give your suggestions a try. I know that I find peace in being outdoors, so maybe I will try meditating outdoors and see if I can reconnect with the feelings that I know I have been avoiding.

  57. This is exactly what I’ve been trying to do! More self care, being more vocal about what I need, monitoring social media usage, etc. Fingers crossed it helps. I know it’s a long game.

  58. I’m the same with my tummy. It seems to cease up in times of stress or near my period (which I suppose is a type of stress). Exercise helps me too but I have to be careful not to do too much. x

  59. Thank you for reading. I really hope these tips help you. I still struggle with my emotions and emotional regulation. It’s not easy to overcome and I know it takes practice. x

  60. I couldn’t agree more. Our feelings are so used to being ignored in the hustle and bustle of life. It’s time to slow down and listen to them!

  61. I realized in the past year or two that internalizing my feelings didn’t work very well even though it has worked in the past. Thank you for sharing all these tips. I might use some of them in the future.

  62. I don’t know if I need an emotional detox right now because I am practicing the steps you mentioned above on a daily basis, but I might need a full one in the future.

  63. I know for sure I need an emotional detox. I don’t have any of those symptoms you have on that list but I do need a life coach to help me with self improvement one day soon.

  64. All of us need this from time to time. The everyday stress keeps building..there needs to be a way to release it too. Thanks for sharing

  65. I really like this post- allowing ourselves to welcome the emotions and then letting them go is such an important part of emotional freedom!

  66. This was really interesting and I’ve never actually heard of an emotional detox! I often experience a lot of tummy troubles which I think comes from stress and I’m often finding myself sleeping a bit too much. I’ve found exercise really helps with stress management and I’m trying to spend more time writing down my worries and feelings in a journal – I’ve only been doing it for a week or so but it really helps! xx

  67. i dont have chronic headaches or sudden weight changes, but I find it hard to sleep sometimes. also, i notice i try so hard to fix other people’s problems which lead to forgetting i have my own too. yes, emotional detox is really necessary. sometimes, it’s better to stay away from everyone and heal….

  68. I agree. Everyone at some point in there lives need an emotional detox. Love this post.

  69. Great post! Emotions can have so many effects on our bodies without us realising and realising it in the first place is a lot!

  70. It is good to care about people but prioritizing other people’s interests than ours can have a lot of setbacks – especially when they don’t appreciate it. Thanks for sharing

  71. This is how a lot of my counseling played out. It was very refreshing over time to see it in action and feel the healing. I think most people should spend some time on this. It would make all of us more emotionally healthy.

  72. I think I just had an emotional detox. I was so bothered about something weeks prior, airing it out helps but not when no one understands what you are going through. So I’ve decided to deal with it myself by being productive on another thing and letting go of what was stressing me out which I had no control over. And I promised myself never to let anything stress me out like that ever again. So, thanks for the tips above!

  73. This sounds like a really healthy practise to start! I never thought about this before! I am definitely going to give this a try. Especially with the extra time during lockdown! Thank you for sharing all this information!

  74. Letting go makes space for new feelings and thoughts to enter. Beautiful article. Thank you!

  75. I always find that writing about my feelings is such a good way of dropping the stress of my shoulders. It helps me to lay out my thought process and come up with a plan.

  76. I’ve never heard it termed this way but I need emotional detox….I’m working on some of these things but will try your other suggestions as well. Thanks for sharing this.

  77. Such helpful tips in this post, I could have done with them a couple of years ago because a lot of the signs you mention are familiar. I think we all need to be kind to ourselves right now and if an emotional detox forms part of that then this post will be super helpful. Thank you πŸ™‚ x

  78. Very important post! We often don’t take the time to deal with our emotions. Journalling is a great way to detox those emotions and reduce stress. It’s something I’m returning to as part of my own self care.

  79. I really love all the great info in this post. I’ve actually been doing really well right now and plan to talk to my doctor on Friday about decreasing my meds. I think it’s important to be in tune with your feelings so that if you are struggling you can address it right away.

  80. Wow I need emotional detox ASAP haha I need to make conscious effort of putting my electronics in my drawer and go to sleep at a decent hour πŸ™‚ thanks for the tips

  81. Most of my signs have been mental. πŸ™ I do love what you said about welcoming the emotions and sending them on their way. ❀️

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