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Are You Emotionally Well?

Are You Emotionally Well?
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BY MYRA FAYE TURNER

Each year during October we celebrate National Emotional Wellness Month. But what exactly is “emotional wellness? According to the National Center for Emotional Wellness ,

“Emotional Wellness refers to an awareness, understanding and acceptance of our feelings, and our ability to manage effectively through challenges and change.”

So when we are emotionally well, we don’t shy away from our feelings — positive or otherwise — instead, we accept and embrace them. Let’s take a closer look at how you can assure your emotional health throughout the year.

Let’s start with stress. How well do you handle stress? That’s the $100,000 question. Unfortunately, stress is often treated like the red-headed stepchild. Write this down. Stress is not inherently bad— it’s our reaction to stress that can wreak havoc on our emotions.

Emotionally healthy adults are attuned to their feelings. They also realize it’s perfectly okay to embrace whatever it is they are feeling. Don’t you hate when someone —usually a stranger — tells you to smile? Or worse, when they say, “Cheer up, things can’t be that bad.” Since you don’t know me, you can’t possibly know what’s going on in my head, so don’t tell me how to feel.

We should never allow others to validate how we are supposed to feel. If you feel sad, it’s okay. As long as the sadness is not prolonged, there’s no cause for concern. Every year on the anniversary of my father’s death I feel sad for a few days. At first I tried to shake it off but now I embrace it. I realized that my initial sadness was because I never had a good relationship with my father. He was an abusive alcoholic. One day when he went off to work, my mother took me and my siblings and moved out. What followed was years of turmoil, anger, and hate. I sort of forgave him after I became an adult but I never had a real relationship with him. I believe that is why his death still affects me because I have regrets. The sadness comes and goes, it does not linger. I’m perfectly fine feeling a little sad a few days each year in March. Then I move on. The thing is not to dwell on how you feel. Label your feelings, accept then, then keep it moving.

Remember back in the day when you would take an essay test and your teacher said there were no right or wrong answers? The same is true of your feelings. Don’t let others tell you that it’s wrong to feel a certain way. If you’re nervous, for example, that’s okay. Only you can decide what you chose to focus on.

Emotionally healthy people realize that life’s not always sunshine, unicorns, fluffy puppies and rainbows. If you live long enough, you’re bound to face disappointments in life. Like stress, your reaction to these setbacks is what allows you to remain healthy. I can say from personal experience that as I get older, I face a new challenge every day. In my younger, pre-baby days, life seemed a lot simpler. But now, not only do I have to deal with my issues, but I have another human I’m responsible for and with that comes a whole set of issues to deal with. Emotional health means keeping a positive attitude and moving on from setbacks and not allowing your feeling to cloud your judgement.

Being optimistic is okay but it’s a good idea to have a Plan B. You can’t sit around and think that things are going to work out without acknowledging that sometimes plans fall through. It’s like losing your job and feeling confident that you will find another one even though you never send out one resume, make one phone call or network with one soul.

Some people — after they have known me for a while — seem to think I’m very religious. I’m actually not religious at all. What I am is spiritual. I believe in God. I believe in the power of prayer but I also know that sometimes God’s answer to our prayers is a big old “no” or his response is not exactly what we want to hear. This is why we have to remain optimistic but we have to actually get off our behinds and do something to help ourselves.

An emotionally unstable person will kick themselves when they make a mistake. “If only I had…” or “I should have…” becomes their rallying cry. Not so with an emotionally healthy person. We admit our mistake, fix it if we can and then move on.

Sometimes, despite trying to maintain a cheery disposition, you may not be able to shake your sad or negative feelings. Emotionally healthy adults realize that sometimes getting professional help is necessary. In the African-American community especially, we tend to keep our mental health issues to ourselves —specifically people of my generation and older. There’s a stigma to seeking professional health or a sign of weakness, according to some. However, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help if you need it, be it from a close family friend, relative, clergy or a mental health professional.

Another aspect of emotional health is being able to maintain relationships with others. You want to surround yourself with positive people. The adage that “misery loves company” is so true. Have you ever known a person who was so negative that being around them was emotionally draining? I try to avoid people like this because they tend to blow my emotional high. My motto is: Just say no to drama.

Don’t you hate when someone tries to blame others for things that happened to them? Another part of being emotionally healthy is accepting and taking responsibility for your own actions. Emotionally healthy adults will never play the blame game when they are experiencing problems. Emotionally healthy people also feel good about who they are. They are able to laugh at themselves, they know their limitations and their shortcomings (and they accept them).

Emotionally healthy people realize that sometimes they need distractions, especially when thoughts and feelings overwhelm them. They realize they can’t function, if they can’t focus. So they take a break. They go for a short (or long) walk, read, listen to music, call a friend, take a nap, watch silly cat videos on YouTube. You get the picture.

When you are facing difficulties, it’s okay to look to the past to help in your present crisis. Recalling a time when you used a particular coping strategy can be useful in dealing with your present turmoil.

An emotionally healthy individual has control of their emotions. They don’t jump to conclusions. Having control of one’s emotions helps us to make wise decisions, because we are able to think clearly.

An emotionally unhealthy adult is often stressed because they are overwhelmed. Remember that chronic mental stress can lead to physical ailments. I have found that often the main reason I feel overloaded is because I put too much on my plate. Duh, I am responsible for my own schedule, so I have no one to blame but myself if my day planner is bulging. Learn to “just say no”. Other ways to de-stress, include learning time management and organizational skills and participating in calming activities like yoga and meditation.

As you can see, it’s not difficult to maintain emotional health. You’re probably already using some of the techniques already. If not, make these tips part of your daily routine and I promise you will be on your way to become a more emotionally healthy — and happy — adult.

 

 

 

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