Your emotional and psychological needs are probably one of the most important needs you have but are likely ones you may neglect. When you think of self-care, you might think of what I discussed last week in my article, “How Self-Care is Key to Becoming Attuned to Your Body,” as far as getting enough sleep, moving your body, or eating enough. But emotional self-care plays a key role in even the motivation to do the physical self-care.
Are Your Emotions a Guide or a Barrier?
When you learn to become attuned to your body, your emotional relationship with yourself can either serve as a guide or barrier. A good question to ask yourself is, “How would I describe the relationship I have with myself?” If this feels difficult to pinpoint, you can ask yourself if it feels good, bad, or neutral? That is a base to work off of.
When your emotional attunement can be a guide, you are in sync with how you feel and even where you might experience certain emotions in your body. You recognize when you are feeling strong emotions and ways you need to tend to yourself. This is the work. It takes emotional healing to look at your feelings as a guide versus something wrong with you or too much.
When you resist your emotional needs, you often feel like your emotions are too much or that you “shouldn’t” feel or think the way that you do. You have a hard time managing stress and the emotions that arise in stressful situations. This is where you might turn to feed to soothe yourself. It can be an escape where you don’t have to think about anything else and just get lost in the food you are eating.
If you go back and look at the questions from last week, when we talked about physical self-care, the attunement barriers showed you the areas that you were more disconnected in with the relationship with yourself. If you engage in a lot of the attunement disruptors physically, you are likely struggling to deal with your emotional and psychological needs. They go hand and hand. The work is looking at what emotions you have a low window of tolerance for and what you actually need emotionally versus the numb and escape through behaviors.
Positive Emotional and Psychological Behaviors
Let’s start by looking at what you are doing for yourself that positively supports your emotional and psychological well-being.
- I make time for self-reflection.
- I am aware of my thoughts without judgment.
- I am aware of my feelings without judgment.
- I write in a journal.
- I identify comforting activities and places and seek them out.
- I make time to play.
- I find things that make me laugh.
- I make time to relax.
- I have hobbies outside of work or school.
- I have compassion for myself and others.
- I seek therapy when needed.
Curiosity versus Judgement
Can you answer these statements and just stay curious? I know for me that being aware of my thoughts and feelings without judgment has felt challenging. That can seem like a hard ask of yourself. But that is the challenge in healing. Staying curious. Instead of judgment, can you meet yourself more from a place of curiosity? Instead of responding to a thought or feeling with “I can’t believe I feel that way or even thought that!” Could you lean into, “That’s interesting? I wonder why I feel that way or what is this situation triggering in me to feel or think that?” It’s the extension of compassion. Just remember, even if you checked these or if some aren’t “always,” we are in a constant state of growth. It takes a lot of healing and reframing to change a thought pattern. The key is being aware of your feelings and your thoughts. Most importantly, if you struggle with some of these, it’s about making room to see where you can insert some of these positive behaviors in your day or week.
Emotional Self-care Disruptors
The emotional self-care disruptors show us where we can get stuck-whether it’s stuck in your head or in a place where you just can’t seem to move out emotionally. Find out what may be working against your emotional self-care by reading the statements below.
- I feel guilty if I am not productive or doing something important.
- I do not know how to relax.
- I engage in harsh or critical self-talk.
- I don’t allow myself to feel my feelings or to cry.
- I have a difficult time managing stress.
- I self-silence my thoughts and feelings.
- My life is out of control.
Which of these resonate with you? Did you find yourself shouting “yes” in your head? You can see how there can be a solution to increasing some of the positive behaviors in helping with these attunement disruptors. To continue my previous example, if I struggled with critical self-talk, I could look at journaling to be more attentive to my thoughts and try to meet them with more compassion.
Pen to Paper
For me, journaling is one way I use when I feel stuck in my head and can feel more criticism about a part of me or a thought pattern I’m stuck in. I ask myself three questions to try to sort out what I am feeling. What do I need to hear right now? What part of me have I forgotten in this moment or situation? How can I use this experience to help me choose a higher response to love? Going through these questions and writing out what comes up for me has become a way I return to a place of compassion. It is often an old wound that has been triggered. Going through this process and writing to that wounded part has been very healing for me in my self-acceptance journey.
Can You Be Still?
Another one that I see quite a bit with my clients is the combination of feeling guilty if not being productive and not knowing how to relax. To relax, you have to be ok with not being productive, so you can see why they go together! Steps to take with this could be finding time several times a week to either read something fun, not related to school or work, watch a show or movie, sit outside and feel the sun on your face or meditate. Something that is doing to just do without being or feeling productive.
This is a big one because we are constantly on the go, and being over busy and multitasking a million things is almost glorified in our society. That builds up and takes a toll. But the main thing it does is create more and more separation from yourself. So the thought of sitting outside for 10 minutes with the sun shining on your face might feel like torture. But it is practice. Yes, you may have one hundred things go through your head while you are sitting there, but the practice is just to observe. You might notice how hard it really is for yourself. If this is the case, it might be helpful to set a timer. If you know you only have practice being unproductive and relax for ten minutes, you eventually have more allowance. You can feel the relaxation, which you will likely find the desire to increase your time.
Once you get into a practice of tending to your emotional needs, you find satiation that food could never fill. All those cracks you were looking to fill are smoothed over with compassion and attention you’ve been longing for. Best of all, you find what your hunger has really been craving. You.