In my last self-care routine post I shared a bit about how I take care of myself physically. This post is focused on my emotional practices. Emotions ... a therapist’s favorite topic (ha)! Before we get into it, I will say the first step to taking care of ourselves emotionally is to start with Emotional Intelligence (EQ), initially introduced by psychologist Daniel Goleman in 1995.
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify (emotional awareness) and manage (emotional regulation) your emotions. In his book, Goleman even suggests that EQ is more important than IQ in predicting success in life. The neat thing about emotional intelligence is that the better you get at being aware of and managing your own emotions, the better you’ll be at recognizing other people’s emotions.
Our primary “uncomfy” emotions include: anger, sadness, fear, shame, guilt, and disgust
Our primary “comfy” emotions include: peace, love, and joy
When you think of your self-care routine, keep these emotions in mind and start to think of how you can “release” and nourish these particular emotions. Otherwise, they can get “stuck” in our bodies and manifest in the form of physical disease in our lives (i.e. aches, pains, etc.).
Isn’t it funny how all of the “healthy” choices in life are often the more “difficult” choices? Ice cream or veggies … sleep in or go work out … watch TV or read a book … stay in or go to yoga … get angry/anxious and catastrophize or take time to breathe and calm ourselves down … veg out on social media or spend time meditating … you get my point. Below are some of my favorite ways to nourish my emotional well being, as well as release “trapped” emotions. Some of these activities are not the “easy” choice. The majority of days, I don’t necessarily want to spend my time doing these things especially when I’m tired, triggered, or irritable so I find it within to make the more difficult choice as a trade-off for feeling fulfilled.
Time with Friends and Family (emotional, mental, spiritual)
This is so important! Spending time with those you care about can help prevent loneliness, and give you outlets to confide in. Sometimes we just need someone supportive who won’t judge, criticize, or minimize our problems so we can just “vent”. It’s a huge bonus if you have someone who understands, validates, and empathizes with you and your experiences! When we isolate, it can be a red flag for depression, anxiety, and high amounts of stress. If you are lacking supportive friends or family who are a good influence in your life, don’t be afraid to turn to professional help for support while you work to build a solid support system. There is nothing wrong with having a therapist!
Yoga (emotional, mental, physical, spiritual)
Yoga is so sacred to me. I try to attend yoga class twice a week (at a minimum), but also strive to add some basic yoga stretches into my daily self-care (stretching feels so good in the morning and is a great start to the day)! Yoga is an amazing combination of physical movement, breathing and stretches that promote body awareness, as well as mindfulness (being present in the moment). It’s difficult to find moments in our busy lives when we are truly present, but for me and many others, yoga is one of those regular times. Yoga also teaches us how powerful our breath is as an emotional and physical regulator. Don’t get me wrong, some days I really ... really don’t want to go to yoga - everything that yoga asks of us is challenging and intentional. I’ve learned to recognize, however, that the days when I resist are the days I know I “need” it the most. This is, of course, true of most things in life so ask yourself, will I feel better or worse if I do this/don’t do this?
Meditation (mental, emotional, spiritual)
This is something I’ve always known was the key to optimal mental and emotional health; not to mention spiritual nourishment. I’ve practiced it on and off, and get my biggest doses through yoga, but it was something I struggled putting into my normal everyday routine. This year I made the resolution to meditate daily. I’ve been using the Headspace meditation app and meditate first thing in the morning. I’m only at 10-minute sessions right now but I love that it’s become a healthy habit my fiance and I do together. I’ve noticed that it helps me clear my mind and be much more mindful, present, self-aware, grateful, positive, calm, and loving … I can’t wait to notice greater impacts the longer I keep practicing.
Creativity is so important to our mental health and painting is my chosen creative outlet. It’s one thing I get into a “flow” doing, and I absolutely feel like I am able to get my emotions out on the canvas. Creativity isn’t for just the “artsy” person - you don’t have to be good - it doesn’t have to only be painting or drawing. Dr. Brene Brown says we all have the ability to be creative. She reveals that creativity is important because “... the only unique contribution that we will ever make in the world will be born out of our creativity.” Creating gives us a sense of meaning and fulfillment, yet so few of us actually utilize our creativity. Creativity can be present in everything we do; we just need to tap into it and make time for it. I’ve tried other means of creative expression, but I love how unique and expressive painting is … you will never see two paintings alike, and it’s so fun and surprising to see what you create from certain emotional states. For example, when I’m angry, there’s lots of thick, bold lines and I often use my fingers and hands vs. brushes. What is your creative outlet? Comment below!
Regular Therapy (emotional, mental)
I absolutely LOVE my therapist and have always looked at being in therapy as one of the best self-care and personal development tools. Therapy has helped me heal from my complex trauma history and greatly reduced my depression, anxiety, and stress levels. I have learned amazing coping tools to manage my anxiety, have greatly improved my self-esteem, become more connected to my intuition, and become more self-aware. It’s also helped me adopt an even greater sense of personal responsibility and positive perspective. Our life is so much about our beliefs and perspective, and we can choose for that to be from fear and scarcity … or love and abundance. I believe it is part of our job here on earth, as well as our job as a spouse, friend, or parent (for me, step-parent right now) to work on our shit. If we don’t, it WILL get wiped on our loved ones and passed down to younger generations, which is not fair to them or to us.
I have become very aware of my triggers - my personal “thorns” - and have learned to heal them instead of pushing them away so I can attempt to regulate my emotions and reactions. I am still nowhere near “perfect”, and never aim to be. I will forever continue to work on myself so I can be the best fiance, wife, mother, step-mother, daughter, cousin, and friend I can be. To create the life we want is an inside-out job, and it starts with us working on ourselves so we can fully love and accept ourselves, and in turn love and accept others.
Couples Therapy (emotional, mental)
I am also so grateful to be with a partner who is willing to go to couples therapy as part of maintaining a healthy, happy, thriving relationship. It’s frustrating and sad when I hear that someone views couples counseling as a negative thing, like they are failing and have to come as a last resort to “fix” their marriage. I wish more couples would look at it as a preventative tool to utilize BEFORE things get bad and toxic. My fiance and I have an amazing, precious relationship and it’s our duty to protect, maintain and deepen that amidst all the ups and downs of life.
Getting Shit Done (emotional, mental)
We all have tasks on our nagging and neverending “to do” lists that we simply don’t enjoy doing. Laundry, changing the oil in our car, doing the dishes, paying bills, and on and on. It may seem strange, but doing those nagging things is a big part of self-care. I tend to get overwhelmed, anxious, and even feel guilty when my “to do” list piles up. It’s so easy to put off one thing, then another and to convince ourselves that we need downtime more than we need to get something checked off. That can be a big, black hole though and the reality is, getting shit done is a huge favor to yourself and your emotional well being. In the short term it can suck and be exhausting, but long term you will feel accomplished, productive and less stressed. I get such a feeling of pride when I do the things I “have” to do and stay on top of that list. If you want to go the extra mile, try changing your perspective from “have to” or “should” to “get to”.
Practicing Coping Skills (emotional, mental)
When I’m angry, anxious, shameful, or sad, and none of the above are available to me, I practice coping skills. I even try to practice when I’m not upset or triggered and that allows me easier access when emotions are “hot”. Some of my favorite coping skills are deep breathing (in through your nose, out through your mouth), using an app I love called “Anxiety Release Based on EMDR” (with headphones), drinking cold water, going on a walk, practicing self-love and compassion, listening to positive podcasts, or taking a bubble bath.
Here are some other creative ways to get emotions “out” of your body:
- Screaming into a pillow or punching a pillow
- Drawing or Coloring
- Singing our favorite songs at the top of our lungs
- Dancing around like nobody's watching
- Throwing rocks in a lake or river
- Ripping paper
- Doing something with our hands (like pottery, sculpting, playing with “slime”, etc.)
- Writing a letter to someone (but not sending it)
What ways do you take care of yourself emotionally? Do you feel like you do well in this area of self-care or do you struggle? How can you start to get your emotions “out” of your body today but do so in a healthy way? Comment below.