Why Learning Emotional Self Care Is As Vital As Any Other Life Skill
When we are little, the adults around us usually do their best to teach us all the skills that we need to survive in the world. This includes reading, writing, social skills, and the basics such as feeding and dressing. However, it could be argued that for many, one major skill is often left out of most children's education, the lack of which can make both their present experience and their future as an adult much more difficult to cope with. This is skill is emotional self-care, although even if we haven't been shown this skill in our youth, we can learn to practice later on. Read on to find out more about this.
What is emotional self-care?
Emotional self-care is all about learning how to regulate our emotional life without repressing it. Something that historically, we humans have had some trouble with, and continue to do so today.
It's about striking a balance between being completely dominated by our emotional inner life and being closed down and robotic. It's about being able to hold and heal difficult emotions while having compassion for ourselves in a way that allows us to be authentic and genuine, and listening to the messages that our emotions are bringing us.
It’s also a skill that many of us lack, and even those of us actively trying to develop it have to admit that we are at best 'a work in progress' where this area is concerned. However, it is still something worth practicing for the following reasons.
What are the benefits?
Being able to care for our emotions in an adaptive way is so important because it can help us untangle many of the webs that cause us problems in our lives. For example, many addiction specialists suggest that substance abuse in all its forms come from the need to sooth the mind when it is faced with difficult emotions.
The problem being of course that more often than not, the initial relief felt by using the substance wears off, as the person's tolerance grows higher, meaning they have to come more and more to get the same relief and causing a cycle of addiction. Experts suggest that if patients had a more adaptive way of coping with their difficult emotional experience they could avoid, or fight their addictions in a much more effective way.
Another advantage of emotional self-care is the ability to pursue what you most value in life and therefore live a more fulfilled existence. This is because a person that can practice emotional self-care is able to break free of the domination that the strong emotional experience exerts on them, and move forwards towards goals that are important and relevant to their lives, no matter how difficult it seems. It is this seemingly ceaseless tenancy coupled with self-compassion that can help the individual achieve a life well lived.
A very obvious advantage of being able to practice emotional self-care is that is can make your life a lot easier and reduce your own personal suffering. This may sound a little counter-intuitive, especially if you are learning to open to the emotions you have spent your whole life running from, but it does work. This is because through this process you learn that strong feelings don't have to be feared, something that then reduces the power that they have over you and allows you to recognize them in your inner experience without going into a panic and doing your best to avoid or ignore them. Actions that often cause more suffering than the original emotion in the first place.
Lastly, emotional self-care is beneficial because it allows people the freedom to make wise choices in the moment. Ones that are not based on the pursuit of positive experiences or the avoidance of the negative. This is a capability that can lead to all sorts of benefits such as long-term gains in physical and psychological health, as well as positive relationships with friends and family members. It also helps us as human being frame our experience as transitory, something that makes it much easier to bear difficult emotional states, as we know at some point like everything else they will pass.
Methods for emotional self-care
After learning about all of the benefits of emotional self-care, you may be wondering how you can carry out this wonder action? Well, there are many ways, some of which you can read about below. You may need to find a method that works for you by trying different ones out. In fact, different methods may work for different emotions or at different times. Above all remember that the skill of emotional self-care is a learnt one so you will need to practice a lot and stick with it before you start to see any progress in this area.
Distraction and kind actions
One method of emotional self-care that is popular in therapies such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is the distraction method. This is a way of coping with intense negative feelings while by compassionately distracting yourself with another action. Something that allows your emotions to calm down, and make them easier to deal with.
This distraction though is not the same as avoidance or repression because you are acknowledging that the difficult emotional is there, and you are not pushing them away. You are just choosing not to engage with them at that time. Do this by giving your mind something else to focus on, allowing it an alternative place to rest so to speak that helps lower the volume of your emotional experience at that time.
This method is particularly useful for very strong negative emotions as it can help you put some distance between the experience and the actions that you pick because of it.
Many people create an emergency self-care pack to help them with this. It will contain soothing and distracting things such as a weighted blanket, a scented candle, a favorite book, or quote. Others find that watching their favorite TV shows or films can help lower the volume of the emotions they are feeling. Especially if you pick something happy like Disney movie. You can even use coupons like these Disney Movie Club deals to get 5 for a single dollar. Something that means you don't have to spend a fortune on an effective self-care kit that can really help you out in difficult emotional times.
Another self-care practice that can be very useful in helping to regulate emotions is the Vipassana practice of Metta. This is a meditation where you direct peace and love to yourself. You also get to direct it at others as well, including people that perhaps are causing you problems at the moment.
The idea of this is that you learn to be compassionate and patient with yourself and others. A stance that is much more constructive than self-punishment and being angry at the world, and will allow you to live more peacefully in life.
For others, their spiritual beliefs are a vital part of any self-care routine. That may mean praying, confessing, and asking for strength from a higher power.
In fact, many spiritual people from all denominations report that their emotional wellbeing is improved through practicing their faith, Something that makes it a vital method of self-care for them as it provides meaning and value to their lives.
Learning about yourself and any conditions you have
Learning about yourself and any physical, mental health issue that you have is a more secular form of self-care that anyone can practice. By educating yourself on the challenges, you face you can find better ways of coping, something that can make your life easier and more pleasant.
Also, reading about health issues often also encourages a self-compassion and a relaxation of the rules we impose on ourselves to be a certain way. This is a vital aspect to self-care because we are no longer trying to prove our worth from our successes and failures but can allow ourselves to be truly human while making and forgiving our own mistakes along the way.
Seeking help when you need it
Last, of all don't forget that another form of self-care that we can all practice when we need it is to know when to ask for help. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, in fact as humans we are designed to be social beings, and others often have strengths that we lack in ourselves. That means asking for help is actually a very adaptive way of coping with a crisis.
Of course, you need to ask help of the right people, and that may be a physical or mental health professional. Also, it's important that you draw the line between asking for help with a particular issue and relying solely on another person for your emotional wellbeing. The latter being something that counters the idea of emotional self-care and can, at its worst is a destructive force leading to codependency rather than lasting emotional wellbeing.