We hear and read a lot about how to do self-care by bringing awareness to the present moment through mindfulness and grounding techniques. I’ve spoken about how you can bring awareness to your five senses; your sense of smell, touch, sound, taste and sight, as a way of bringing your attention to what you can feel in your body but I haven’t spoken a lot about emotional or psychological self-care. In this blog post I tell you about emotional self-care, what it is and I’ll share with you five emotional self-care strategies that you can use to promote positive mental health. I also have a list of 20 feel good, no spend self-care ideas to help you get started.
What is self-care?
Before I get started in explaining what emotional self-care is and how you can do it, I’ll briefly define self-care in general, why its important and why its something that can have negative effects if its left neglected. Self-care is about nourishing your mental, emotional and physical health so that you can feel recharged, refueled and regenerated. It is an act that you do deliberately to take care of your mental, emotional and physical health. There are many benefits to practicing regular self-care, but if its neglected you can run the risk of feeling unhappy, having low self-esteem, feeling resentment towards others, become anxious and experience depression and you can also experience burn out.
What is emotional self-care?
Emotional self-care, also referred to as psychological self-care, is defined as paying attention to your emotional needs. This means identifying what it is that you’re feeling and then doing things in such a way that honors yourself and those feelings and emotions that you are feeling. Emotional self-care is about doing what is necessary for you to identify and nurture your feelings and emotions, your conscious inner state of being, your intellect and be mentally and emotionally healthy.
When our feelings and emotions, usually the unpleasant feelings and emotions, are not addressed we can feel frustrated, our energy and our hope and positivism in life can slowly drain away and we can become burnt out. All of these things can impact our mental health and lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
5 Emotional Self-Care Strategies you can use so you can be Emotionally Healthy
1. Practice Gratitude
Practicing gratitude regularly can have a long lasting, positive affect on your life and sense of well-being. This strategy can be used to help create positive feelings such as love, joy and happiness, which make you feel good.
Being thankful for things that you have can help you to block unhelpful and unpleasant feelings and emotions such as envy, resentment, regret, anger and sadness. Practicing gratitude and positive thinking can strengthen the relationships that are around you, makes you feel optimistic about life and the future and the practice helps you to focus your attention on what you do have rather than the things that you do not have.
Our brains are wired to work in such a way that they are constantly looking out for threats, worries and negatives. This means that regularly practicing gratitude exercises is a great way for our brain to compensate this habit.
So if you’re feeling worried or anxious or experiencing depression, writing down one thing that you are grateful for each day can be a great way to start.
The technique of journaling has many benefits to your emotional and psychological health. Effective journaling can be a helpful strategy to release negative thoughts and feelings that our brains tend to favor and can improve our overall mental health. My favourite journaling tip is to use journal prompts which encourage you to think, reflect and respond to different questions rather than simply reporting about what happened during each day.
Journaling is a positive way to help raise your self-esteem and how you feel about yourself. It is a strategy that you can use to express what it is that you’re thinking and feeling in a positive and healthy way. The use of journaling helps you to take a step back from what it is that you’re feeling, distinguishing reality from irrational thoughts and can help you to find the root cause of what it is that is making you feel that way.
Exercise is one of the body’s most natural ways helping you to maintain good emotional health and makes you feel good. The chemical that is released in your body after you exercise, endorphins, and the way that it makes you feel after you exercise is invaluable. Exercise is a safe and effective way of stimulating the different chemical reactions that happen in your brain and your body. These chemical reactions help you to have a positive emotional and mental state. Starting with a simple walk has beneficial effects to your mental health but it is even more beneficial if you can exercise in a way that makes you begin to sweat.
4. Healthy Eating
When you’re not feeling okay and are experiencing some of those unhelpful and unpleasant emotions, paying attention to what you eat and ensuring that you’re eating healthy is crucial. A healthy diet enhances your mood, increases your energy levels, increases your self-esteem and reduces your risk of experiencing depression.
Psychological factors that often occur in your unconscious mind affect what you choose to eat. These factors dictate the relationships that you have between the food that you eat and your emotions. Your body uses micro-nutrients in the food that you eat to regulate your emotions, mood and physical conditions.
For example, have you heard that sometimes people crave chocolate when they’re not feeling okay. Chocolate contains the same chemical, phenylethylamine, which is the same chemical that our brain releases when we feel the emotion of romantic love. Romantic love feels good, doesn’t it? So you can understand why our bodies crave foods like that when we are not feeling okay.
So why not give our body what it wants? Giving our bodies unhealthy foods can cause other health problems and there are healthier ways that we can give our bodies what it is needing.
5. Using your Sense of Smell
Finally, using your sense of smell can be a way to practice emotional self-care, even thought it may sound completely strange, but hear me out. The part of our brain that tells us what it is that we’re smelling is also the same part of our brain that is responsible for our emotions and our memory. So when we inhale an aroma, the particles travel up our nose and up through the olfactory system to the limbic part of our brain. These aromas can trigger strong emotional reactions, particularly when they’re associated with a positive memory. So the next time you’re not feeling okay, use some essential oils, scented candles or even do some baking to trigger those pleasant emotions and positive memories.
Here’s to finding your best you.