Improving Emotional Wellness: Not Only Self-Care

Emotional wellness is often defined as the ability to recognize and accept our feelings and emotions, rather than deny them, among other additional concepts. Some define it as a way to stay optimistic against the odds, but it’s definitely more than that.

Feelings are a double-edged sword; by choosing to accept your emotions, you are not only inviting joy and gratefulness, but also pain and despair. Despite their complexity and the baggage they sometimes bring, it’s healthy to acknowledge their existence and incorporate them into the relationships we have with other people. After all, it’s impossible to truly connect to others if we can’t describe how we’re connecting with them.

It’s difficult to be acutely aware of what you’re feeling when it’s needed the most. It’s easier to think than it is to feel for a lot of people… for example, societal standards may look down on showing emotions because it may seem “weak.” Other times, people say they “don’t have the time” to wallow in their feelings, perhaps due to a cultural emphasis on constant motion, or feeling like we need to be doing something every moment of the day. Although we have a general idea of self-care, we often neglect the other faces of emotional wellness. Not to devalue the importance of necessary indulgence, but there is more to healing one’s self than covering open wounds with silk and satin.

Self-care should come second after understanding our feelings, because how can you treat something when you don’t quite understand the origin, or why it’s happening? Recognizing them can help prevent the possibly catastrophic cascade of events that happen because of a lack of comprehension.

Feeling your emotions is as hard as meditating for the first time: both activities involve a lot of introspection and time within your own mind, which, for most of us, is insanely difficult because of the sheer amount of thoughts bouncing in our minds.

But the first step is: noticing the feeling. Something uncomfortable, or something irritating, or something uplifting, really any emotion that you’re feeling. Focus on that, and just pause. Here’s the meditation part.

Center yourself, and describe the feeling. Centering one’s self could be deep breaths and closing your eyes, or just grounding yourself in the present. Although you feel your emotions and thoughts, they are not what makes you–you are in control of them, even if it doesn’t feel like it yet. Try to name them beyond the basic emotions of happy, sad, or angry; knowing a more diverse set of emotions indicates a higher level of emotional wellness than most! Sometimes, it’s more than just anger: underneath it might be shame, fear, or pain.

Feel the sensations in your body because of the feeling. Describe and recognize those sensations, because you might find a trend in your emotions that correlates with present events. Maybe something in particular makes you angry or hurt and it happens more than once–that might indicate you need to approach the problem, or just avoid it altogether.

It may be difficult to constantly need to identify your feelings, but in the long run, it will become much easier and you might find that its benefits outweigh the costs of that lost time!

Additionally, to keep up with tracking your feelings, you could do the following:

  1. Get a feelings chart
  2. Keep a feelings journal–entries don’t have to be long and descriptive!
  3. Talk to someone you trust: nothing helps more than voicing out our emotions to someone who can offer a more objective stance and help you navigate the maze that is your emotions.

Feelings are not something that should antagonize you; they’re supposed to help you grow and develop yourself and the connections you have with others. Just like any other skill, the more time and effort you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Good luck!