In today’s day and time, there’s no shortage of stress, worry, woe, and negativity.
And, amidst it all, as our cares pile higher and higher with each passing year, we experience a myriad of emotions that can eventually seem like they’re on a runaway train.
In other words, this life can take a toll on our emotional health and well being, yet we just keep plowing through our day to day, wondering why things aren’t getting any better.
Perhaps you notice this in your patience that seems to grow more thin with each passing week?
Maybe you’ve found yourself to be more anxious lately?
Positive emotions and experiences seem to be felt and experienced less frequently, and overall you start to feel a bit on edge, unnerved, even empty?
When this happens, it’s likely that we’re in need of an emotional check-up.
Emotional health is just as important to your overall well being as physical health, yet it’s an area that is often overlooked.
Here we’d like to take a deeper look at what emotional health entails and how we can better care for our health and well being emotionally.
What is emotional health?
Emotional health and well being refers to your ability to manage your emotions, producing positive thoughts, moods, and feelings, as well as adapting to adverse or stressful situations in a healthy manner.
Being emotionally healthy means you’re aware that you have emotions, but you don’t let those emotions have you. In other words, your emotions do not control you; instead, you are in control of your emotions, despite your circumstances.
When you’re emotionally healthy, your relationships improve, you can better handle tough conversations/situations, and you can more easily gain a proper perspective.
But, to begin the journey towards improving our emotional health, we must first understand our emotions.
Consider this description of emotion: “our emotions are energy in motion and not a part of who we truly are (they are merely giving us information).”
Essentially, our emotions are fleeting. They change like the wind.
Our emotions can shift based on our own thoughts and actions. They can change based on who we’re with (momentarily or in relationships). Emotions can even be affected by what we eat and drink.
So, when looking at ways to be emotionally healthy, it’s really a lot like physical health.
With physical fitness, we work our muscles to build strength and endurance. We eat and drink those things which fuel our body and fight disease. And, we seek to avoid putting things into our bodies that can harm us.
Thankfully, we can be emotionally “fit” too.
The following list includes tips and suggestions, things you can practice (exercise), things to consume or add to your life, even some things to avoid when seeking to improve your emotional health.
How can I take care of myself emotionally?
The first step in learning to appropriately navigate, even control, our emotions is to be fully aware of them.
And, of course, to be aware of our emotions, we must observe.
Seek to observe your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. And, allow yourself to truly feel these emotions!
Health here can not be reached by ignoring, fighting against, or burying your feelings.
When you allow yourself to feel your emotions, you can begin to journey towards emotional health.
So, essentially, you can take the first step towards improving your emotional health by slowing down.
Being able to stop and take a look at your emotions can allow you to decide what changes you may need to make to help yourself better manage them.
As you observe, take note of your body. Do you notice any physical changes or sensations brought about by a change in emotion? Are certain emotions energizing you? Are some emotions physically draining?
What behaviors or actions (from yourself or others) cause you to feel happy, sad, angry, or anxious?
Is there an action, even a person, that triggers feelings of anxiety in you?
These observations are a crucial springboard towards effectively caring for yourself emotionally because when you know your emotions and what brings them about, you can then know how to reduce negative emotions or responses in the future.
This list won’t be step-by-step as we move further along, but for now, a good action to move on to after observing and bringing a sense of awareness to our emotions (for some folks) is journaling.
Writing down what is observed can help create a pathway to health and wellness.
In some cases, journaling can help you to see triggers and patterns. And, it can even bring a sense of calm, working as a tool in and of itself to bring about emotional health.
3- Reach Out
As you become more aware of your emotions, reach out to trusted friends, family, or colleagues when you find yourself in a place where you realize you need help or support.
Just be sure to reach out before you get to a point where your emotions have already overtaken your own actions, attitudes, or thoughts.
When we begin to recognize troubling emotions arising within, talking to trusted friends can keep those emotions from building up and eventually pouring out in a non desirable manner.
Allowing emotions to build up also creates an extra element of stress in your life. So, be sure to talk to someone (this can be a great time to journal too) either when you're feeling specific emotions arise or when you know you’ll be facing a stressful situation in the near future.
4- Three steps for stress
Emotions cover a wide range, from happy and excited, to sad or angry. And, while we can technically disturb our emotional health when any of those feelings are left unchecked, I think we can all agree that stressful situations have the potential to bring out the worst in us.
So, when you’re faced with a stressful situation, or any feelings that you observe as tense, angry, or threatening your peace, try the following three steps to help you better manage your emotions:
- Take a deep breath. When we breathe in deeply, our brain engages and responds to help us feel calm and relaxed.
- Stabilize, or ground, yourself. Grounding helps you to be in the moment. Focusing on your body, or your presence, by feeling the actual ground beneath your feet has a stabilizing effect, causing your mind to focus less on the thoughts or situations troubling you.
- Take a break. Take a moment to think about how you will speak or respond in the situation. Pausing to consider your words or actions can help you to communicate more effectively and allow you to do so from an emotionally healthy state. At this point, you can respond, rather than react.
Oftentimes we find that our emotional health suffers when we lack balance in our lives.
Are you finding it increasingly difficult to just pause or take that deep breath when faced with a difficult situation?
Perhaps you need to establish some boundaries to create balance in your life.
Be sure you find time for enjoyment throughout your day to day life. Seek balance between time spent on work tasks and recreation, even between times of rest and activity.
Many find that creating a routine to follow each day aids in facilitating such balance in life.
And remember, it’s okay to say no to extras that fill up your schedule to the point that you’re lacking peace.
There’s actually a scripture verse that says to seek peace and pursue it. Pursue it…hmmm. Think of that in relation to emotional health.
Work towards, seek out, strive towards peace.
When we intentionally guard our peace, this may mean a shift in priorities, allowing us to focus on balance within our lives for the sake of our emotional health.
What you focus on will control your emotions.
A small example: a few moments ago I shifted my focus away from my computer screen and my eyes centered on the wall several feet away. This wall was painted recently, and I can still see the roll strokes, an issue that can plague me if I allow it.
You see, I’ve painted over this wall numerous times, with numerous recommended rollers and brushes, and still, in the same small section, I see roll strokes. And, it can be…plaguing.
What I need is a shift in focus: Those roll strokes don’t make this house a home. Those roll strokes disappear amidst laughter and love shared with family and friends here in the same room, right next to the wall that goes unnoticed 99.99% of the time. Those roll strokes are proof that I’m enjoying a home, a luxury some aren’t afforded.
It’s easy to see the negative. It takes work to see the positive. And, just like physical health takes work, so does emotional health.
Do the work of focusing on the positive aspects of your job, your family, your friendships.
One way of shifting your focus is by practicing daily gratitude, looking for the good, positive, and encouraging moments all throughout your day.
And, focusing on the positive may also mean you need to change your surroundings.
Sure, we can’t cut out a wall with roll strokes, and sometimes we can’t completely cut out a negative person or thing in our life, but we can allow our greatest amount of focus to be placed upon what is good, what is pure, what is true, and what is right.
- If there are relationships in your life that have turned toxic, perhaps some distance is required for the benefit of your emotional health.
- If your Facebook feed or nightly news watching has turned into a source of negativity, perhaps you can spend your time more wisely around positive, uplifting folks.
- Even guard yourself against yourself. That’s right. If we’re focusing on the wrong aspects of our own self, we can still be harming our emotional health. As you do with others, practice forgiveness towards yourself, giving grace, allowing for growth, and focusing on the positive.
7- Mindfulness & meditation
Mindfulness is a proven method of managing stress, which goes hand in hand with emotional healthcare.
Mindfulness, like grounding, allows you to be present in the moment, aware but not overwhelmed by what is going on around you.
Mindfulness doesn’t necessarily create calm, but it allows you to return your mind to the moment. This can be done while seated in a quiet room, free from distractions, or this can also be practiced while moving, on a walk out in nature for instance.
Meditation, also a proven stress management aid, can help to create resilience to difficult situations allowing you to reduce the amount of times you react to a person or situation based on emotion.
These can each include an element of deep breathing, focusing on each breath rather than the circumstances surrounding you. And, there are also apps and guided practices available to assist in both mindfulness and meditation.
The saying “garbage in, garbage out,” also applies to emotional health.
If you consume a diet filled with sugar and processed foods, this can lead to inflammation throughout the body which contributes to greater levels of stress, even increasing instances of depression and anxiety.
While emotional health and mental health aren’t quite the same thing, your mental health can affect your ability to deal with emotions appropriately.
This is why foods noted for their ability to boost brain health are also known to improve emotional responses.
Seek to include the following in a healthy diet for optimal mental and emotional health:
- Fruits and vegetables, particularly dark leafy vegetables
- Nuts, seeds, legumes, particularly beans and lentils
- Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon
- Lean proteins, such as chicken, turkey, eggs, etc.
Physical activity has long been noted for its benefits to the mind as well its ability to bring calm, relaxation, and relief from stress.
Some experts recommend supplementing therapy, even medication, with exercise to improve mood.
Walking in nature boasts great benefits to your mind and spirit, promoting positive emotions such as calmness and joy, while decreasing anxiety and depression.
And, it’s even been recommended to incorporate some kind of movement every 90 minutes, especially proving beneficial to those with a sedentary job or lifestyle.
How? Every 90 minutes or so of each day, move your body in some way.
Perhaps you’re able to take a walk around the block? Maybe this means you’re cleaning your kitchen countertops or folding a load of laundry? Even better, if you’re able, head over to your local park and enjoy the fresh air, taking in the sights and sounds while boosting your mental and emotional health.
10- Get adequate sleep
Sleep, though often overlooked here, is a crucial tool needed in improving emotional health.
When you sleep, your brain is able to form memories, evaluate thoughts, and process emotional information.
When you skimp on sleep, you are actually harming your brain’s ability to build positive emotions.
So, something as simple as getting a good night’s rest or even a needed nap can help you care for yourself emotionally.
11- Enjoy life
If you’re struggling emotionally, life can be less enjoyable. The thing is, your emotional health can be improved simply by doing the things you enjoy in life.
So, seek to make time for the things you love most.
Do you thoroughly enjoy visits with your grandchild? Seek to get in a few extra grandchild snuggles and hugs each week.
Is golf a calming, relaxing activity to you? Make time to get in a round with a good, positive friend.
Life’s too short not to make time to do the things you love…and, your emotional health will thank you for it!
12- Support others & find other to support you
Sometimes shifting your focus to others can greatly improve your emotional health.
This can be done by showing compassion to those less fortunate through giving your time, talents, or treasures.
Then, as you do this, take note of how it makes you feel. Reflect on how this can have a positive impact on your emotions.
And, don’t neglect yourself.
If you’re struggling emotionally, find a support system. Find people who know, love, and support you, people who will be positive and encouraging, ready and willing to help you on your journey of emotional self-care.
Through the hustle and bustle of daily life, we often forget to take a moment to check in with ourselves. Today I challenge you to do just that––ask yourself how you are doing and what you can do today to bring joy, peace, and positivity into your routine.
For some, it might be watching the sunrise on your back porch with your morning cup of coffee. For others, take a moment to stretch or breathe part of the way through your work day.
Whatever it is, find what brings you joy.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Charles Livingston nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.