Wellness Wednesday: Emotional & Mental Wellness

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Happy Wednesday, everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the first Wellness Wednesday post on Spiritual Wellness. Hopefully we all have found a way to work on improving our well-being in that area. Today, we will move into the next realm -- Emotional & Mental Wellness.

What are Emotional & Mental Wellness?
Emotional and Mental Wellness is our ability to understand ourselves, and cope with the challenges that life brings. The ability to acknowledge and share feelings of anger, fear, sadness or stress; love, hope, joy, happiness, and more in a productive manner contributes to our Emotional &Mental Wellness.

Why are Emotional & Mental Wellness Important?
Knowledge of Self
Who are you? When you remove the fancy titles, educational accomplishments, designer clothes, nice car, home, and bank account -- what is left? When you sign out of Twitter, leave Instagram alone, and log out of Facebook -- what is there? What thoughts and feelings transpire when you are alone without music, TV, or company? If you have a difficult time describing who you are without alluding to or mentioning your occupation, social status, relationships, hobbies, or material possessions, you may have some work to do in this department. Knowledge of self reaches far beyond this post, but understanding the very foundation of who you are is integral to your Emotional & Mental Wellness. If you don't know who you are, it will be difficult to remain true to yourself in times of adversity.

Healthy Coping & Expression
In light of the Lil Wayne Seizure Saga, now is as good of a time as any to discuss Emotional & Mental Wellness in the context of healthy self-expression and coping mechanisms. The truth is, life happens. No matter how popular, dynamic, or smart we are, it is inevitable that we will at some point run into issues with our family, our money, our children, our jobs, bad drivers (#shoutout to drivers on the Westside...ya'll are TERRIBLE), our significant others, and more. Unless we are anchored in our Spiritual Wellness (hello!), and a firm foundation of knowing ourselves, we will be tossed about to and fro in the choppy waters of life. How many times have you found yourself blowing up at your significant other, because someone in your family pissed you off? Do you feel like you need a few stiff drinks every night after work? Are you so unhappy with your current situation that you lash out at or make negative comments about those who have what you *think* you want?

These are all indicators of poor coping skills and misguided emotional expression. Challenges will happen. Money will get funny. Folks will start wildin' out for what seems like no apparent reason. That doesn't mean you have to wild out with them. As a society, we have been taught some pretty unhealthy coping mechanisms -- food, alcohol, drugs (prescription and narcotic), gossip, backbiting, and even violence. Personally, when I'm frustrated or upset, I want something sweet -- and the more chocolaty, the better. But I have to take it upon myself to understand that eating a chocolate cupcake every time I'm mad at my boyfriend isn't going to help my long-term health and wellness goals. I have to turn that frustration into something constructive for myself and our relationship.

How Can I Improve My Emotional & Mental Wellness?
Now that we know and expect for life to happen, we have to develop better ways of handling and expressing our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as waking up tomorrow and deciding to treat every challenge as an opportunity. I mean, if that's how you get down then CALL ME... I can learn a thing or two from you. Otherwise, here are a few ways to work on improving Emotional & Mental Wellness:

Building Knowledge of Self
  • Just like you carved out some quiet time to work on Spiritual Wellness, go ahead and find a few extra minutes just for you. Quiet, unobstructed time that allows you to think freely and deeply about yourself. Take as little or as much time as you need to explore.
  • Pull out a journal, or a few pieces of paper. I encourage you to not use an electronic device (cell, tablet, laptop), because there are too many opportunities for distractions at your fingertips. Ask yourself one question -- who am I? Jot down whatever answers come to mind -- regardless of how you feel about them. It is important to be HONEST during this time. No one is going to judge you -- that's why you're alone.
  • In the process of writing out your answers, you may come across some that you don't like or aren't proud of. It is completely okay to discover or acknowledge things about ourselves that don't make us feel good.
  • Next, commit to exploring 2 or 3 of those answers that rub you the wrong way on a regular basis. For example, I am working hard at exploring and improving on my insecurities about my physical self. Once I could admit that I was insecure (hello, ego check), I was able to explore why, and how I overcompensate for a perceived lack in another area . I don't want my insecurity to define me, so I challenge myself to make the necessary changes (physically, mentally, and emotionally) to become secure and confident in myself.
  • Don't forget to focus on the positive attributes of who you are. Self-reflection isn't a time to beat up on yourself -- it is a time to embrace yourself, love yourself, and challenge yourself to become a better you.
Healthy Coping & Expression
  • Discover what things "trigger" you -- is it traffic? A certain person? Take some time to stop and understand why those things or people are triggers for you. Then, come up with a plan. Maybe you decide to leave a little earlier for work to avoid major traffic, or you force yourself to be kind to the person you have issues with. Eventually, your newly developed coping mechanism will become a habit and the trigger will fade away. Please note that avoidance is not a coping technique -- you can only avoid things and people for so long. If you put all your stock in avoiding someone, or a particular topic, what happens when you are confronted with that person or topic? You become overly anxious and likely to over-react , because you never dealt with the situation or issue head-on.
  • Understand that it is completely acceptable to show emotion. Whether it be laughing, crying, anger, frustration, joy, or indifference, emotional expression is a part of who we are. However, when we don't deal or inappropriately deal with the challenges and curveballs life hands us, we set ourselves up to adopt unhealthy means of expression. Every obstacle isn't an opportunity to fly off at the handle. Every confrontation isn't an excuse to cower in passive-aggressiveness. When confronted with difficulty, pause before reacting -- if only for a millisecond. If you've got more time, try to digest and analyze what's happening. After a few deep breaths, engage your challenge head-on. If you have to cry, cry. If you're angry, that's ok too. Anger is acceptable. Irrationality is not.
  • Find a coping mechanisms for triggers that you can't control -- a conflict with a loved one, a car accident, financial woes, etc. A pint of ice cream or a few shots isn't the answer to life's problems. Head to the gym. Take a walk. Draw. Journal about your feelings. Listen to music. Read a book. Anything that you enjoy that's not destructive, do it!
I hope this helps, folks. It's a learning process for me too -- and this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have Emotional & Mental Wellness tips, please share!!!

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