October is Emotional Wellness Month, and in a year like 2020, it’s more important than ever to take stock of our stress levels and attend to our emotional health. Not to mention, as the days become shorter (and seasonal affective disorder can set in), the election grows closer and the news cycle churns out one unsettling story after another, many of us are feeling unsure about what the future holds.
While emotional health and mental health are terms often used interchangeably, emotional health “focuses on being in tune with our emotions, vulnerability and authenticity” according to licensed psychologist Juli Fraga, PsyD. We must remember that emotional health is a vital aspect of our overall health. People who focus on improving their emotional health can feel more in control of their thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and how they’re able to cope with life’s challenges.
There are plenty ways to improve or maintain good emotional health – many are small adjustments you can incorporate into your daily routine. Here are a few to consider:
Pause and reflect
Whether you’re feeling like you’re in a slump or running a mile a minute, it’s important to take some time to align with your emotions. Pause, take a deep breath, and evaluate how you’ve been feeling. Then, write it all down. Think about why you’re feeling this way – are there any external factors that you can address? While there will always be things out of your control that will impact how you feel, you have the power to choose how you react – and to focus on the things you can change.
Strive for balance
Without a healthy balance between work, play, activity and rest, you’ll soon find yourself running on empty. And, with many individuals working remotely at home during the pandemic, those lines can become blurred real fast. Set yourself up with the appropriate boundaries to ensure you’re striving for balance each and every day. Start by taking a walk during your lunch break or settling in for bed 30 minutes earlier than you normally would (no phones or screens allowed!).
Focus on the positives
It can be easier said than done, but there’s nothing like the power of positivity. Focus on the good things in your life – one way to do this is by keeping a gratitude journal. Write down three to five things you’re thankful for, or reflect on some good things that occurred during your day. These can be as simple as waking up without hitting snooze or seeing a dog on your walk.
Connect with others
Social distancing has left many people starved for human interaction, but thanks to technology, we’re never truly “alone.” Though it can be difficult to avoid “Zoom fatigue” as we navigate this new normal, there are other ways to connect with your loved ones if you want to save the video chats for work. Even a simple phone call to catch up and talk about how you’re feeling with a friend can serve as a better alternative if you find video chats to be overstimulating. Or, if you’re in need of a fun distraction, you can download a digital multi-player game to kill some time and still have that much-needed interaction.
Remember – being emotionally healthy doesn’t equate to feeling happy all the time. Your emotional wellness rests on being aware of your emotions and having the capability to deal with them, whether they are positive or negative. Most importantly, be gentle and forgiving with yourself, because all you can do is try your best. Consider the ways in which you can best approach good emotional health – you’re worth it!