Updated: Feb 3
"It's a marathon, not a sprint." ~Unknown
Generally speaking, none of us want to feel bad. I'm pretty sure of this assertion. As a therapist and coach, my career is predicated on my ability to connect with people and help them feel better. Often times as we start our journey together, I lose them when I tell them that too much positivity can in fact be toxic and detrimental to their mental and emotional well-being. But isn't that the purpose of them coming to me? To feel better? To escape the negative feeling? Short answer, no.
When clients come to me, whether in the therapy sphere or coaching sphere, they want quick fixes. Honestly, I can't blame them. They have often been languishing in their discomfort for quite some time before they wave the white flag and admit they need a second pair of hands on the case. Rarely do I ever get to meet my clients at the beginnings of the distress. By the time they have worked up the courage and bravery to reach out to me, their problems have been persisting on average 6 months or more. They are tired. They are confused. They are fed up. They want a magic pill or a swig of Michael Jordan's secret stuff.
Here is the uncomfortable truth. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Emotional well-being is a lifetime goal. Just because we experience uncomfortable emotions or moods, doesn't mean that there is something inherently wrong. We are human. Just like there are cloudy days and sunny days, we are going to experience positive moods and negative moods. We will experience happiness and we will experience sadness. The key question is, "Are we responding appropriately?" We are supposed to be happy with good fortune and sad about bad fortune. It is normal to feel angry or even frustrated about the negative world events or annoying behaviors of others. We are supposed to experience these emotions, it's what makes us uniquely human. We are supposed to feel the feels, then let them go. We aren't supposed to wallow or languish in the negative emotion states. I do not say this for it to be translated as bad things happen, we acknowledge it, then we shift to happy. I say this just as it is written. We feel the feelings then we let them go. We pivot to neutral, balanced ground through accepting that sometimes unpleasant things happen; it was just my turn. We don't allow it to affect our overall core belief about ourselves and our abilities.
How do we achieve emotional well-being? There is no one best tip that leads to emotional well-being because it is a process. However, necessary ingredients include awareness, knowledge, and practice. Being out of balance includes avoiding or suppressing our feelings or becoming too aligned with our feelings allowing them to consume us. Awareness includes identifying that we are experiencing an emotion. We may not know exactly what feeling it is, but we can identify and acknowledge that a feeling is present. Knowledge includes learning where different emotions are experienced in our bodies and ways to utilize self-soothing skills. For example, anger may be experienced as a tightness in our jaw, arms, or shoulders. Sadness as a heaviness in our chest. Fear as a knot in our stomach. Self-soothing activities may include deep breathing, going for a walk or run, singing favorite song, journaling, or visualizing a relaxing image. Practice is self-explanatory. Just like we practice tornado or fire drills at our schools or place of employment (hopefully at home as well), we practice self-soothing skills so that when uncomfortable emotions strike, we are better prepared to deal with them.
Cultivating a life in balance, accepting and acknowledging both positive and negative emotions states, is achievable for each of us. We just have to be intentional about restoring balance wherever we can. I know, I know. We are a busy society and we have what seems like unreasonable demands placed upon us. You may be thinking, "I don't have time to add complications to my plate." I get that; I do. Which is why I will include 5 simple daily habits for emotional well-being. Key word simple. Let's get to it.
Eating at regular times
We have talked about it many times here at EnvisionCo Blog. Proper nutrition. Afterall, giving our bodies the nutrients and hydration that they need is an essential part of mental health. But rarely have we discussed this gem. Eating regularly. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
If we run a marathon hard at the start, we risk exhaustion too quickly. If we store all of our energy until the very end, we risk not making progress. The key is an even pace. The same is true for our nutrition. When we schedule our meals and snacks and build a healthy diet, we maximize our digestive health. If we eat every 3 to 4 hours (this includes light and healthy snacks) we help keep our blood sugar level consistent for our stomachs to optimally digest food. This schedule helps us avoid overeating and decrease bloating and indigestion.
The state of our mental health is influenced by the sleep we get, or don't get. When we don't get enough sleep, our brains aren't able to get the rest and recovery needed to better regulate our emotions and cope with stress. Our article: "How Much Sleep Debt Do You Own?" outlines some of the difficulties sleep deprivation can cause us, "difficulties with concentrating, learning and memory, reacting, making decisions, solving problems, managing emotions and behavior, and coping with change." This article also outlines 8 tips to try if we find we are struggling in the sleep department. Check it out for a refresher and see how you can increase your emotional wellness by having a regular, consistent sleep schedule.
Organizing physical environment
When we have a lot of clutter, it can overwhelm our brain leading to us feeling anxious, helpless, or overwhelmed. When we have clutter (whether at work or home) it overwhelms our visual and tactile systems because there is too much stimuli to attain to. Feelings of guilt can start to rise, "I should be more organized," can start to play on feedback loop in our minds. Frustrations can abound because we cannot locate needed items as easily through all the clutter. Relaxation is more difficult to achieve because of all the overstimulation, guilt, and overwhelm. When we organize our physical environment we reinforce balance, a balance of what we want and need.
Exercising and being active helps boost our moods and helps make us feel good. Exercise helps strengthen our muscles, build bone density, maintain our coordination and balance, and strengthen our lungs. It also helps reduce the risk of disease and strokes. Stretching helps keep our bodies young, flexible. Stretching also increases our energy and blood circulation; the increased blood flow to our brains can boost our energy, our mood, and our mental clarity. It is recommended that adults have at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day (walking, running, stretching, exercising, etc.). Having an exercising partner helps us bond with others, increases our accountability to our physical health, reduces anxiety, and boosts our confidence.
Meditation or Yoga
Cortisol is a hormone responsible for stress. Meditation can help reduce cortisol levels and help increase melatonin production (especially if practiced before bedtime). If you recall, melatonin is a natural hormone produced in our brains that help us sleep. It's what helps regulate our circadian rhythms and tells our bodies when it's time to go to sleep. Meditation teaches us mindfulness and can help us learn to cope with anxious thoughts. Yoga, which can include meditation, has a few benefits which includes the following: helps improve flexibility, reduce inflammation, and increase strength (physical wellness); helps with stress relief, reduces anxiety, and improves mental health (emotional wellness); and helps improve quality of life by improving our perception of our position in life within our culture and value systems (spiritual wellness).
The idea that we as humans should be constantly happy is a destructive idea. The truth is, it is normal to experience the blues. Life is too varied for us not to. The important thing is that when we are faced with life's challenges we don't shut down or get emotionally stuck. When we live life in balance, we accept that life will throw us curve balls. Rebalancing is a lifelong process and that requires early preparation of this reality by engaging in emotional-balancing techniques before one of those big curve balls gets thrown at us. I hope you have found these 5 simple daily habits for emotional well-being useful to you. I would love to hear from you in the comments. Please remember though, as you begin this journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading!
"The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not our circumstances." ~Martha Washington
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