October is Emotional Wellness Month and, because of this, I thought it would be a great time to dive deeper into one of my favorite topics: self-care. Maintaining our emotional wellness is just as important as maintaining our physical wellness. Our emotions can affect how we navigate our days and, ultimately, how we live. Think about it, it’s no mistake that your work day may seem more difficult while experiencing an emotionally taxing event. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), how you feel can affect your ability to carry out everyday activities, your relationships, and your overall mental health.
Inspired by this month’s theme, I wanted to share a few self-care practices that focus specifically on supporting and improving emotional wellness. These practices are what I turn to when I am looking to work with and work through emotions.
Self-Care Practices for Emotional Wellness
There are times when our thoughts are wrapped up in our emotions and they become so thick and cloudy that it may seem difficult to navigate or find the mental space to process. Times like this, I turn to writing. Writing gives your emotions a place to go, a place to land outside of your body. The process of purge-writing is simple: you are giving life to your emotions word by word and freeing your mind and body of their weight.
Purge Writing in Steps
Find a place to put your words. This can be a journal, the notes app on your phone, or on a piece of scrap paper— anywhere is okay.
Write whatever’s on your mind and do not censor yourself. Let it all out. Express yourself however you need to.
Write as little or as much as you need to. There’s no set amount of pages or words—the goal is to release.
Center yourself. After you’ve let it all out, find your center, your peace. You can do this by placing your hand on your heart and moving your attention to your heartbeat or the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe.
Create closure. Now that your feelings are out—leave them where you put them. When journaling, I create closure by folding the pages in. When writing on a stray sheet of paper, I receive closure by shredding or crumbling the paper.
When emotions are high (or low), breathing exercises are always a good idea. Medical research suggests that regular deep-breathing exercises can reduce anxiety & depression, encourage muscle relaxation, stabilize blood pressure and decrease stress. Currently, my go-to breathing exercise is square breathing. It helps me to be mindful, still and centered while replenishing my body.
Square Breathing in Steps
Find a comfortable position, either seated or lying on your back.
Inhale while counting 1…2…3…4
Hold your breath & count 1…2…3…4
Exhale while counting 1…2…3…4
Hold your breath & count 1…2…3…4
Need more guidance? Here’s a tutorial.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
My emotions always feel off when I haven’t had enough sleep. If I haven’t had at least 7 hours the night before, my day (and emotions) feel all over the place. “Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood.” (Sleep and Mood, Harvard Health). While it can be hard to get “normal sleep”, especially if you are prone to sleeplessness or insomnia, you can improve your sleep by amping up your sleep hygiene.
Tips for Better Rest
Set your bedtime. Setting a bedtime (and sticking to it) will help your body form the habit of seeking rest at a specific time.
Brain dump. Thoughts and emotions can keep us up at night. Practice a little purge writing before bed so that you can rest with a clear mind.
Create a bedtime ritual. Getting yourself ready for bed helps your body slowly relax. My bedtime ritual? A warm shower or bath followed by a cup of hot tea.