Over the next few weeks, I am going to have a new theme each week based on the international holiday or awareness campaign.
Today, I wanted to discuss how we can take charge of our emotional health.
Throughout my life, people have asked how I’ve gone through the things I have.
Well, now you’ll know! I share some thoughts and strategies on acknowledging our emotions and using them for good.
If you’ve been on a journey to heal from trauma, you are not alone.
Taking charge of our emotional state means we become responsible for our own happiness. It may seem daunting, but I promise, it is so worth it!
Acknowledge the good and the bad.
Like most things, there must be balance. Remembering the good and bad times help us practice cognitive flexibility: the ability to switch between thinking about two different concepts, and to think about multiple concepts simultaneously.
No matter what we go through, we can acknowledge the pain yet remain motivated, inspired and hopeful.
When circumstances change abruptly, you’re likely to feel numb, rage, sadness or even despair. We must also remember that abrupt, positive changes can happen too!
While at my psychologist appointment, I mentioned a situation that frustrated me, but I also mentioned the positive side too. Good and bad exist simultaneously.
Train your mind to see both.
Healing isn’t linear and life isn’t always predictable, but having the ability to acknowledge and accept the good times with the bad can give us hope for the future!
Notice how people (characters in your favourite movies/shows), colleagues, friends and family interact.
Have you ever people-watched? When we’re having a coffee at our favourite cafe, at a restaurant with family or whilst shopping – we’ve all done this to an extent.
Seeing how others express their emotion whether it is joy or pain, can help us navigate our own.
Do you know someone who you gravitate towards? The person who seems happy? Or someone who always seems to be encouraging? Or someone who is matter-of-fact and productive?
Ask how they came to be the way they are. Do they listen to podcasts? Do they surround themselves with people full of wisdom?
Since beginning my path in mental health and learning more every year, the best way was to surround myself with people on the same or similar journey. People who have surpassed “growing pains” or starting their career. People who are more experienced than I am. I study their behaviour by watching their interviews, reading their articles and looking at summaries of research.
You don’t have to be a sociologist to notice behaviour. We already do it, subconsciously.
If you want to learn how to navigate emotions with intent, empathy and understanding, look around you.
There are lessons everywhere.
Otherwise, there are many self-help books out there like this one. Even discussing your curiosity with friends or family who are like-minded can spark a whole lot of learning for everyone!
Don’t let the darkness scare you.
For me, negative thoughts come and go. It can depend on my current circumstances, a bad day or a heavy conversation. When I know I will or have experienced something hurtful, overwhelming or even harmful, I expect what comes next: the darkness.
Life is a mixed bag.
We grieve for lost loved ones, we navigate illness, we may end up in a car accident or we may lose a good job.
No matter what it is, expect what comes next. Whether it is pain, hard-work, healthier habits or editing an old resume – step into the unknown.
You will be okay.
If you’re afraid of the unknown – that’s okay! We all are. It is part of the human condition.
We can plan until our heart’s content but that still doesn’t guarantee what our future will look like.
Regardless, organising ourselves for the worst-case scenario means we can think three steps ahead. Not many people do this. Do what others aren’t!
Remember that when life becomes unbearable next time, you have a track record of STRENGTH to carry you through.
There is always hope, as long as you believe in it!
Learn through books, mental health magazines, videos, podcasts or online communities.
Often, I found it difficult to talk about my mental struggles with those around me. There were a few people but sometimes I was so overwhelmed – I couldn’t possibly put this pain on another (a false belief I told myself back then). I know now, people are willing to listen.
I found comfort in reading, writing and creating art to express myself.
To this day, this is a huge cathartic process for me. I’m forever grateful for such an outlet.
I’ve read multiple books on mental health, self-improvement, emotional intelligence and of course, lots of non-fiction! You can learn all you want but remember to enjoy yourself too!
Eventually, I found videos on self-development and podcasts on positivity and attitude.
It was only a matter of time before my tangible self-help tools became digital — welcome to the age of Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, Snapchat and Tumblr!
These days, there are thousands of online forums or group pages tackling difficult life experiences including mental illness, domestic violence, finances, decluttering and organisation.
If there is something you would like to learn more about, I bet that it is out there!
If it isn’t out there yet — start a group, an informational blog or Facebook page!
Talk to someone.
I mention this often in my blog posts. Not only did this help me through my teenage years and continues in adulthood, but it taught me that I don’t have to be afraid of what I’m feeling.
There is no shame in being honest about how you feel!
Find someone in your friendship group or a mental health professional that you can trust.
You can learn a thing or two just by starting a conversation.
It can be really comforting when you’re able to open up to someone and feel heard.
Receiving advice or even encouragement from loved ones can go a long way too. Don’t close yourself off.
I know it can feel unbearable to express ourselves – especially when we’re really hurting – but it is so important that we do.
I have included a list of organisations below that are here to help if you are in need.
Have realistic expectations.
You know yourself the best. Once you start delving into the realm of self-development, it can be challenging to navigate when roadblocks come up. Set realistic expectations for yourself.
If you’re reading a book, don’t force yourself to stay up late just to finish it. Take your time, digest the information and get enough sleep.
If you noticed a certain behavioural trait of yours (e.g. talking over someone else), don’t expect it to go away overnight.
Change takes time.
Try to live mindfully: notice how you feel with small changes.
Remember that everyone makes mistakes.
Everyone has had moments where they’ve said the wrong thing, intentionally or unintentionally.
It’s not about being perfect. It’s about becoming aware of your emotions and being aware of how you fit into this world.
I hope you found these tips helpful!
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Image by Jack.