So far I have addressed the reality that we are not emotionally healthy all the time, it’s simply not possible to be perfectly consistent. I encouraged you to seek out healthy relationships to help heal your attachment deficits. Now, we’ll delve into the value of spiritual connection to our emotional health. One caveat here is that not all spiritual practices are the same, even within the same branch of spirituality. I am referring to practices that promote the well-being of individuals in body, spirit, and mind, not to practices that promote hate or preservation of the self without regard for how one’s behavior negatively affects others who have different beliefs.
A spiritual practice can help a practitioner tolerate uncomfortable feelings by connecting to the benefits of conflict and struggle as being important to our development as a person of faith. When we connect to the larger purpose of challenges, we shift our view from, “This is awful!” to “What can I learn about myself from this?” or “How can I use this experience to draw me closer to the source of my spiritual practice?” “This is awful!” can be a necessary step in the process, as honoring our actual experience is critical to our emotional health, but staying in that space will not lead to growth.
We connect to the global community instead of isolating ourselves. Healthy spiritual practices promote the good of all, regardless of other’s beliefs. There is a consideration for how our actions will either help or hurt others. This tie to the collective good can ease our sense of isolation in day to day life. When we are connected to others, we can develop or grow our emotional health.
Many spiritual practices encourage prayer or meditation. These can help calm the mind and relax the body which promotes healing and releases stress and tension. Relaxed muscles promote healthy blood flow throughout the body. Blood carries nutrients as well as aids in the process of removing toxins. Think of a river dammed up by debris. It reduces the flow of water downstream and causes flooding upstream. Our bodies don’t do as well when flow is decreased and many spiritual practices have the capacity to relax a person. When we are physically healthier we can be emotionally healthier and connect with others from a grounded, relaxed place versus a stagnant and tense place.
So what are you doing with your spiritual practice? Do you have one? I’ve listed just a few benefits. There are many more. Consider how you can use a spiritual practice to increase your enjoyment while you are on this planet, including increasing your emotional health.
Want to know the truth about emotional health? I think we all want to know what we can do to have it and keep it. No one really enjoys being in an emotional spiral or even an emotional swirl. We like it best when we are stable, when life around us is stable, and we have a sense of all is well. Unfortunately, that is not reality. And that is the first truth.
Accepting the hard moments or hard days is necessary for experiencing emotional health. Emotional health is not synonymous with emotional neutrality. Living in a narrow range of emotion with no high or low is denying reality. Life is full of pain, hardship, uncertainty, disappointment as well as exuberance, explosive joy, and celebration. Actually feeling the rhythms of life is not being bipolar. If you find yourself so low you cannot get out of bed for several days in a row and at others so high you don’t sleep at night for several days in a row while rearranging your home, for instance, it’s possible you are bipolar and you may need an evaluation. The normal highs and lows of life however are not a cause for alarm. But many of us don’t like those highs and lows. What’s your alternative? To live in a restricted response to life around you and that is not emotional health. You are stunting your true experience.
To enlist the first truth of emotional health, start noticing what you are feeling. Allow the feeling to be there for as long as you are comfortable with it. Name it. Are you feeling sad, discouraged, disgusted, pissed off, concerned, unsure, afraid, content, excited…? Notice the full expression of the emotion in your body not just the cognition of it. If you are feeling pissed off, what does it feel like in your body? Be aware of its physical sensation. Simply let it be there. You don’t need to do anything with it, just notice and let it pass, like a wave.
For some, allowing emotion to be fully experienced is unsettling and may even trigger such an extreme connection that you feel out of control, like the emotion is going to take you over. If that’s the case, don’t feel it. Shut it down. Anchor yourself to the given moment: My feet are touching the ground, I can see the clock on the wall, I hear it ticking, I am right here in this room. Then, find a good counselor to help you with processing your emotion.
Sometimes, especially with sadness tied to grief and loss, it feels so strong that we cannot sleep well or we sleep too much, our appetite changes, our interest in things we once enjoyed disappears, we have lethargy, maybe even an increase in anger. These are all signs of depression. Depression can be situational: I lost my job, I’m going through a breakup or divorce, my child died, I have cancer. It can also be a physiological issue in your brain. For both, see a counselor and a medical provider. You may benefit from working through the situation with a counselor and taking medication, either to help you through a really challenging time or to help balance your body’s chemical production.
To sum up this truth: feeling deep feelings is normal, being neutral all the time is not emotional health. Sometimes we do feel too deeply and we can serve ourselves well to get that checked out by a counselor and a medical provider. If looking for a counselor, check out your insurance for covered providers or PsychologyToday.com. You can put in parameters for location, insurance they take, therapy techniques they use, and more.
If you can’t wait for the rest of this series, check out my book: The Journey Forward Workbook: Daily Steps to Achieve Emotional Balance and Healthier Relationships or my course The Journey Forward Workbook Series
What do you need to feel balanced? Some days it might be a hug, a deep breath, a walk, a real conversation, the reminder that you are enough. Not one of those is about material items or even things you buy. They are about caring for yourself in deep and meaningful ways. Are you getting those ingredients in on a regular basis? Do what you can in this moment to care for yourself.
It’s been a while. I’m not sure why. Mostly, I just never felt like writing. I would think about you, desire to reach out, but not have anything novel to say. But, life is always changing and even a similar topic has unique nuances based on the situation in the present. We are in a new phase of our life with COVID. For the first time in 14 months, I walked into the grocery store without my mask on. I had been out of town and out of the loop for a bit and didn’t realize the regulations in my town had changed to no longer requiring masks. I have been fully vaccinated and the sign said I didn’t have to wear a mask; I was free to go without one. I did not feel good about that. It was a challenge to tell myself it was ok. I felt anxiety about it. Would I be safe? The store was nearly empty at 7 am on Memorial Day so it really wasn’t a big deal. It’s interesting how we get used to things being a certain way and when that way is changed, we don’t like it, we feel uncomfortable.
I remember tears rising when most of the produce in the grocery store was gone in March 2020. I remember the anxiety that built over our rapidly changing accessibility to freedom, groceries, and toilet paper! We had to adapt to our new way of functioning and many of us did. Now, it’s time to shift to a new place. We are adaptable; it’s called neuroplasticity. It means that our brains are capable of changing long-held beliefs and patterns. We like to say, “This is just how I am” when confronted with the idea of change. Reality is you are saying, “This is how I want to stay. I don’t want to change.”
I wonder what you are confronting today that may require some willingness to change? Is it a relationship, a job, or perhaps a circumstance? Consider the neuroplasticity of your brain. Perhaps it’s time to allow it to happen. It’s not an easy process but it can be done. If you need a resource for this check out my workbook, the Journey Forward Workbook: Daily Steps to Achieve Emotional Balance and Healthier Relationships
We’ve been dealing with this pandemic for about five months. I wonder how you are doing? Are you enlisting self care? Are you giving space for your emotional experience?
When all of this first started it was scary for many of us. Our way of functioning was suddenly changed. We had to first deal with the shock of it. At this point in the journey I’m thinking you have found some stability within this unpredictable time. If you haven’t it might help to talk with a friend or mental health professional.
It might sound odd for me to put those two together: friend or mental health professional. I think our best support is found in stable friends. While I see my profession as valuable, I know friends are sometimes the best support. They are usually accessible 24/7. They don’t drain our bank account. They know us deeply (if we let them). Perhaps they have also walked similar roads and may know first hand the twists, turns and potholes along the way.
Sometimes we need the counsel of a professional. Our friends can guide us in that direction if the material we are dealing with is beyond their capability. Whatever you choose, be good to yourself and reach out to others to help you navigate this challenging road.
By now, everyone is being affected one way or another by this pandemic. What is it like for you? Many are feeling all kinds of big emotions from fear to sadness. And many don’t know what to do with all the emotion. Here are a few quick tips:
- Name the emotions you are feeling. If you are at a loss, feelings generally fall into categories of fear, sadness, anger and joy.
- Understand the thoughts that are driving the emotion. Are the thoughts true and real? Do you know this for sure or are you projecting/speculating? Throw away untrue thoughts.
- Give space for the feelings based in truth. There’s real stuff that’s bad right now. Honor that for yourself. Feel it for a bit, then do something to change your focus: look at nature, call a friend, do an art project, go for a walk, turn on fun music and dance…
There’s so much more to say and I’m saying it every day on Facebook. I post short (a few minutes) videos each morning (Colorado, USA morning) with a quick tip of something you can do right then or during that day to help you relax and get through this pandemic. I also have 4 (tomorrow I will add my fifth) Facebook Live to Thrive videos with more detailed ways to be as healthy as you can during this time. I have also posted the Live to Thrive series on YouTube titled Thrive in the Unpredictable.