We always hear how important it is to regulate our emotions, but how do we do that? How can we experience normal human feelings but also stay balanced and not overwhelmed?
Here are three quick tips to maintaining emotional wellness.
Tip number 1: Recognize a range of feelings.
Emotional wellness is not always about improving your mood-- oftentimes emotional well-being is about maintaining a healthy balance of mood.
To maintain mood, we must first begin by realizing that, like it or not, we are going to experience many different feelings in life.
Each year, each month, and even each day will be full of a variety of feelings, and a combination of them at that. Miniature shifts in mood occur because of time of day, environment setting, and everything going on with work or school or relationships.
Plus, it’s never just one simple feeling filling our brain. What’s pretty obvious is that we aren’t just happy or sad, fearful or hopeful. We can be nervous but excited. We can be worried but grateful. We can even be exhausted and then reenergized within a matter of minutes.
Even though it’s natural to strive to be content and work to enjoy each passing moment, we don’t need to be happy all the time.
Experiencing a full range of human emotions is beneficial for our livelihood. It’s what sets us apart as a progressed human species.
In order to react and respond appropriately, it helps us to have feelings and acknowledge those feelings. This is known as an affect. Highs and lows are natural and expected, but it’s always about how we handle those life events and manage any feelings that come up as a result. Good news, bad news, fun situations, embarrassing moments, positive social interactions, and annoyance or arguments are all a part of being human. Maintaining emotional wellness starts by realizing that this will all occur in any given year. Allow yourself to feel each intricate emotion, because this gives us valuable feedback into our current existence, and gives us insight into how to respond and carry on-- whether through the sorrow and heartache, or with the aura of joy and exuberance.
Recognizing that a range of feelings will occur is empowering. It allows us to experience each complex combination of emotions without being critical of ourselves-- without self-judgement.
This has been mentioned before in our post about ways to stay mindful. Self-judgement compounds things.
So, without being angry for being angry, becoming more sad and frustrated for being sad or frustrated, allow the feelings to set in, recognize them, and then you can be ready to respond and move on to managing your emotional state.
Tip number 2: Reduce clutter.
Clutter, as a term, will serve as two-fold here: not just physical clutter, but mental clutter as well.
Maintaining your physical space can help to avoid minor emotional disturbances like low mood and annoyance, all the way up to more life altering mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
This doesn’t mean you need to be a “neat freak” about your living space or have your bedroom perfectly organized or everything orderly and untouched. We need to feel at home in our living area, whatever that looks like. Most apartments or houses have a “lived-in” feel that is comfortable-- that’s what makes it homey.
Reducing clutter does mean ridding your life of trash, unnecessary paperwork, dirty dishes, old clothes, and other items you no longer need. A general rule of thumb is, if you haven’t worn or used it in a year, consider donating, recycling, or throwing it out.
Ridding your place of clutter contributes to easing the feeling of being overwhelmed.
In contrast to this, the term mental clutter refers to the build up of thoughts and tasks that can weigh down the mind, keeping it from thinking clearly.
Mental clutter can also occur with too many items on your to-do list with limited time to complete them. We all know that horrible feeling… so much to do in so little time.
Get that to-do list down to size by prioritizing time. Decide if it’s best to knock out the items that take less time first, and then attack the larger thing you need to do, or if you’d feel better working through the difficult task to start while you have the energy.
As people, we all have different times of day where we do our best work. Sometimes common sense lets you figure this out, but there are also estimates based on your sleep tendencies. Some of us work best in the morning, some of us work best in the evening. Analytical work, insightful work, and decision making occur within all of us, but it might happen at different times of the day. Using this concept while tackling each week’s to-do list can have us in the sweet spot for productivity, which greatly reduces mental clutter.
The book, “When” by Daniel Pink helps with some of this--check the show notes for a link and use his work a resource if needed.
Finally, manage activity time, sleep time, and screen time to avoid mental burnout. These and other essential brain activities play an important role in emotional well-being.
Tip number 3: Get involved!
Social connectedness has a humongous effect on mental health. Find or a hobby. Rediscover an interest. Get together with your social group. Stay active. Create challenges for the brain.
Involve yourself with the outer world for a great return on your inner world.
Often this is easier said than done. How do I find a positive friend group? How do I figure out what hobbies I like to do? How do I apply myself in social settings if I’m just not outgoing? How do I know that my time spent in various activities really helps?
Great questions. You can rest assured that you’re not the only one who may wonder how to apply all of this to real life. Just because you read or hear about emotional wellness doesn’t mean there will be follow through-- and often, the issue is that a speaker or writer won’t give any tips or skills to make it all happen!
There are a few ways to find your interests in life, including the development of social relationships that can benefit your mind. The first is to let your passion naturally emerge and, over time, nurture those hobbies and friendships by giving them more time and energy. Self-reflect at the start of each month to see what excites you going forward-- is it the same activities you’ve been putting effort into in the last few months?
Another way to aim your focus in life is to aim your energy and purposefully pour time into an activity for a few weeks to see how the outcome feels. Check back at the end of the week-- was it worthwhile?
Finally, you can sprinkle your free time and effort over a few different interests and social groups to see which ones seem the most rewarding. This comparison can be especially useful since it’s nice to base a decision in an either/or format. Kind of like shopping, this is a nice way to compare and contrast interests, but the opposite effect might be that you leave a person or activity behind and you end up regretting it. Be careful not to dismiss a specific friend or activity for good unless you are absolutely certain it will provide no emotional pay off in your future.
Listen back to the previous quick tips podcast on “3 Ways to Develop a Habit” for more specifics on igniting a spark for success.
“Growing Up Great!”
For more health tips geared towards adolescent boys, check out Growing Up Great!, a body-positive guide to getting through puberty confidently by respecting the body and all of its changes.