Emotional Self-Care

Looking after our emotional wellbeing is our responsibility but is easier said than done.  The more we can validate and accept our own emotions, the less we rely on other people to determine for us if we are acceptable or not.  It can help with self-trust and our ability to stay calm and in control of ourselves in difficult situations.  If we validate and accept our emotions we can listen to what they are trying to tell us about what we need.

A helpful process for checking in with ourselves is to ask:

  • “What is it I’m feeling? What can I feel in my body?”
  • “What emotion is linked to that feeling?” e.g. “When I get a knot in my stomach, that’s when I feel anxious”.  Try to name the emotion.  If you need to, look up the names of emotions and work out which one fits the feeling the best.
  • “Why am I feeling this?”.  It might not be obvious.  Spend some time thinking about different areas of your life e.g. partner, work, home life, children, colleagues, friends, family.  Notice where the feeling is the strongest. This is a process of narrowing it down.  Once you have identified which area of your life the feeling relates to, narrow it down further by thinking about what has happened recently.
  • “Have I felt something similar in the past?”.  e.g. you might feel a little annoyed that your partner has pointed out (again) something you have forgotten.  This might remind you of growing up with a critical parent.  The annoyance might then be out of proportion to the current situation as you remember what it was like to be a child who couldn’t seem to get anything right.
  • ”What do I need?”.  If you feel sad or unloved this might be a hug.  If you feel unsure this might be some reassurance.  If you feel angry this might be to put a boundary in place.  If you feel guilty this might be to not behave that way again.  If you feel rejected this might be to seek closeness again.
  • “How do I behave when I feel this?” “Is this helpful?” “Does it get me what I need?”.  A reaction is from a place of frustration, helplessness or anger.  Or, it can be an unexamined learned behaviour (perhaps from parents, or maybe something we did as a child to try and escape the feelings).  A response takes a little longer but factors in validating and accepting the emotions, whether or not the behaviour leads to our need being met, how the behaviour will affect others and how it will affect our view of ourself.

Using this process allows us to take responsibility for our own needs in a way that is honest and clear to those around us.  This means that they don’t have to guess (and take responsibility for our emotional well being).  Talking about how we are feeling (or writing it down) means we have to find words to describe what is going on inside of us.  This makes our experience feel more real and, therefore, something we are more likely to do something about.  Others may well validate our feelings – “I can understand why you would feel that way”.  This understanding helps them to factor in our needs as well as their own.