We have come to the point in our busy modern lives where we have to remind ourselves to feel our feelings. Constantly putting them aside to engage with everything else around us (not to mention our devices) leaves us exhausted, depressed, and burned out. Here are a few key things to work on to help prioritise and promote your emotional wellbeing.
Many of us may feel like we have barely drawn a breath in the last 12 months. Between all the stresses associated with the pandemic, everything going on in the world and in our personal lives, and the extraordinary pace of modern existence, it can feel like there are no breaks. This takes a major toll on our emotional health.
This is because for many of us, the feeling of having no time means that we also have no time to check in with ourselves. We are upset about something that happened at work, sad and angry by what we’re seeing in the news, worried about a loved one – and yet, we often try to shove these feelings into a different space in our minds to deal with later because we’re just too overwhelmed with everything else to process it now. We no longer have the natural breaks that give us a moment to be in touch with what we are feeling.
Being able to recognise the key things that we need to give us those breaks and sustain our sense of self is an important starting point in a fundamental coping mechanism often branded as “self-care.” Self-care means really taking care of ourselves by paying attention to our emotional, mental, and physical health and wellbeing so that we may live truly full lives that are of benefit to ourselves and those around us.
In the spirit of the new year, and in support of our collective strength and resilience, here are some tips for taking care of yourself emotionally in these current times.
Tip 1: Weigh Your Availability
It is so easy to get in touch these days, and the multitude of platforms by which to reach people have cultivated an expectation that people will always be around, whether professionally or personally. Which one of us haven’t felt the pressure to respond to something even when we know we are pushing beyond our limits?
Setting aside time each day where you are offline is not just healthy, it should be normal. We are meant to have time with our own thoughts and feelings, and to be away from the external stimuli of work, friends, and social media. Create the boundary by letting people know that you are offline during that time, and stick to that commitment. For those already worrying about what might happen in case of an emergency, setting a back-up system – such as having a trusted love one field calls for an hour while you do the same for them during a different time period – can help ease anxiety around missing a truly important call.
If you are not ready for a contact-free hour every day, then start with every other day. Put your phone away, let the computer shut down for once, and release yourself from the expectation of a call or a text. Take note of how you feel, and keep at it. You may be surprised at the results.
Tip 2: Go to Bed
Easier said than done, right? You’ve got a million things to do, and once you finally call it a night and fall into bed, the lure of a bit of mindless scrolling on the Internet can suck you into surfing away another hour or two of sleep. Or, maybe you get into bed and just can’t shut your thoughts off, tossing and turning your way through the night and waking up in the morning exhausted once again.
The thing is, that same stress and anxiety that plagues us through the day is absolutely fueled by bad sleep. A good night’s rest can change your entire outlook on life (not to mention have dramatic impacts on your physical health as well). This means that getting good rest has to be a priority. With the positive effects that adequate sleep has on mood and cognition, you will be benefiting yourself and everyone around you when you clock in the z’s.
So, what do we need for good sleep hygiene? Okay, first and foremost is getting rid of those ubiquitous screens. Seriously. We must break free of the notion that bedtime scrolling is relaxing – studies have shown that light from screens disrupts our natural circadian rhythms (which help us sleep), and that this habit can actually increase anxiety. A dark, preferably cool room is best for sleep. Set your alarm, and then put the devices away.
If your mind is still going, reach for a journal instead. You don’t have to write anything profound (though if you need to, go for it), but even writing a to-do list for the following day can help make some of those anxieties about all you need to get done feel tangible and doable. When you are ready to shut the lights off, try some deep breathing, meditation, or progressive relaxation (where you clench a muscle and then focus on relaxing it) to ease into sleep mode.
It may take some time to develop a sleep routine that works for you, but getting consistently good sleep will boost your mood, increase your productivity during the day, and ultimately make you feel better and healthier.
Tip 3: Nourish Yourself with Action
Our days are full to the brim with activity, but do you ever lie in bed thinking, “But what am I actually doing?” We can fill our days with actions that are the emotional equivalent of junk food – they are things that keep us going, but don’t give us strength or have any benefit to our overall wellbeing.
We need to discover the leafy greens of our existence and make them a regular part of daily routines. This could be meaningful, constructive interactions with our family members, like a creative play session with your child, a date with your spouse, or a really good chat with a parent. It could come from activities that work towards righting some of the wrongs you see in the world around you, or doing something that brings you or others joy, whether it is creating art, or cooking, or taking a walk in the woods. It may be something that helps give you peace and clarity, like meditation, or sitting outside to watch the sun rise.
If you are struggling with figuring out where to schedule this time in, try keeping track of all your activities in a journal for a week. As much as possible, don’t work on time estimates – actually clock what you are doing. This can really help you see where your time can be shifted. If your schedule reveals you are spending more time than you realised in unproductive activities, don’t punish yourself for “wasting” time. These blocks are simply indicators of where you’re trying to cope with stress, and are good starting points for testing other ways to do so – like alleviating stress through nourishing action.
The common thread of the diverse array of nourishing activities you can choose from is that they cultivate and reaffirm who we are and why we are here. They allow us to soak in the beauty of the world, and to push back against the injustices of it. They help us to build stronger connections with the people we love and respect, and redirect our time to things that are important to us. This new year, dig into these, and reap the positive emotional results.
Embracing Emotional Self-Care at The Dawn
The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab in Thailand is a unique rehabilitation and wellness facility created to foster an environment of personal growth and healing for people who want to change their lives for the better and overcome addiction or mental health issues. Internationally accredited by the American Accreditation Commission International, The Dawn offers customised programmes that cater to each individual’s needs by using a comprehensive, holistic treatment method and modern techniques with proven results.
This new year, make the commitment to truly take care of yourself. Call The Dawn today and learn more about how we can help you rediscover your strength and renew your passion for life.