Finding a way to emotional wellness is a journey that changes over time. Here are some steps to consider practicing regularly as you move toward finding emotional wellness and health.
1) Set and maintain boundaries.
Boundaries: “You get what you tolerate.” – Henry Cloud
“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.” ― Brené Brown
A primary reason people seek out therapy is because they’ve been unable to set boundaries in their lives. As a result, deep-seated resentment has set in, as well as lack of forgiveness, and self-contempt. Unfortunately, boundaries are often not taught (or practiced) in churches, schools, or homes. And if we aren’t taught them, we don’t know they are an option. We don’t know they are essential. Internal boundaries are boundaries we set with ourselves, either in our thought life, how we treat our bodies, or what we do with our time. External boundaries are how we allow people to treat us, what we spend our time doing, and who we spend our time with. Boundaries allow us to know where our thoughts, feelings, and dreams end, and where others’ thoughts, feelings, and dreams begin. Boundaries are the backbone to healthy relationships. They are a way to create safety and predictability in relationships. Setting internal and external boundaries take practice, but over time setting them becomes easier and more natural.
Where to begin: Become familiar with the warning signs your body gives you when you are in a situation where your boundaries are not being respected. This could be heart palpitations, stomach issues, muscle tightness, or a racing mind. Often your body knows before your mind that someone is not respecting your boundaries. Learn to trust this part of you and what (or whom) it’s trying to keep you safe from.
2) Find a therapist.
How could I resist! There’s no price you can put on your mental or emotional health, although many remain hesitant about reaching out for help and support. Finding an objective professional to come along-side you can offer new perspectives that friends and family may not be able to. They can help you get “unstuck,” and can provide a safe place for working through issues. A therapist can gently challenge, offer impartial insight, and provide coping skills you may not have.
Where to begin: I would be happy to offer a 15 minute phone consultation to see if we would be a good fit. Otherwise www.psychologytoday.com is a great resource to read therapist bios as well as what specialties they provide.
In the Grief Recovery Handbook, authors James and Friedman state, “We must take responsibility for our current reaction to what happened in the past. Otherwise, we will forever feel like a victim. “ Forgiveness is for you. To free you up so you can move on. Research shows the consequences of not forgiving can range from re-creating the same patterns to chronic unhappiness and to physical or mental illness.
Where to begin: Who comes to mind as you consider the word forgiveness? Is it a spouse, parent, friend, or old acquaintance? Consider the strategy of the “3 Step I Feel Unsent Letter”. Letter 1: Write a letter from you to the person you’re seeking to forgive explaining all the things you feel about the situation. Start each sentence with “I feel…” Letter 2: Write an apology letter back to yourself as if this person were writing to you, including everything you would need an apology for before you would consider forgiving them. Letter 3 (if and when you’re ready): A letter back to them, from you, stating you forgive them. Include all the specifics from the Step 1 as you craft your letter. Format for this part is “I forgive you for…”
Write. Draw. Knit. Move your body. Creating can help us experience life more fully, fluidly, and deeply. Making something in the concrete world can lead to awareness and answers we’re looking for. Getting lost in creating something can create a sense of well-being, can decrease anxiety and depression, and can bond you to other humans when creating together. Creating can help us make sense of and bring meaning to confusion, brokenness, and heartache. Or it can be a continuation of joy or happiness that we are experiencing.
Where to begin: Consider what you liked to do as as a child. Ask a parent or other care giver what you were drawn to and spent time doing when you were younger. This can often be something we stopped doing as we grew older but that we could rekindle a natural affection for.
5) Value awareness.
We feel the most at peace when we make decisions that align with our values. It is when we live with someone’s values that we feel the most uncomfortable, indecisive, and out of touch with who we are and where we want to go.
Where to begin: Make your Values List. Google the word “values” to see what words come up and use these as prompts. After you’ve created the list, explore different areas of your life such as relationships, jobs, finances, diet, etc and see how congruently you feel you’re living. Make small or large changes based off your values to feel more at peace in these different sectors of your life.