Why It Is Important To Practice Emotional Hygiene
Did the title conjure up images of under-arm deodorant, toothpaste, and over-the-counter medications? If so, you’re not alone in this. Whenever someone mentions physical hygiene, most of us immediately think of our daily cleansing routines, or of how we take care of our bodies when we sustain an injury or come down with a cold. But what about our psychological hygiene? How many of us have a daily routine for this? Do you have protocols in place for taking care of your mental health? What habits have you adopted for this? I’m guessing you may have not have given this matter much thought up until now, right? Do We Really Take Care of Our Emotional Health? The truth is, just as we periodically sustain bodily injuries and endure physical illnesses, we also regularly suffer equally serious if sometimes invisible psychological condtions stemming from daily mishaps and misadventures, such as failure, rejection, loss of self-esteem, and many other distressing events. The question is, do we have the tools with which to cope with the ensuing distress, negative self-talk, dark broodings, anxiety, fears and other emotional upheavals? Do we really know how to take care of our mental health? Once again, I’m guessing the answer to these questions is “no”. Unfortunately, it usually is. Techniques for Better Emotional Hygiene Pay Attention There are many ways we can learn to practice taking care of our mental health. The most important one is to Pay Attention!! to our emotional pain. Don’t just discount it, trying to ‘suck it up’. Emotional pain requires first-aid, just like any physical pain, especially if it doesn’t go away of its own accord after a couple of days. If left unacknowledged, our emotional wounds may have consequences, and we can get caught up in a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and emotions, and these can lay the ground for repeat performances of the same undesirable and distressing scenarios. Top up your Self Esteem Sadly, when we’re caught up in a negative cycle, our self-esteem can take a big tumble. Self-esteem is the psychological equivalent of a vaccine: it acts as our emotional immune system. And, just like any other vaccine, we need to keep it topped up with regular boosters. We can do this by systematically monitoring our level of self-esteem, giving it a leg-up when down, and pro-actively breaking out of any negative self-talk. Do Not Think Too Much! Admittedly, it’s not always easy to break out of negative self-talk. It can become so constant and repetitive that it is best described as ‘ruminating’ – this means giving too much focus on distressing events or perceived failures. Ruminating invariably increases our stress levels, and this can have a knock-on physiological effect, even leading to depression and/or cardiovascular problems. If left unchecked, rumination can also lead to different forms of addiction, such as alcohol abuse or eating disorders. Seek a Helping Hand We all need a helping hand from time to time, especially when things get on top of us and we can’t see our way out of a vicious cycle of feelings, thoughts and behaviours which only intensify our distress. Talking to a therapist can help you find a way out of your own particular emotional blind alley. Your therapist can offer pointers and tips on how to ‘catch yourself’ when you are about to embark on yet another phase of rumination or self-destructive thoughts and habits. Together with your therapist, you can practice new ways of supporting yourself to maintain a healthy level of emotional hygiene.