Emotions are a tough beast. On one hand we should feel them without judgment; on the other hand, we need to manage them in appropriate ways so they don’t completely rule (and ruin) our lives. But what do emotions have to do with health? Conversely, what does health have to do with our emotions? The answer, in both cases, is that mind and body health has everything to do with one another.
Emotion and Health
It’s a catch-22. Without a healthy emotional balance we are more prone to the effects of stress, we are more likely to react in unfavorably to outside forces and we make unhealthy choices regarding sleep, food and exercise. But if our physical health declines, our emotional health can also suffer. They are intertwined, and interdependent, and thus require conscious, concurrent care. Here are four simple and sustainable tips for managing your emotional health and your healthy emotions every day.
H.A.L.T. – for Mind and Body Health
A favorite acronym of 12-step programs, H.A.L.T. stands for hungry, angry, lonely and tired. If you find yourself feeling particularly emotional (i.e., unusually grumpy, weepy, etc.), ask yourself if any or all of these four states of being are influencing you. Then stop (or “halt”) and do something to influence positive change for yourself: eat, take a deep breath, ask for a hug or take a rest, for example.
If we are hungry, angry, lonely or tired it’s only natural to be operating from a deficit and to act in ways we wouldn’t normally act if we are fed, happy, loved and well-rested. So take some responsibility for keeping those key areas of your life in check, and you’ll always be operating from a more positive place.
Get to Know Your Expectations & Beliefs
Whether we are aware of them or not, we’re all making choices and experiencing the world through our own lenses. These lenses are calibrated by the expectations we have, and the belief systems to which we subscribe. Many of us are aware of our core beliefs, such as whether or not we believe in God. But many of us walk around at least somewhat unaware of the other, more sub-conscious beliefs that fuel our thoughts, decisions and actions.
For instance, a client recently shared with me that she believes it’s her husband’s job to take out the garbage and, when he doesn’t, she feels resentment. This was a revelation to her; she didn’t realize that she had a belief which, in turn, created an expectation that gave her permission to be angry at her husband. Armed with this new insight about herself she was able to have a calm and reasonable conversation with her husband, from which they formed an agreement about garbage removal responsibilities. These seemingly small or inconsequential beliefs and expectations will create strains in our lives unless we take the time to identify and deal with them.
Know Your Environment
Very often we put ourselves in situations where we’re not 100% comfortable. Perhaps some of the people we spend time with aren’t completely trustworthy. Or we know that the restaurant where our group of friends is meeting for dinner doesn’t serve food we can eat. And yet we move forward because we don’t want to rock the boat, only to compromise our own self-care.
The best thing we can do is to know our environment and take care of ourselves using that data. If a co-worker routinely misses deadlines, make other plans to keep your project on-schedule and to reduce the stress associated with someone who has a different sense of urgency than you. When friends invite you for dinner at a restaurant where you can’t eat, call ahead to find out if the chef can make you a special meal, or eat before joining the party. It’s our jobs to know and assess our environment and our needs, and adapt in such a way as to take care of ourselves.
Respond, Don’t React
Lastly, try not to react to forces outside of yourself. Reacting is usually the result of making an assumption and acting on it in a somewhat impulsive way. For example, if someone acts in a way that you find disrespectful, don’t assume that their behavior is intentional and directed at you. Instead, try to put yourself in their shoes, take a deep breath and consciously choose how to respond. You choice may be to not respond at all. Either way, if you give yourself a moment to pause and choose, you give yourself the room to respond instead of react.
Catherine Mason is a writer, former educator, and someone who has multiple food allergies. As Tribe Leader & Chief Wellness Coach at www.mydietribe.com, she helps people identify, assimilate and maintain sustainable health and wellness practices in their everyday lives, with a focus on physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and financial wellness. Catherine may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@mydietribe).
What are some of things you’ve done to improve your emotional and physical health?