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"When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you." ~Dr. Seuss

What is Emotional Wellness?

According to SAMHSA, emotional wellness is coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships.

Why is Emotional Wellness Important?

Emotions can be confusing and mysterious, making it tough to understand what we're feeling. For instance, your "sadness" may be another person's "anxiousness." Your "joy" might be someone else's "excitement."

I remember the excitement I felt over my daughters finally learning to ride their bikes when I saw that sense of success shine across their faces. But if you asked them what they felt, they would have said, "I'm happy, mom."

The language to describe our feelings is both vast and non-specific and dependent upon the lens (or perspective) we view the situation. Our lens and ability to express our emotions are influenced in part by our background, life experiences, family relationships, and core values/beliefs. It's these things that make us uniquely different that also drive our behaviors and thoughts.

So, understanding our feelings may not always be easy, but it's critical to our ability to express ourselves in a healthy way. It's a process, and it takes time, so be patient with yourself.  Once we start to recognize our feelings, we can begin to understand and accept those feelings.  This recognition will help us figure out why we're feeling that way, and then we get to decide how we're going to respond to those feelings.

Learning To Express Our Feelings Without Judgement

Here are some questions to ask the next time you're feeling emotional.

  • What am I feeling? Start simple. Am I sad, happy, angry, fearful, etc.?

  • What has happened or is happening to make me feel this way?  Is this a response to something happening right now? Or maybe it's a past event. Or even an expectation for the future.

  • What is my body doing? Emotions can affect our behavior and result in physical reactions. Am I in control? 

  • Do my feelings match the situation?  Or is it disproportionate (have I exaggerated or magnified the events or problem based on my perspective)?

I want to share an interesting fact, and another reason identifying our feelings can be difficult. Scientists claim that emotions encompass at least 27 different dimensions, with over 300,000 blended responses. Some of the most common categories include:

  • Anger

  • Disgust

  • Fear

  • Happiness

  • Sadness

  • Surprise

No wonder we struggle to identify and express our feelings in ways that others can understand.

Expressing Emotions in a Positive, Constructive Way

Emotions are more than internal thoughts (feelings) running around in our heads.

It's also the physical response to the situation - raising our voice in anger, an increased heart rate when we're scared, blushing when we're embarrassed, etc. However, just like our feelings, our physical reactions are influenced by our experiences, family relationships, core values/beliefs, the context of the situation, and how we perceive the situation. 

But remember, we always get to choose how we're going to react. Positive emotional responses - acceptance, excitement, laughter, smiling - build our resilience and confidence. While negative emotional responses drain us and evoke the fear-based behavioral response, commonly referred to as "fight-or-flight."

While fight-or-flight is helpful when we sense danger, it's easy to get stuck in this mode. This may result in long-term adverse health effects, such as hormone imbalance, dopamine depletion (the chemical in our brain that makes us happy), or a weakened immune system.

Positive emotional responses are easy when everything's going smoothly - the kids got out of bed without a hassle, a friend showed up with an extra cup of coffee, there was a beautiful robin outside this morning. But how do we remain optimistic when things get tough?

  • Take a moment to reflect on what you're feeling.

    • It's okay to take a moment to stop and think. It's better to walk away for a short time than say something you can't take back.

    • Journaling - getting your thoughts out on paper (or computer) helps you gain perspective and clarity about your feelings.

  • Start the discussion with "I feel _____ (feeling word)."

    • Remove blaming language like "you make me feel _____."

    • Take responsibility for your actions.

  • Expand the discussion in a positive way

    • “I feel _____ (feeling word) when you say/do _______”

    • This creates a vulnerable opportunity for compassion and empathy.

  • Focus on the solution, not the problem.

    • Look for patterns and be open to change.

    • Approach struggles or challenges as opportunities to grow.

    • Seek external resources (if necessary). You're not alone. 

Learning how to recognize, identify, and express our feelings affects us as individuals and will also shape our relationships. Everything we do and say has the potential to affect those around us. For instance, if we express our feelings negatively (blame, hurt, accusations, etc.), it can damage our relationships. However, it can strengthen our relationships if we positively express our feelings (love, appreciation, gratitude, etc.).

Strategies to Manage Life's Stressors

When we find ourselves in a difficult situation or out of balance, we can implement some practical strategies to change and renew our minds and souls. These are called coping mechanisms. But they're just strategies, thoughts, and behaviors that can help manage life's stressors. The use of effective coping mechanisms can help improve our mental and emotional well-being. Some of the most common techniques include:

  • Social Support - a social network can help individuals stay connected by providing help and support and offering essential resources and advice about evaluating and managing problems.

  • Relaxation - learning to calm one's mind and relax through meditation or deep breathing techniques.

  • Altruism or helping others - is a means of transforming uncomfortable thoughts or feelings by helping others suffering from a similar situation.

  • Humor - laughter and humor have been shown to have a positive impact on interpersonal relationships.

  • Physical activity - moving boosts endorphins and produces energy and optimism to help create a sense of calm and focus.

Learning to recognize, understand, and express our feelings in positive, healthy ways is not a simple process. So here are some key aspects to keep in mind. Take a moment to reflect on the situation and recognize what you're genuinely feeling. Pay special attention to what's causing the feeling, including thoughts guiding the feelings and behaviors (perspective). Are they appropriate for the situation? Connect with like-minded people that encourage authenticity and share core values. Above all else, remember to be patient with yourself. Learning to understand and express our emotions in a healthy way is a life-long process. 

Questions to Guide Your Emotional Wellness:

  1. Are you able to identify, express, and communicate your feelings?

  2. Do you have control over your emotions?  Do you think before you act?

  3. Are you flexible and able to adapt to life's changes in a positive way?

  4. Do you recognize your limitations and learn from your mistakes?

  5. Do you accept responsibility for your actions?

  6. Do you feel good about yourself and believe others like you for who you are?

  7. Are you able to ask for help when you need it - from friends, family, or professionals?

  8. Do you have a daily routine?

If you start exploring emotional wellness and find yourself struggling to identify, understand, or express your emotions in a healthy way, please follow the link to talk more about how I can support you on this journey. WovenGrace Wellness.

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