Every life stage brings with it different stressors and challenges, and as we navigate those it’s imperative that we check in with our emotional health along the way. This is true for behavioral health professionals and clients alike. Oftentimes, especially when we’re busy in our lives, we tend to overlook personal emotional damage, with a dismissive “get over it, self” attitude. However, if we recognize that physical damage must be treated in order to heal, why not treat emotional damage as not only equally important, but equally treatable?
Without emotional wellness — the ability to successfully handle life’s stressors and adapt to change and difficult times — we are unable to navigate through everyday activities, relationships and responsibilities. And to secure our own emotional wellness, we must first pay attention to our emotional injuries and learn to practice emotional first aid.
In his popular Ted Talk, psychologist Guy Winch explains why practicing emotional first aid can elevate our quality of life, and how to reboot our emotional health:
- Pay attention to emotional pain. Recognizing when emotional pain happens and why, and then treating that pain before it becomes an issue is key. If a negative emotion persists, get to the root of the problem and find what you need to treat it before it does further – or permanent – damage.
- When you fail, learn to redirect your reaction. Failure can cause us to focus on what we can’t do, rather than what we can. Then, in turn, we lose the confidence to perform at our highest level, which leads to more failure. Break this cycle by focusing on the things you could control if you were to try again, such as better planning or preparation.
- Protect your self-esteem. Many of us typically practice compassion with others, but don’t give ourselves the same graces. Why? Treating yourself like you would a friend in your same position can work wonders for boosting and protecting your self-esteem. Positive self-talk and self-compassion can go a long way.
- Interrupt negative thoughts with positive distractions. Habitual brooding, when you’re constantly replaying stressful situations or events in your life without finding resolutions or new approaches, can be extremely harmful. When you feel yourself sinking into this habit, distract yourself with something that requires concentration, such as a brainteaser puzzle, trying to remember the names of a specific group of people or making your grocery list. This focus on something else can reduce the urge to stew on negative thoughts.
- Learn which emotional pain treatments work for you, specifically. We’re each individuals, so a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. Pay attention to how you handle your own emotional wounds — do you get upset but recover quickly? Do you push the thoughts aside and deal with them later? Learning which techniques you tend toward, and then determining if those are healthy coping mechanisms, can help you to heal.