Emotional Health in Challenging Times
Humans are the best story tellers. And throughout history we have always had quite a story to tell about the challenging times we endure, and the present will be no different. Humans are also the most anxious species. And we are really good at change; history shows genetically we are survivors, so the truth is we are a resilient species. And resiliency is important in our emotional wellness because anxiety is normal; it comes and goes, and as the weeks pass during this particularly difficult time, we are getting stronger. We may not be as rattled as we were at the beginning of this current challenge. And the key to staying resilient is positive emotions.
Psychologists note that positivity allows you to step up emotionally to the next level, to move forward just a bit. Many of you may want to know how to do that right about now.
Feeling your feelings in a healthy way, validating them with an open mind, having the ability to self-regulate those feelings, to bring ourselves into balance, is key to something called emotional sobriety. Add a little compassion toward ourselves and we can start to better cope in a way that can get us to a more peaceful and positive level in our mental fitness.
We all have a narrative that we tell ourselves; we are our own best story tellers. Sometimes that prevents us from moving forward, particularly when we are in a moment of uncertainty, where we have little control over our environment. If you find yourself stuck, consider these ways to move forward: first, take time to reflect on what may be contradictions of the current situation. For example, you may be grateful that you and your family are healthy, yet you’ve lost work or finances. Take time to reflect that these can exist simultaneously.
Second, use humor as a tool. Dig down and without forgoing compassion for those that have experienced loss, humor can provide welcome relief. In fact, both of these tactics can give you a little distance and the ability to find options for problem solving.
Third, if you still find yourself stuck, try taking the perspective from another person for your situation. If you can’t see how to go about this, imagine the advice of a favorite teacher, boss, or any role model who has your best interests at heart, and think about what they would say to you. This will give you a different perspective -a point of view- that will move you toward a fresh emotional place and you can begin to make small steps toward progress.
Finally, let’s review why your routine can be so important to your mental well-being in challenging times. Your behaviors and habits are the landing pad on our roller coaster of emotions. They are what we will hold onto firmly and keep us on the ground.
These are sleep, nutrition and moving our bodies. These three habits will replenish your emotional health and help bring you to a more balanced state on a daily basis. While it is tempting to eat cake, watch Hulu and stay up late, these do not refuel your mental fitness.
- Sleep: monitor what external stimulation you are bringing into your space, be it news, people, or entertainment
- Nutrition: measure your portions and instead of seconds on your entrée, go for seconds on fruits and vegetables or a healthier side dish
- Exercise: in most parts of the country, a 10-minute walk is doable and safe, so challenge yourself to a pre- or post-meal walk two times a day, preferably outside
The result of every healthy habit is a reward, so think of yours as a more positive and balanced emotional state of wellness. It’s good to remind ourselves this is a marathon not a sprint; doing just a few small steps in our wellness routine each day will keep us resilient.
As your own best storyteller, how do you want to change your narrative to better take care of your emotional health?