Most of us are fairly aware of how important our physical health is. We are taught from a young age, we should shower daily, brush our teeth morning and night, and rest when we are ill. But when our emotions are out of whack, what do we do? We continue on as normal. Pushing the feelings aware, somewhere far deep inside ourselves. Just because we can’t see our mental health directly, it affects us indirectly. Our productivity may decline, we push our loved ones away, we stop doing the activities that bring us joy and we all-round suffer. Unfortunately addressing our mental health still comes with stigma and taboo, but that only matters if we let it affect us. The body follows the mind, so shouldn’t addressing our mental concerns be of the most importance? This is why we should all be practicing emotional first aid.
01. Learn to be in tune with your emotions, and accept the dips as well as the highs.
What are the things you are feeling? Loneliness, failure, rejection? These are all emotions created in our mind, that we have the ability to alter. Whether it’s changing our perception or taking physical action to try and counter these emotions (which may involve stepping outside of our comfort zone.) Also, acknowledge all the good in your day. How great it was finishing a workout, choosing a healthy meal over something convenient, or choosing to do something outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes we are prone to only seeing the negative, which is only going to leave us in a constant state of unhappiness. Appreciate the good, and acknowledge the bad.
02. Discover the things that bring your mental health up.
I believe all of us could benefit from talking to an unbiased therapist, someone who is not in our immediate circle. ‘Venting’ is actually very therapeutic, I am sure all of us have enjoyed venting at some point in time. However this route isn’t for everywhere (whether financially or another reason,) so there are many everyday things we could start doing. Finding your happy ‘outlet,’ exercise, reading, meditation – something that ‘lights you up,’ even during the dark or hard times. Make these activities a daily priority.
03. Learn to say ‘no.’
Clearly, easier said than done. This is an important lesson. If you are burnt out, it is absolutely okay to postpone your catch up with an old friend or enjoy a night out with your partner (100% guilt-free). Chronic stress isn’t healthy for our body or mind, so allow yourself to have a time-out if you need it.
04. Start treating your mental health the same way you would treat your physical health.
When you have a cold, you rest. You find it acceptable to postpone a catch up with a friend or take a day off work. Why can’t you do the same if you really aren’t feeling good mentally? Sometimes, it only takes one day to start feeling ‘up to it.’ If something really doesn’t feel right, see your doctor, just as you would if you felt there wasn’t something right in your body. Doctors are there to treat the whole self, not just coughs, colds and injuries. Even go and see a counsellor (they are literally trained to listen to you and give you helpful advice, they don’t see it as ‘awkward,’ or a ‘burden’, or like you have failed emotionally. This is what they’ve have dedicated their career to doing!)
05. Focus on everything you have achieved in your day/week/month. Not everything you believe you ‘should’ have done.
It does sound cliche…but there is so much to be happy and grateful about. No one ever is problem-free, but some of us are better are choosing to not let these problems encompass our day. I am sure you can agree that one bad thought can ruin your entire day, but how many times does one positive thought make your day? It’s rare, unfortunately – because psychologically we are primed to focus on the negative or the uncomfortable. Choose to change your thinking of the negatives. It doesn’t mean you have failed, and it doesn’t mean you don’t have the capability to do, or achieve something. We have two choices, fixate on the negative, or fixate on the positive. If you are alive, there is always something positive. Change your perception.