Top Tips for Emotional Wellbeing
By Pamela Carvell, June 2020.
As we are gradually emerging from ‘lockdown’ many people are struggling emotionally to deal with this transitional phase. Some people have actually adjusted to their new house-bound routine, and aren’t missing the stress of commuting. Some are incredibly fearful, either for the health of themselves or their loved ones. Some are incredibly worried as to whether their businesses or their jobs will survive the inevitable recession & others have already lost their jobs. Some are incredibly frustrated, whether with the politicians, or the easing of measures, or with the public at large, who they see not maintaining social distancing. Add to that, the sheer loneliness and isolation that many are feeling, and it’s a recipe for poor mental health.
Fear and frustration are not helpful emotions, as in the modern world we are rarely confronted by tangible physical threats that require us taking drastic action. Rather we are faced with fear of possibilities that are outside our control and yet our body still produces the chemicals essential to flee danger i.e. adrenaline and cortisol. So, we need to refocus on the things that we can control & calm ourselves down!
So here are my suggestions, which I hope will help.
Top 10 Tips for Emotional Wellbeing
- Be kind.
- Take control of your own feelings.
- Be generous.
- Be grateful.
- Practice self-care aka feed your soul.
- Listen to music.
- Be sociable.
- DON’T be self-absorbed.
- DON’T be judgemental.
This is such an important first step in emotional wellbeing. And it isn’t complicated! We can all be guilty of being far too tough on ourselves, when it’s actually far better to be kind and accepting of yourself. Stop telling yourself that you deserve to feel bad. Stop judging yourself for not achieving perfection and leading a perfect life, like everyone else on Instagram! (Yes, I’m being sarcastic!). Stop beating yourself up for making mistakes. Often we talk to ourselves in ways that would be considered bullying if we said the same thing to another person. So, stop and take a deep breath before you let those voices in your head be unkind to you, or worse still, say them out loud.
If you can tell yourself that you are a good, kind person, doing your best, and pick yourself up when you make mistakes, you will find it so much easier to be kind to others. And sending out a vibe of kindness will more than likely mean that others will be kind to you too.
Kindness is probably one of the most underrated emotions, and yet one of the most powerful.
Likewise, take a deep breath before you post something negative or critical on social media. Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve? Why do you feel the need to comment? Could it be interpreted as being unkind to the other people? And if so, it will be far better for your mental health if you simply don’t comment. As my nan used to say “If you don’t have something nice to say, better say nothing at all.”
Take Control of Your Own Feelings
I am a huge fan of the concept, described by Michael Neill, world-renowned Life Coach, of ‘living life inside out’. What that means is that you acknowledge that how you feel is a decision on your part to choose to feel a certain way, rather than allowing the actions of others to drive how you feel. You then project those feelings onto your interactions with others, and as you go about your business.
It is a very simple concept, but it takes a lot of practice to make it your reality. First you have to let go of the belief that something external to you can ‘make’ you feel a certain way. You are in charge of your brain and thus the chemicals that it produces. So you can make a conscious choice NOT to let the actions of others impact how you feel. As they say, you can’t change what someone else does, but you can change how you feel about it.
There are many ways in which you can be generous. You can be generous with your time and your kindness, for example. If you treat others as you want to be treated, you will instinctively be generous and this will help you generate those feel good chemicals. You will also find that people are more inclined to be generous back to you, and that it is contagious.
I have written about gratitude and its benefits to mental health many times before. I can’t emphasise enough how good it feels to be grateful. We all have something to be grateful for, and it certainly seems that the more you feel and show gratitude, the more things you have in your life to be grateful for.
In any situation you can choose whether to focus on the negatives, or to identify the things that you can be grateful for. Choose wisely!
Busy people can be very guilty of neglecting themselves. In fact, in this crazy world we live in, many people fail to spend time on themselves while telling others to do precisely that! Some people refer to self-care as ‘feeding your soul’. In essence, it is switching off from everyday life, so that your mind can clear and re-focus. When we are busy or stressed, we may lose clarity of thought and perspective and as a result often struggle to make simple decisions, or worse still, make wrong decisions. We all have different ways of practising self-care. For me on a daily basis, it’s yoga and walking my dog and fortnightly it’s going to a football match! Any football fan will tell you that for the 90mins of a match your mind is only on one thing, and that is the match. I also love running on a treadmill, for a similar reason, in that my mind just focusses on the music I am listening to, and keeping running! Some people choose meditation, some run, others go for a long drive or swim, sail etc. What matters is devoting time on a regular basis that is about you clearing your mind so that you feel good at a deep emotional level.
We are meant to be active, and yet many of us spend much of our days glued to a screen. Our bodies are designed for exercise, and as a result of it they also produce chemicals like endorphins that will make us feel better emotionally. The link between mental health and physical activity is fairly conclusive. This doesn’t mean that we all have to turn into marathon runners, but just that we should move regularly and occasionally push ourselves so our heart is racing and we are breathless. I have an hourly reminder that buzzes my Fitbit on my wrist, and that works for me! Find what works for you, and get moving!
Listen to Music
Music is processed by a very specific tiny part of the brain, and when it is being stimulated, it affects other parts of the brain. For example, listening to music is now known to reduce the intensity of pain. It can also trigger pleasant memories and the associated feelings. So, one of the quickest and simplest ways to lift your mood is to play music that reminds you of happy or calm times and just let the feel-good chemicals flow!
Human beings are sociable animals, and social interaction is shown to have an uplifting effect. We are very fortunate that lockdown has happened at a time when social media and technology allow us to engage with others remotely, in so many different ways. There is certainly a ‘new normal’ for how we keep in touch with friends and colleagues that we need to embrace for the foreseeable future. Make an effort to contact at least one person each day, or better still one each morning, afternoon and evening and just see how it lifts your mood.
And now for two ‘don’t’s’.
Don’t Be Self-Absorbed!
During these extraordinary times I have noticed, both on social media and in my interaction with friends, that many people have become self-absorbed. What I mean by this, is that they can only see any situation from their own perspective, and are lacking in empathy for others’ situations. Their concern is not society as a whole, or what is better for the environment, but rather how things affect them. I believe this self-absorption stems from fear and being out of control of their lives, in ways never previously even imagined. Often those who are self-absorbed don’t even realise it, even though it may be annoying the heck out of others! If you notice yourself using ‘I’ a lot, and especially saying ‘Yes, but I…’ when someone has made an observation about their life, and if you respond to another’s tweet by inevitably mentioning your own experiences, then you are probably being a tad self-absorbed. And the problem with being self-absorbed is not just that you will annoy others, but that you will struggle to be content within yourself, because the world will never be geared to your needs. This is a concept that requires some reflection, but it is well worthwhile and may well produce one of those lightbulb moments, when you realise how you have been behaving and why it has annoyed others!
Don’t be Judgemental
Another trend that I have detected on social media in particular is that we have become very quick to judge others. We rarely know what is really going on in another person’s private life and so it is far better for our own mental health if we consider that people have their own reasons for what they say and do, and so to say nothing rather than feeling the need to criticise. Just this week there were so many patronising tweets questioning what would prompt someone to queue to shop in Primark, completely overlooking the fact that anyone with growing children and a limited budget is probably desperate for new summer clothes for them. But the implication was that you must be an idiot to be doing it, as had been the implication when Ikea opened a couple of weeks earlier.
I have found myself typing a reply to a tweet and then thinking to myself ‘what am I trying to achieve?’.
Am I trying to make a point? Why? What does that do for me or say about me?
Am I trying to prove that I know better than the other person? Why? What do I achieve? What will the impact be on the other person?
Am I trying to have a go at the other person? Why? Why would I want to make another human being feel bad?
So, my policy is that unless I have something positive to say, I say nothing at all. And trust me I still type many tweets in anger, but then subject them to my own test above, and delete them without posting them. That produces a far better feeling than posting a negative tweet, which will also inevitably attract trolls.
We can’t all feel happy all of the time, but we can work on feeling content as much of the time as possible. We can certainly reflect on how the things we are doing and thinking are impacting our mood. We can also practice techniques that have a positive impact on our emotional state, until they become second nature to us.
If just one of my tips above works for you and makes you feel better, then I am happy.
This article has been written by Pamela Carvell, a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming and a qualified Nutrition Adviser. It may be reproduced in part or in full so long as full credit is given to Pamela and this blog happyhypno.wordpress.com