Emotional health is vital to our overall well-being and to our relationships. Emotional health isn’t about never experiencing stress or sadness or anger (those are natural parts of living), but it is about managing those feelings- just as you manage joy and excitement and exhilaration- with a goal of maintaining balance or evenness. When we are emotionally healthy, others know they can count on us. We know we can count on ourselves. And, our bodies are healthier because they are not dealing with the poisons of negativity. While many start a new year with a goal of eating better or exercising more, that isn’t the whole picture of wellness. Emotional health should be among our highest priorities.
Achieving emotional health is a process. For many, it’s a life-long pursuit. It’s an area where most of us can always continue to improve. It starts with tuning into your emotions, recognizing their source, and deciding that they don’t get the steering wheel in your life. Here are a few simple steps for improving your emotional health:
TAKE A LOOK AT STRESS- Stress is not only a physical and emotional drain, it’s a threat to our health. While stress is unavoidable, there are ways to manage and cope with it. Exercise, prayer and meditation, and taking intentional respites definitely help. Out of all the areas influencing your emotional health, stress is the one that needs your attention the most.
FIND BALANCE- As mentioned, emotional health is about finding a balance or centeredness. This isn’t just about our emotional landscape, it’s also about our lifestyle. We cannot be emotionally healthy if we are not tending to our personal lives, spending time with those we love, and stewarding our passions. If you are working too much, you absolutely must carve out time for the other parts of your life. Your emotional health depends on it.
DON’T RATE EVERYTHING- We have a tendency to constantly label things as “good” or “bad,” creating an internal churn to strive for what we deem as good and stress over what we consider bad. A flat tire is inconvenient for sure. But, it isn’t necessarily “bad.” Our cars aren’t evil. They don’t mean to harm us. Flat tires are just something that happen in the course of life. We can deal with them. In addition, we shouldn’t always label ourselves or our actions as good or bad. You ate dessert. You aren’t bad. You just like chocolate. So, don’t label yourself in a negative way. It’s exhausting to put every single element of life on the good/bad scale. Give your inner judge a break by being more accepting.
MOMENTS PASS- Good moments and bad moments (there’s that good and bad thing again) pass. All particularly emotional moments pass. We should not give them more power in our lives than they deserve. Don’t drink your own kool-aid and don’t live in defeat when you make a mistake or when something throws you. Learn from all of it, count your blessings, and know that tomorrow is going to be a fresh, clean slate. It always is.
TAKE STOCK OF HOW FAR YOU’VE COME- Sometimes it really helps to pause and remember all you’ve gone through and remind yourself of how far you’ve come.
KNOW WHEN YOU NEED SUPPORT- Whenever you feel overwhelmed, reach out to a friend, to a partner, to a colleague, or to a therapist. Sometimes we need help sorting through emotions. It’s okay and it’s worth the effort. When we’re in a storm, we often don’t have any idea how big it is or how long it will last or how we will get through it. The loving perspective of friends and family, or the professional guidance of a therapist, can be an enormous sense of comfort.
There is so much happening in our big and busy world. We see the opposite of emotional health in so many contexts of our lives. Our challenge this year is to make our emotional health a priority. It will not only impact our own wellness and relationships, it will also have an impact on those around us.