Taking care of your emotional health is as important as taking care of your physical body. We rest when we feel a head cold coming on, we exercise to maintain our physical health and we dress warmly on a cold day, but how do we look after and maintain our emotional health? And how can we process our feelings in a healthy way when life throws a curve ball?
It’s important to understand that we all have emotions and feelings. We all feel angry, sad, frustrated, content, joyful, depressed, excited, rage, happiness, fear, shame, and guilt at some point in our life. It’s ok to experience these emotions and express them in a healthy way.
Ignoring or supressing our emotions over time impacts our entire life. If we don’t listen to how we feel over time we become sluggish, depressed, tired, exhausted, stressed, anxious, directionless, and unmotivated. We feel disconnected from ourselves and it leads to poor physical health and illness.
When we express our emotions in a safe, healthy way with someone we trust we gain clarity about what is good and not so good for us. We begin to make choices about our life based on how we feel instead of looking to the outside world for answers. We develop an emotional intelligence, which leads us to a healthier understanding about ourselves and our emotional health and wellbeing. We begin to have more respect for ourselves because we are making choices that feel good rather than just doing what we think we ‘should’ do. When we do this, the choices that we do make lead us to a more fulfilling life. We are able to recognise when we need to make a change, for example, leaving an unhealthy relationship, moving house or changing careers.
During our formative years, we are often taught that our emotions and how we feel are not important. As we grow into mature adults, we don’t take the time to understand our feelings. Instead we continue to live, pushed along by the social conditioning of our environment and what we were taught growing up. When it comes to making choices and decisions about our lives as adults, we push the feelings aside and instead let our logical mind do the decision-making. We try to rationalise and justify how we feel. We often make choices and decisions based on what is going on externally around us. Our relationships, the media, the wider community and society, and our religious and spiritual beliefs influence our choices.
Tips on managing and maintaining your emotional health and wellbeing:
- Build relationships with family and friends where you can talk about how you’re feeling or find a community group that offers this support.
- Give yourself permission to express how you feel when you are alone and in the company others you trust.
- Find activities that you enjoy, for example, painting, exercise or playing team sports.
- Attend workshops where you learn about self-development and self-awareness.
- Read books! Highly recommend author and researcher Brene Brown. She is well known for her research on shame and vulnerability.
- Talk to a counsellor or therapist. They can offer so much support.
Unfortunately, for many of us we feel uncomfortable or awkward chatting about self-development or seeing a therapist. Many of us think that self-development is only for people who need help or often associate it with mental health issues. This is simply not true. We can all benefit from a little more self-awareness and self-development. You’re only going to learn something new and it will lead you to a more fulfilling life. It’s important that we start to remove the stigma and start talking more openly and honestly about our emotional health.
Catch up on the rest of our Building a Healthy Lifestyle Series here.