What is Emotional Wellness?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines emotional wellness as “the ability to successfully handle life’s stresses and adapt to change and difficult times.” Emotional wellness doesn’t mean a person is always happy. Instead, they have the ability to recognize negative emotions, accept them and cope in healthy ways; they don’t act impulsively in response to emotions.
Why is Emotional Wellness Important?
Emotional distress harms physical health. When a person is under stress, the body produces the stress hormone, cortisol. Chronically high levels of cortisol lead to inflammation in the body. Stress also decreases the number of white blood cells in the body, which weakens the immune system and makes a person more susceptible to illness and infection. If a person is under high levels of stress for a prolonged period of time, they are at higher risk for physical illnesses such as heart disease, ulcers, diabetes, and even cancer.
So, How Does a Person Achieve and Maintain Emotional Wellness?
There are many ways to improve emotional wellness. Here are six tips to get you started:
1. Cope with Stress in Healthy Ways
Everyone gets stressed, especially when we continue to live through uncertain times. It is impossible to eliminate all of the stressors in our lives. As we slowly start to return to somewhat of a normal life in parts of the country, it’s important to take a step back and find healthy ways to cope with stress.
Simple things like returning to the office and social gatherings can be overwhelming. It is important to focus on what’s in your control. Try the Covid Coach app for help with the various stressors of living through a pandemic. One way you can quickly reduce stress anytime and anywhere is by using your senses. Take a deep breath and think about what you can hear, smell, taste, touch, and see. This helps to ground you and relieve anxiety and panic.
Exercise and healthy eating also play a big part in stress management. Starting your morning with a walk is a great way to organize and process your day and give you a quick break from your responsibilities. Trying a new exercise class or following along with a new video on YouTube are also great ways to start exercising to relieve some stress. Fueling your body with healthy foods helps too. Sometimes when we are stressed, we forget to eat or reach for junk food to cope. Your body will thank you for making healthy choices instead. Find out more about the impact of nutrition and exercise on mental health.
Try this stress screening tool from Mental Health America and check out these stress management tips from Verywell Mind and Positive Psychology. Don’t forget to check out The Hub’s Wellness page for additional resources.
2. Be Able to Identify Your Emotions
Learn how to properly identify your emotions. Often when someone asks us how we are we are quick to answer with “fine,” “good” or “okay.” These are only assumptions about how we feel on the surface. Understanding our emotions and what is actually making us feel these ways is important.
Start by taking your emotional temperature. Ask yourself “what feelings am I aware of having?” Next, identify which feeling is the most prominent; be specific - don’t settle for answers like fine or okay. Finally, acknowledge when you started feeling this way. Take notice if you are judging yourself for how you are feeling. Also make note of any stressor that you know of that is occurring. Keeping track of these answers in a journal can help you identify patterns and understand what triggers certain emotions. If you are having trouble identifying your feelings, this worksheet from Mental Health America may help you get started and check out these tips on owning your feelings.
3. Build Positive Self-Esteem
We live in a world full of Photoshopped pictures and impossible beauty standards. Sometimes we need to take a break from social media and stop comparing ourselves to others. Learn to love what you see in the mirror. Remind yourself how strong and amazing your body is. Learn how to practice positive self-talk. Don’t base your self-worth on the opinions of others. Remember that you are in charge of how you treat others, the goals that you set for yourself, the people you surround yourself with, and the way you carry yourself. Check out these 12 tips on raising your self-esteem.
4. Make Time for Self-Care
Take time to remind yourself that you are important too. Self-care is not selfish; it is taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, do your job, help others, and accomplish the things you need to get done during the day. Self-care is proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels while increasing self-compassion. Through practicing self-care, we can check in on ourselves and ask ourselves how we’re doing and what our bodies need. Some ways that you can practice self-care are getting a good night’s sleep, eating a healthy meal, journaling about your day, reading a book, spending some time alone, setting social boundaries, and engaging in your favorite hobby. Read why self-care is so important and find more ideas.
5. Build and Grow Your Support Network
A support network provides important benefits to our physical and emotional health. Having people that you trust and that make you feel comfortable talking about what you are feeling can help you manage everyday challenges, make difficult decisions, and manage a crisis. If you don’t already have a support network, these tips from the American Psychological Association and these tips from Mental Health America can help. Remember that you are never alone -- find free peer support groups in the Hub’s support group guide.
6. Treat Others Well
Kindness matters! Studies have shown that it is linked to increased mental wellbeing. Acts of kindness, something as small as holding the door open for someone, leaving a positive review for a local business, leaving positive notes around your home or community, or even just smiling at someone can have a huge impact on both you and the other person. Don’t know where to start? Look here. Treating others the way you want to be treated creates a more positive environment and a stronger sense of community. Check out the Born This Way Foundation’s Channel Kindness campaign for more great ideas and resources.
Get a Check-Up from the Neck Up!
Wellness Month is the perfect time to give yourself a mental health check-up. We get a yearly physical to ensure our body is healthy and strong, but we often overlook our mental health. Mental Health America offers a variety of free online screenings. You can also download screening forms from our website that you can print and go over with your healthcare provider. Please keep in mind, self-assessments and online screenings do not replace an evaluation by a mental health professional.