Your emotional health affects literally everything in your life so it helps if it’s good

My class at Homeboy Industries answered some questions for me recently about what topics most interested them, and what they’d like to learn more about. At the top of the list for almost everyone in the class was emotional health. So, this got me thinking about emotional health and why it’s so important to understand and even more to know how to nurture and work on it if it isn’t great. And, I mean, who’s OK after the last few years?

You know I love to define things so here’s a definition for emotional health

Emotional health is one aspect of mental health. It is your ability to cope with both positive and negative emotions, which includes your awareness of them. Emotionally healthy people have good coping mechanisms for negative emotions, and they also know when to reach out to a professional for help. ALSO, feeling happy, connected, accepted, having perspective, control of our behavior and in healthy relationships.

What does emotional health affect

Everything. Your job, relationships, friendships, family connections, dealing with the world around you, how you manage disappointment or success, and how you feel about yourself. Now you get it. If your emotional health is struggling you might experience any of the following:

  • Isolating yourself from friends, family, or coworkers
  • Lower energy than usual
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Increased use of substances
  • Racing thoughts
  • Lower performance at work
  • More interpersonal conflicts than usual
  • Feelings of irritability, guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Neglecting hygiene and personal care

Emotional health is important – so how do you work on it

I consider there to be a couple of different categories here so let’s separate them out.

The physical tools

  1. Rest – it’s critical for you to be able to process emotions. BOTH your own and the emotions of others.
  2. Exercise – I say it all the time. Want to get out of your head? Get into your body. Even 30 minutes of walking every day will make a difference. Get serious about exercise and you have the best replacement activity out there.
  3. Meditate – Again, something I talk about all the time. Meditation will help with everything from calmness to any kind of recovery you’re working on. if you keep it up, it will have lasting effects on your brain and your ability to stay calm and centered.

The social tools

  1. Stay connected – with your recovery community, with your family, with whoever makes you feel good and safe. Text, call, meet up, send memes, and know someone’s out there when you need them.
  2. Know when to reach out for help – have a team of people who you can call if you are having problems. Have a sponsor? Friend, sober sister, spiritual figure, family member, therapist, doctor, or whoever fits the bill for you.
  3. Celebrate – celebrate your goals, your special days, and the people you care about. Keep joy in your life and in the lives of people around you. This is especially helpful for building self-esteem.

The mental health tools

  1. Learn resiliency – otherwise known as your ability to bounce back. This will carry you when things don’t work out as planned, and they won’t sometimes. But, better to know that and be prepared, right?
  2. Find things to care about – if there isn’t much passion in your job, find it somewhere else. We all need things to care about and to know care about us. Struggle with people? Foster animals. Find a way to fill your heart with something pure and positive. It changes everything.
  3. Replace negative thoughts – if you struggle with your thinking (and who doesn’t) find tools to help replace that stinking thinking. Try using replacement thoughts that are positive, affirmations, or make those meditations about building self-esteem and self-confidence.

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Lindsey Glass

Lindsey Glass is the co-founder of Reach Out Recovery. Her 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World Of Recovery, has helped to lift the stigma from addiction and recovery and is used in recovery programs nationwide to show what life is like on the other side of addiction. Lindsey's teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, was distributed to PBS stations nationwide by American Public Television in 2014-15. Lindsey has written dozens of popular articles on recovery. She is a recovery advocate and frequent keynote speaker. Lindsey is the author of 100 Tips for Growing Up, My 20 Years of Recovery, 2019. Before focusing on recovery, Lindsey was a TV and screenwriter. She has worked in publishing, web development, and marketing.

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