We regularly attend to the maintenance required for our health, we go to the gym for endurance and strength-training, we take nutritional supplements, eat a healthy diet, and we have regular dental and physical check-ups, but how often do we do emotional check-ups, workouts and maintenance?
Emotional health maintenance is just as important as physical health, research shows that emotional wellbeing is linked with increased productivity, creativity and overall physical health. Several epidemiology studies have illustrated that emotional distress causes susceptibility to physical illness, as it greatly impacts our immune and cardiovascular systems.
Someone with strong emotional health has awareness of their emotions, thoughts and feelings and has strategies to process them. This doesn’t mean being in a state of happiness all the time; it simply means accepting all of your emotions (positive or negative) as a normal human response and riding through them with self-compassion, kindness and curiosity.
Make Play Time a Priority
In order for the brain to recuperate after a stressful day at work or prepare for the day ahead you need to prioritise leisure time. Making time for leisure not only directly impacts your ability to be creative, motivated and focused, but also improves your ability to process negative emotions. A person accumulates stress during the day and requires a ‘reset’ button, leisure is the reset button to end the fight-or-flight response that comes along with daily stressors.
What activities can you implement into your daily routine as a “mental health maintenance”? Activities may include dancing, connecting with loved ones, gardening, reading, creative outlets such as photography, painting, drawing, knitting, meditation, stretching, cooking and, best of all, laughing! Just ensure that the activity helps you step away from your “thinking mind” and into a space of feeling or experiencing mindfulness.
Recognising Unhelpful Thought Patterns
You can improve your wellbeing by being aware of your internal dialogue, the reoccurring thoughts, past memories that pain you, negative ideas you have about yourself, etc. Being aware of your internal dialogue enables you to step back from the thought, identify it, and realise that you are not your thoughts, and that a thought is only a thought. When an unhelpful or negative thought pops into your mind, ask yourself “who” is speaking, “what” accent are they speaking in, and “why” are they speaking? Introspection like this enables you to look internally in a non-judgmental and caring way.
Express your Emotions
Find ways you can communicate your emotions to others appropriately, trusting people close to you to know how you are feeling when you recognise it yourself prevents a build-up of emotions and the accumulation of stress and distress. Suppression of emotions and denial of how you are feeling will lead to physical stress on the body, leading to memory loss, elevated blood pressure and low self-esteem.
Suppressing any of your emotions is not addressing the issue, eventually the emotion will make its way to the surface and often with more intensity.
Be Curious and Allow Space
Many react through emotional autopilot, letting past experiences and painful memories guide emotional responses; others ignore emotions hoping they will just go away on their own. Next time a difficult but familiar emotion comes to surface, instead of using means of distraction, positive phrases or denial to manage your reactions, try noticing your emotions when they arise and recognising the different sensations they produce and where you feel the emotions in your body, allowing your brain to shift into observation mode versus feeling discomfort and reacting. The space you create when you step out of your thinking mind and into your feeling mind allows time for a different perspective to arise, lessening the chance of emotional reasoning and lashing out.
Building awareness of your emotions is foundational for emotional wellbeing. When you are tuned-in to your body’s feelings, you are more likely to recognise emotions. By recognising uncomfortable bodily sensations linked to your emotions, you are more equipped to recognise them quickly, then process them, preventing an overflow of emotions and the physical manifestation thereof.
Notice it. Sit with it. And put it into perspective.
By Emma McCallum