Living a Balanced Life: Emotional Health
Living a Balanced Life: Emotional Health
What is the importance of emotional health? Because of all that is going on socially and politically, among ourselves, family, friends, communities, and the nation as a whole, there are many reasons why many people are experiencing almost an emotional “sickness”. Regardless of your political affiliation, I am confident that you have felt hurt, scared, or otherwise negatively about what is going on in our current environment. The thing is, even those who are emotionally healthy are experiencing these feelings, the difference is that they just know how to overcome their feelings with more ease, learn from their experience, and move on.
Here are some characteristics and practices of someone who is emotionally healthy:
Emotionally healthy people use what is best described as an “emotional vocabulary”. Whether you are feeling, happy, sad, excited, nervous, or any feeling, you should be able to recognize what feeling it is and at least speculate or process effectively why you are feeling it. It helps to understand the function of your feelings as well. For example, anger is not a primary feeling as many people believe. It is a natural reaction to the many other feelings you may have, though. For example, my 3-year old is starting to exhibit anger whenever another child rejects his requests to play. He will sometimes yell or hit if another child refuses to play whatever he is wanting to play. In order to build up his emotional vocabulary, I spend a lot of energy helping him find the words to describe what happened and how it made him feel. Mostly what it always comes down to is his feelings of sadness that the other child said they don’t want to play, or his feelings of frustration that they don’t understand the game he is trying to initiate. I have noticed that helping him identify his feelings acts as a validating tool for him. He tends to feel more heard and more likely to calm down and self-soothe to a point where he can play more positively or be willing to play something else. He is also more likely to take my help. The times that I choose not to validate his feelings, he is more likely to try to run away from me when I offer help, or go back and try yelling and pushing, again. Basically, he resorts to negative methods because he doesn’t have the tools to effectively communicate his needs or desires. Adults tend to act similarly- in most cases not hitting, but often resorting to things like criticizing and/or gossiping. When we can identify what we are truly feeling, our conversations tend to be more productive.
Appropriate self-soothing mechanisms
When someone is in recovery, this is an element that often receives a lot of attention. The ability to find appropriate ways to self-soothe is an integral part of replacing a bad habit with a good one. Mindfulness is becoming a more common approach as it helps all people, not just those in recovery, to be more aware of their surroundings, to be more present in their interactions, and to improve other functions of the mind. While I could go in-depth about the different self-soothing mechanisms you can use, I have found that it is sometimes more beneficial to advise others to talk to their doctors, counselors, and other professionals since they know more about your situation than I can assume to. It takes strength to get help, strength that you have.
Self-affirmation, or self-love, is the habit of reminding yourself that you have many good qualities. All people are put under the eye of scrutiny, some more than others, but those who are emotionally healthy practice reaffirming to themselves about their inherent self-worth in order to come back from feeling criticized, mocked, or demeaned. Another way to look at it is self-compassion. If a friend of yours was feeling down about themselves the way you were, would you feel compassionate and want to help them? Most likely. Practice doing this to yourself. Understanding your boundaries, or setting new ones with others who are hurting you, is another way to maintain that self-love. As a person with worth, you protect your worth by employing your boundaries. This all helps with emotional health.
I tend to be a somewhat unconventional mom. I rarely tell my son to say “sorry” to others- when he hurts another child, my expectation of him is to ask the other child, “are you okay?” And now as he is getting older, I am asking him to add the words, “how can I fix it?” or “do you need a hug?” This is because many children, while observant about others’ feelings, often don’t know how to respond appropriately. Many will grunt a “sorry” as they step on another child’s foot (in some cases, even intentionally). While teaching children to say “sorry” is well intentioned, it often misses the point of the apology: making an attempt to fix the mistake or repair the problem. In fact, my son learned to say “sorry” all on his own. While most of the time he just asks if the other child is okay, there have been many times where I expressed sadness about him ripping up an important paper or picture of mine. During those times, he often looks at me with equally sad eyes and says, “I’m sorry, mom. Let’s get some tape to fix it.” He’s not a perfect child by any means, but I can tell you that this simple change in phrasing has worked wonders in our family. Not only does it force you to stop and think about how your action might have affected the other person, it provides a way for you to listen to their pain and help them feel better. In your attempt to improve your emotional health, this will provide you with the necessary relationship building experiences that are integral to a healthy emotional state.
Forgive yourself, your spouse, your family, your friends, your Facebook friends (sometimes they aren’t exactly the same as your friends, am I right?), your community, your country- everyone. Forgiveness is one of the best ways to let go of pain that is really only hurting you. I once heard that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill the other person. Choosing not to forgive can have many detrimental effects to your brain, body, relationships, etc. The art of letting go is a process, but with practice it will become a pinnacle to your health that you will be grateful you developed.
While these are all tools for nurturing your emotional health, there are many reasons to still get help. At Lifeline Connections, we serve the Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA areas with care to live a clean life again. We provide a mental health and co-occurring disorder treatment outpatient program to fit your needs. We tailor your care to fit who you are and what you need. We are always happy to speak with you if you have any questions or concerns about your recovery. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-397-8246 ext 7465.