What is emotional health?
Emotional health is essentially related to our thoughts, feelings and actions. It’s about our sense of well-being and how we choose to cope with life events whilst acknowledging our emotions and navigating through easy and challenging emotions. Our ability to regulate under stress, maintain healthy interpersonal relationships as well as the effort we put into our physical health all add up to maintaining our emotional health. Given the collective adversity we have been facing as a community, it becomes imperative, now more than ever, to build resilience, express feelings, develop a healthy support network, learn to cope with changes, and evaluate and understand when to get support.
Looking around, just by unlocking your phone, you may realise you see small self-care messages and affirmations on your Instagram, Twitter or any other social media app, and that’s indicative of the enormous strides we as a community attempt to bring about mental health awareness. Openly talking about therapy and mental health issues has now increased. Still, while we may be understanding the fact that we need to prioritise self-care and mental health, there is less guidance on how we can actually take care of our emotional health, that is, without engaging in expensive health retreats or “shopping therapy.”
So, how do we take care of emotional health?
Here are some tips that help in navigating and actively taking care of your mental health –
- Talking about your feelings can greatly enhance your mood, improve a sense of connection with others and make you feel less troubled
- Engaging in physical activities that help in regulating sleep and concentration
- Working on a healthy diet and maintaining your appetite
- Keeping in touch with colleagues, peers and friends and having conversations
- Asking for help when you’re tired or overwhelmed by how you feel
- Taking plenty of rest when realising that you are feeling overwhelmed
- Cultivate activities and hobbies that make you feel good about yourself
- Engage in a self-care routine
- Accept who you are vs who you want to be, and try navigating this by learning more about yourself
- Make lists or think about the things you enjoy; watch out for things that inject a little happiness or enthusiasm into your daily life
- Try engaging in mindful activities or meditation
- Get support/ start therapy even if you think that whatever you may be dealing with is not “bad enough.”
Barriers to seeking emotional support
While we have begun to understand the importance of mental health, there still remain barriers towards seeking the right type of support.
- For instance, in India, we value self-reliance and seeking therapy or mental health support can lead to self-stigma or external stigma perpetuating the belief that we are “weak.”
- Lack of affordable therapists or services
- Lack of trained professionals. Ensure your therapist at the least has a Masters in Counselling or Clinical psychology
- Poor experiences with help-seeking behaviour
- Lack of family support
- Limited knowledge about mental illnesses
- Unwillingness to disclose mental health issues
- Fear of burdening the family
Working through the barriers can look like –
- Sign up for community interventions
- Attend support groups since they are generally free of cost or charge minimally
- Group therapy is also a cost-effective option
- Enquire regarding pro-bono slots and sliding scale options with your therapist
- Work on establishing a secure support system to help you deal with emotional health
- Speak openly regarding your mental health concerns
Having health support systems in terms of activities to do or people to talk to has always emerged as a strong indicator of having a healthy and sound mind. Yet, there are times we come across individuals or things that are not healthy for us emotionally. What happens then?
Well, the first step involves understanding how relationships or things can negatively influence our mental health. Here are some warning signs to look out for-
- Starting to assume there are good and bad emotions and that you are “bad” for thinking negatively of someone/ something
- Attempting to avoid your emotions and how you feel around such people/ things
- Trying to please individuals because their manner of criticising you makes you feel attacked.
- Feeling stressed/ burnt out or drained after minimal interactions
- Noticing an increase in your irritability levels
- Engaging in self-talk that tries to make you feel ashamed of yourself
- Finding yourself in an endless loop of conflict
- Feeling stuck or like there is no space for your personal growth
- A marked decrease in self-esteem
- Loss of self and identity
How can we learn to walk away from them?
- By honestly evaluating how you feel
- Attempt to communicate how you feel healthily. A common way of expressing how you feel looks like “I felt ___ when ___ I need___.”
- Realign the goals you previously decided on and reimage them without your unhealthy relationships/ things
- Get support; as mentioned previously, outline your barriers to seeking mental health support and try working through them
- Make a plan/ rehearse situations or conversations to ensure you don’t face anything unexpected while explaining your decision to walk away
- Honour your dreams, desires and aspirations
- Take small steps towards the bigger goals you have in mind
By understanding what we need or want from relationships or things, can help us find meaning in our lives and encourage us to live and explore authentically. Further, identifying people or things that increase our feelings of distress can significantly impact our emotional wellness negatively. It’s through repeated reflections and insights, can we develop the habit of learning to love the sound of our feet walking away from things that disturb our mental health.
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