The Truth About Emotional Health: Part 3 Spiritual Connections Can Improve it

So far I have addressed the reality that we are not emotionally healthy all the time, it’s simply not possible to be perfectly consistent. I encouraged you to seek out healthy relationships to help heal your attachment deficits. Now, we’ll delve into the value of spiritual connection to our emotional health. One caveat here is that not all spiritual practices are the same, even within the same branch of spirituality. I am referring to practices that promote the well being of individuals in body, spirit, and mind not to practices that promote hate or preservation of the self without regard for how one’s behavior negatively affects others who have different beliefs. 

A spiritual practice can help a practitioner tolerate uncomfortable feelings by connecting to the benefits of conflict and struggle as being important to our development as a person of faith. When we connect to the larger purpose of challenges, we shift our view from, “This is awful!” to “What can I learn about myself from this?” or “How can I use this experience to draw me closer to the source of my spiritual practice?” “This is awful!” can be a necessary step in the process, as honoring our actual experience is critical to our emotional health, but staying in that space will not lead to growth.

We connect to the global community instead of isolating ourselves. Healthy spiritual practices promote the good of all, regardless of other’s beliefs. There is a consideration for how our actions will either help or hurt others. This tie to the collective good can ease our sense of isolation in day to day life. When we are connected to others, we can develop or grow our emotional health.

Many spiritual practices encourage prayer or meditation. These can help calm the mind and relax the body which promotes healing and releases stress and tension. Relaxed muscles promote healthy blood flow throughout the body. Blood carries nutrients as well as aides in the process of removing toxins. Think of a river dammed up by debris. It reduces the flow of water downstream and causes flooding upstream. Our bodies don’t do as well when flow is decreased and many spiritual practices have the capacity to relax a person. When we are physically healthier we can be emotionally healthier and connect with others from a grounded, relaxed place versus a stagnant and tense place.

So what are you doing with your spiritual practice? Do you have one? I’ve listed just a few benefits. There are many more. Consider how you can use a spiritual practice to increase your enjoyment while you are on this planet, including increasing your emotional health.

Categories: Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships, self care, Self-Help, The Truth About Emotional Health | 2 Comments

The Truth About Emotional Health: Part 2 Connection

The second truth about emotional health is it is achieved with others, not in isolation. We can’t simply will ourselves into emotional health by reading a book, listening to a podcast, meditating on a verse or meme. We are social beings. Our emotional health is directly tied to how well we are connected with others. This connection is directly tied to attachment.

Attachment is essential to human growth and development. From the moment we are born, we need to be held, comforted, talked to, and provided for. Remove these elements and there are going to be problems. Just look at the work of Bowlby and Harlow (warning, the Harlow study on baby monkeys is tough to read but it did shine a valuable light on the need for attachment in healthy development). We must first experience our caregiver attaching to us, connecting with us, in a loving, caring, nonjudgmental, and nurturing way to learn how to healthily attach to others.

Unfortunately, flawed people raised us. They were raised by flawed people, who were raised by flawed people, and so on. Mistakes were made. Caregivers were sick, too tired, or perhaps too messed up themselves to attach to us in the most healthy and consistent way. Some caregivers are better than others so the wounding that gets passed on in the attachment realm varies from person to person. 

If you received healthy-enough attachment bonding, you likely have healthy relationships with those around you. You have people in your life you can share your messiest parts with and they can sit with you in your mess without criticizing you, fixing you, or trying to solve your problem for you. You can be in their mess with them. You enjoy being with each other. You can share all your emotions and hold all of theirs. When you are troubled, you lean into others instead of withdrawing. When no one is available, you remember the times they have been there, and you don’t feel alone; you can sort of take them with you wherever you go.

Perhaps you read that paragraph and thought you don’t have those people in your life. You don’t open up with others and you feel sad about that. Or, you realize you don’t have people in your life and you feel good because you don’t want to get close to anyone. Perhaps you thought, you’re always there for others but never let them see the real you. These are indicators of a problem with attachment. Lack of healthy attachment equals emotional unhealth. 

What can you do about it? Start with therapy. It will be helpful to uncover the underlying attachment deficits you experienced in your childhood. You can gain understanding and some healing experiences with an attachment theory based counselor. It will also help to get involved in a community of safe people so you can start practicing being real and vulnerable with others. It can be tricky to find safe people. Look for those who are working on their own emotional health and making progress. I am partial to the Cloud and Townsend communities. You could start there if you don’t know where to begin.

A good resource for finding a therapist is PsychologyToday.com. I get nothing from them for saying that. It’s where I go to find my own counselors. They have parameters on the site so you can narrow down by preferences like location, insurance they take, cost, and models of therapy they use (like attachment theory, emotionally focused therapy, and EMDR – my personal favorites). You may have to try out a few therapists before you find one you like so give the process some time. You’re worth both the time and money it takes to develop emotional health!

Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships, The Truth About Emotional Health | Tags: | Leave a comment

The Truth About Emotional Health: Part 1

Want to know the truth about emotional health? I think we all want to know what we can do to have it and keep it. No one really enjoys being in an emotional spiral or even an emotional swirl. We like it best when we are stable, when life around us is stable, and we have a sense of all is well. Unfortunately, that is not reality. And that is the first truth.

Accepting the hard moments or hard days is necessary for experiencing emotional health. Emotional health is not synonymous with emotional neutrality. Living in a narrow range of emotion with no high or low is denying reality. Life is full of pain, hardship, uncertainty, disappointment as well as exuberance, explosive joy, and celebration. Actually feeling the rhythms of life is not being bipolar. If you find yourself so low you cannot get out of bed for several days in a row and at others so high you don’t sleep at night for several days in a row while rearranging your home for instance, it’s possible you are bipolar and you may need an evaluation. The normal highs and lows of life however are not a cause for alarm. But many of us don’t like those highs and lows. What’s your alternative? To live in a restricted response to life around you and that is not emotional health. You are stunting your true experience. 

To enlist the first truth of emotional health, start noticing what you are feeling. Allow the feeling to be there for as long as you are comfortable with it. Name it. Are you feeling sad, discouraged, disgusted, pissed off, concerned, unsure, afraid, content, excited…? Notice the full expression of the emotion in your body not just the cognition of it. If you are feeling pissed off, what does it feel like in your body? Be aware of its physical sensation. Simply let it be there. You don’t need to do anything with it, just notice and let it pass, like a wave.

For some, allowing emotion to be fully experienced is unsettling and may even trigger such an extreme connection that you feel out of control, like the emotion is going to take you over. If that’s the case, don’t feel it. Shut it down. Anchor yourself to the given moment: My feet are touching the ground, I can see the clock on the wall, I hear it ticking, I am right here in this room. Then, find a good counselor to help you with processing your emotion.

Sometimes, especially with sadness tied to grief and loss, it feels so strong that we cannot sleep well or we sleep too much, our appetite changes, our interest in things we once enjoyed disappears, we have lethargy, maybe even an increase in anger. These are all signs of depression. Depression can be situational: I lost my job, I’m going through a breakup or divorce, my child died, I have cancer. It can also be a physiological issue in your brain. For both, see a counselor and a medical provider. You may benefit from working through the situation with a counselor and taking medication, either to help you through a really challenging time or to help balance your body’s chemical production. 

To sum up this truth: feeling deep feelings is normal, being neutral all the time is not emotional health. Sometimes we do feel too deeply and we can serve ourselves well to get that checked out by a counselor and a medical provider. If looking for a counselor, check out your insurance for covered providers or PsychologyToday.com. You can put in parameters for location, insurance they take, therapy techniques they use, and more. 

If you can’t wait for the rest of this series, check out my book: The Journey Forward Workbook: Daily Steps to Achieve Emotional Balance and Healthier Relationships or my course The Journey Forward Workbook Series

Categories: Acceptance, awareness, Emotional Healing, emotions, Growth, Journey Forward Workbook, Recovery, Self-Help, The Truth About Emotional Health | Leave a comment

What Do You Need?

I wonder what you need today to feel balanced? Some days it might be a hug, a deep breath, a walk, a real conversation, the reminder that you are enough. Not one of those is about material items or even things you buy. They are about caring for yourself in deep and meaningful ways. Are you getting those ingredients in on a regular basis? Do what you can in this moment to care for yourself.

Categories: Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, self care | Leave a comment

It’s Time To Change

It’s been a while. I’m not sure why. Mostly, I just never felt like writing. I would think about you, desire to reach out, but not have anything novel to say. But, life is always changing and even a similar topic has unique nuances based on the situation in the present. We are in a new phase of our life with COVID. For the first time in 14 months, I walked into the grocery store without my mask on. I had been out of town and out of the loop for a bit and didn’t realize the regulations in my town had changed to no longer requiring masks. I have been fully vaccinated and the sign said I didn’t have to wear a mask; I was free to go without one. I did not feel good about that. It was a challenge to tell myself it was ok. I felt anxiety about it. Would I be safe? The store was nearly empty at 7 am on Memorial Day so it really wasn’t a big deal. It’s interesting how we get used to things being a certain way and when that way is changed, we don’t like it, we feel uncomfortable.

I remember tears rising when most of the produce in the grocery store was gone in March 2020. I remember the anxiety that built over our rapidly changing accessibility to freedom, groceries, and toilet paper! We had to adapt to our new way of functioning and many of us did. Now, it’s time to shift to a new place. We are adaptable; it’s called neuroplasticity. It means that our brains are capable of changing long-held beliefs and patterns. We like to say, “This is just how I am” when confronted with the idea of change. Reality is you are saying, “This is how I want to stay. I don’t want to change.”

I wonder what you are confronting today that may require some willingness to change? Is it a relationship, a job, or perhaps a circumstance? Consider the neuroplasticity of your brain. Perhaps it’s time to allow it to happen. It’s not an easy process but it can be done. If you need a resource for this check out my workbook, the Journey Forward Workbook: Daily Steps to Achieve Emotional Balance and Healthier Relationships

Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Neuroplasticity | 5 Comments

Savor The Season

This holiday season is different in so many ways. We are being asked to limit our interactions with one another to avoid putting more pressure on our already taxed health care workers. So what do the holidays look like in this case? For me, it means decorating the house as usual and having more time at home to enjoy it. Taking time to savor the lights, the colors, the smells and the meaning of this season. It’s pondering the love of God and the gift He gave us through His son. It’s remembering that we are called to love one another. God’s gift through Jesus is a reminder to keep our judgments of others in check, to look at our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions, and put them through the filter of: is it loving? I’m not perfect at this, but I do try to live it out.

Perhaps you do not share the same beliefs as I do. What does this time of year mean to you? I’m assuming it’s something positive, in which case, ponder it. Reflect it to those around you, even if ‘those’ are limited to just a few people. Put up your decorations as usual or maybe for the first time. Sometimes even just a simple strand of white lights can brighten up our long nights. Maybe bake gingerbread cookies and notice how the fragrance lifts your spirits. Take in a slow deep breath and soak in the sights and scents around you. Exhale and notice your body relaxing, even just a little bit.

Maybe you have nothing. You can’t bake cookies, you can’t or don’t want to put up decorations. Look outside at the night sky, soak in the beauty of the stars or moon. Notice the changes of the seasons (if you have seasons!) or just notice what you see around you. Listen to the sounds. Simply notice…breathe…relax.

Savor the moments. Let them restore you.

Categories: Acceptance, awareness, holidays, self care | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving in the Midst of the Pandemic

For those of you who read my blog regularly I have no explanation for why I haven’t written a post in a long while. I just didn’t feel like it. That’s all. Some days…or months! are like that. We are all doing well, including Anna.

Thanksgiving in the US is tomorrow. Normally my family has a large gathering. This year it is not happening. I know this is the case for many others. Our plans have changed in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. We are also trying to be mindful of the impact this pandemic is having on many medical facilities. Given all that, what can we do to honor the reality of the changes this year while still celebrating the holiday?

I think it’s helpful to be aware of what you are feeling and why. This is not new to anyone who reads this blog. I frequently write about the importance of awareness: knowing what you are thinking as well as what you feel physically and emotionally. Stuffing our feelings inside does not taste nearly as good as the stuffing we shove inside a turkey! It might make the moment easier but in the long run you are setting yourself up for some kind of unhealthy leakage or explosion. I know this first hand 😉

So start by honoring your true experience but not letting it dominate you. You notice what you are thinking and feeling. You find the parts of your thinking that are based on made up stories or predictions i.e., “We’ll never have another family gathering!”, “Thanksgiving is ruined forever!”, “This pandemic is never going to end!” Those predictions could come true but we don’t know for certain. All we know right now is it is safest to limit our gatherings, our usual Thanksgiving traditions will need to be altered, and we are living in the midst of a pandemic. Keep your thoughts reigned in to what is true. The truth is painful enough for us. We certainly don’t do ourselves any good by adding the emotionally crushing predictions.

Next, consider what you are grateful for. When the pilgrims celebrated their first harvest celebration, they had already endured tremendous hardship, illness, and loss. Sometimes the less we have, the more grateful we can become. The little things begin to take on more meaning. Many of us have a roof over our head, food to eat, and technology that allows face to face communication. We can step back and be grateful for those. We can look around us, at nature, the sky, sun, moon and starts and marvel at their beauty. Take a moment, breathe as deeply and slowly as you can, and soak in the beauty…the gratefulness. Let this moment bathe you and nourish your soul. Carry it with you and share it with others.

Categories: Acceptance, awareness, COVID-19, emotions, Growth, holidays, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery | Tags: | 4 Comments

You Always Have A Choice

Some might disagree with my title. That’s OK. I believe no matter what is happening to or around us, we can choose how we will respond. As we enter into a Presidential election here in the States, it’s easy to allow other’s words or actions dictate our words and actions. You have more power than that.

I like to start with breathing. Slow your breathing down. Let your exhale be longer than your inhale for a few breath cycles. Begin to notice what you are feeling emotionally and physically. Notice your thoughts. Allow the situation to just “be” without having to judge the situation or act on it. Just pause, breathe, and notice.

After a few minutes, consider if there is any action you still want to take. Standing up for something you believe in is healthy but not if it is meant to be intentionally hurtful to another. That’s retaliation. I generally don’t think retaliation comes from a centered, grounded place inside. I think of it as a reactionary way to hurt another because you believe they hurt you. If it’s retaliatory, go back through the breathing, non-judgmental, non-reactive, just be with it place. Give it some time. Perhaps you will change your mind and find a healthier step you choose to take.

Categories: Acceptance, awareness, emotions, Growth, integration, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Relationships | 1 Comment

Empathy vs Sympathy

This video, by Brene Brown is a quick and creative guide to how you can best show up for a friend in need. Click here and check it out!

Categories: Self-Help | 2 Comments

Breathe

Pause for just a moment to take a breath. Make it as deep and slow as you can without feeling pressure to go beyond what you are capable of. Notice what it feels like to breathe, the sensation of breath coming in. Notice your body expanding as you inhale. Now exhale everything out and notice what that feels like for you physically.

Take another deep slow breath, noticing what that’s like. As you exhale allow your shoulders to relax. Notice other areas of your body that are tense and imagine letting the tension go with your exhale.

Take one more breath in and out repeating the steps above. Take this moment with you as you go about your day. Repeat as necessary 🙂

Categories: awareness, Growth, Healing, Recovery, self care | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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