By Ronelle Bloomfield, Inside Out Well-being Team
I'm sure you've heard of the term self-care. Whether it was used to caption an Instagram post or discussed in your favourite Netflix series, the term self-care has become a buzzword! It’s great that we are increasingly taking time out to do relaxing activities- whether it’s used to unwind after a long day or used as a way to treat yourself. Regular self-care is a necessity. But have you also considered emotional self-care?
Emotional self-care is giving yourself the space to feel your feelings. Not trying to suppress the emotions but actually taking dedicated time out to understand why you feel a particular way.
It involves being aware of your thoughts and behaviours and allowing your emotions to be felt in their entirety.
This is a fundamental aspect of maintaining your health and wellbeing. There is a strong relationship between your mind and your body. The more you understand your emotions, the more you can learn how to manage them. Not to forget, the way you think and feel can manifest physically in your body. For example, chronic stress can cause you to develop high blood pressure as a result of your body being in a constant state of alert.
Understanding emotions not only has benefits for your well-being, but it also has benefits for your loved one. You want to be there for your loved ones when they need support. However, if your own emotional needs are deficient, you will struggle to help others. So here’s a gentle reminder to put yourself first. In order for you to help others, you must first help yourself.
Here are some easy ways that you can practice emotional self-care in your daily life.
1. Express your feelings
Experience your emotions in appropriate ways and don’t bottle them up. I’m not saying tell others every single time you feel an emotion, sometimes it can be as simple as expressing your feelings to yourself. Suppressing a feeling won’t make it go away because as discussed previously your body has a way of telling you exactly what’s going on. If you feel sad, don’t just brush it off and say “I’m good”. If you need to cry, cry. Need to watch a film and stay in? Do that. Need to speak to someone? Call them. You know what’s best for you. Healthy coping strategies will allow you to express your emotions and better understand yourself.
2. Listen to your body
In the midst of suppressing feelings, we also can ignore the signals our body gives us. If you’re tired, rest! Although you can easily power through, emotional self-care means taking a break to recharge. Your body will only go on for so long running on empty before it crashes so why wait for this to happen? Top up your emotional fuel by taking time to rest and take a break from social media to just spend time with yourself. You can listen to music, dance, sing, paint, write an entry in journal, whatever makes you happy.
3. Learn to say NO!
This one is something I struggle with myself. It can be difficult to say no to friends and family because we want to be there for others. However, if you don’t look after yourself first and foremost, you’ll be useless to others.
Free-time is me-time.
Just because you have the day off work and you have no plans doesn’t mean you should feel obliged to say yes to things you don’t want to do. Now, I’m not telling you to decline helping your mum with the food shopping simply because you don’t want to. I’m speaking more of times when you are emotionally drained and your social metre is too low to accommodate anyone else.
You don’t need a reason why you’re saying no. No can just mean no; trust me I know the urge to give excuses is strong, especially when someone is in need.
Here are some polite ways to decline without giving an excuse.
“Thank you for your offer, but I would have to decline”
“I appreciate that you thought of me but I am not able to attend”
4. Practice self-compassion
Forgive yourself for mistakes of the past.
Once you have dealt with a situation, move on from this. Dwelling on negative events from the past is a sure way to decrease mood. You can be your own biggest critic. Take yourself out of the situation and imagine you are speaking with a friend. You probably wouldn't say half of these things to them, right? So why say it to yourself?
5. Have a Positive inner monologue
The way you speak to yourself matters. Your thoughts affect your emotions, which affect your behaviour, which has an effect on your physical feelings. This is the cognitive cycle and it is the basis for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – changing your thoughts and behaviours to improve emotions. Start your day with a set of positive affirmations. This positive self-talk will over time develop your confidence and change your attitude towards yourself.
6. Ask for help!
Affective disorders (such as depression and bipolar) affect an individual's ability to navigate their emotions. If you feel like you may be unable to control your mood and you’ve tried self-help and nothing is working speak to a healthcare professional.
Incorporating these steps will improve your understanding of your emotions and increase your ability to regulate these. This will increase your social, physical and mental wellbeing. Remember – in order to help others, you must first help yourself.