Emotional self-care is one of the facets of self-care. Self-care generally refers to activities, practices, and habits that we perform to nurture our emotional, mental, physical, social, and spiritual being.
Nurturing these facets of our being has never been so important as now when the environment around us is filled with uncertainties and worries over the Covid-19 pandemic. Our lives have shifted from the old normal into a ‘new normal’ and still, our future remains unclear. There are still uncertainties about our jobs, our children attending school, and our ability to travel.
Whilst we grapple with these changes, we must remember that at our core things have not changed. The self-care habits that we had adopted to help us cope with stress before the pandemic are still relevant now and for the long term. Therefore, it remains critical that we continue practicing healthy habits that nurture and sustain emotional self-care.
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What is Emotional Self-Care?
Emotional self-care is one of the easiest things to overlook. This is because when we concentrate on exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep and rest, we often forget about our emotions.
Emotional self-care is concerned with nurturing our emotions. These emotions are energy that is influenced by our thoughts, environment (relationships, experiences, and upbringing), actions (or inaction), and what we feed ourselves.
Why is Emotional Self-Care Practice Important?
Emotional self-care is what encourages our heart, nurtures our growth, and helps us to dream! Emotional self-care takes account of the feelings you may have about different situations
Emotional Self-Care builds resilience
Taking care of our emotional health is very critical, especially as our levels of sadness and worry escalate during the pandemic. We must learn how to adjust our emotional state for the long-term so that we are not overcome by the environment around us. This adjustment helps build our resilience to environmental factors that are beyond our control. Learning how to manage our emotions during this time will equip us with the skills to handle any unexpected event or disaster in the future.
It teaches us to be gentle to ourselves
As women, it is quite easy for us to show gentleness to our families, friends, colleagues, and other social networks. We are more likely to be gentle to our children when they make mistakes than we are to ourselves when we mess up. We are more likely to be gentle to our boyfriends or spouses when they are going through a hard time than we are towards ourselves when we go through loss or grief. We are much harder on ourselves than we ought to and take long to forgive ourselves for the things we did in the past or for not attaining goals we have set for our future. ‘
Emotional self-care teaches us to be gentle on ourselves. There is nothing wrong with practicing gentleness on yourself because it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Please remind yourself daily that you will be gentle on yourself because you are doing the best you can.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12, NIV)
We learn to internalize our emotional intelligence
We are often taught how to apply emotional intelligence in our workplace or when interacting with clients. Through this emotional intelligence, we can read the non-verbal language of our audience and respond appropriately. However, how many of us apply those emotional intelligence skills to ourselves? Do we know how to read our emotions? And when we do read our emotions, how do we respond to them?
We must apply emotional intelligence to ourselves. This is because these skills will help us define our emotions more correctly, be aware of our language, and know how to respond to our emotional needs. This response could include speaking to ourselves. Speaking to yourself helps you interpret and articulate the energy that you need to either let go or transform into physical energy.
For instance, when you are feeling lonely after getting back to the dating field, speaking to yourself helps you vocalize those feelings and find out how best to let go of that energy. You may find that you would want to visit a long-lost friend as a way of curing your loneliness. Or hang out with other women in your circles for an evening of laughter and fun. In speaking to yourself, you have to let go of that feeling of loneliness and replace it with happiness.
Helps us be aware of our emotional triggers
Our emotions are triggered by various things. It could be our thoughts (positive or negative thoughts), the environment, and our actions (or inaction). Learning your triggers is important because it helps you be aware of and respond to your emotional state more proactively. This is key because our emotions are often a reaction to the triggers around us. Having identified your triggers, you become more proactive in making conscious choices that are safe for you and those around you.
For me, hanging around Debbie-downers and people who see the negative in everything is a bad trigger that causes me to become less positive towards life and less likely to show gratitude. I am more likely to feel drained and empty when I spend time with negative people. This drained feeling then affects how I talk with people and treat myself – I become moody, sullen, and don’t take care of my body. To get out of this funk, I’d have to do lots of emotional and mental self-care and healing.
I realized that reacting to a trigger is a bad idea because you consume more time and energy to rectify your emotional state to the way it was before that trigger event. So, identifying negativity in a person has become something I do straight away and if I detect that this person has a negative approach to life, I keep my distance – physically and emotionally. I would love that person from afar and not tie any emotions to him/her.
Examples of Emotional Wellness Activities?
So how do you incorporate emotional self-care into your daily routine? What emotional wellness activities
Talking to a therapist – Sometimes, talking to your spouse, friend or sibling may not provide any answers for your unresolved feelings. They may also feel inadequate to help you. That’s where a therapist or coach comes in. Getting help from a professional therapist or coach is nothing to be ashamed of. Professionals are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and tools to help us resolve our problems and provide the support we need to grow. Choose someone that you can trust to guide you on the journey of emotional wellness.
Journaling – Writing about what bothers you and how you feel in a journal is a great way of helping you let go of those emotions, and to reflect on the triggers that caused these feelings. Jot down every feeling of sadness, anger, frustration, fear, joy, anxiety, or happiness. This period of reflection is good because it also encourages you to set up strong, healthy boundaries for yourself. Writing down your boundaries and triggers is also helpful because you’ll have a reminder of what to do and what to avoid in the future.
Take a cue from King David. He penned poems where he laid bare his raw emotions about what was happening to him and around him. There are times he asked God to vindicate him (Psalm 25 and 26) and times where he marveled at God and His creation (Psalm 19)
Social Connections – Connect with your family and friends. While travel restrictions and physical distancing are important during this pandemic, you can connect virtually and send gifts to each other. Call them up on their birthdays or when they achieve a goal, such as a new job. Call up a pal who lost their job and encourage her. Or meet up with them while observing social distancing protocols.
Play your favorite music– playing or listening to music is a fun way of relaxing your mind and letting go of negative emotions. Something fun: Create a playlist that is specifically for emotional self-care – something that you will play in the background when you are resting or having a nice, warm bath, or just meditating.
Prayer – Scripture encourages us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NIV) and “to devote ourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Colossians 4:2, NIV)
Meditate on God’s Word – Meditation is one way to help you quiet your mind and be in the moment. “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” (Psalm 119:15, ESV)
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:8, ESV)
Practice gratitude – Create a habit of thanking God for you and everything around you. “Be joyful always….be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16,18; Colossians 3:15; Hebrews 13:15 NIV). A creative way to do this is to get an old jar and convert it into a gratitude jar. Then fill that jar with small notes that celebrate what you are grateful for.
Give freely – Giving without any strings attached is another great way to boost your emotional state. The act of giving makes you feel valuable and helpful to someone that is in need. It helps you shift focus from yourself to the needs and feelings of someone else. You can give in many ways – money, time, or resources at your disposal. Monetary gifts can help someone who is homeless or in need of money for rent or food. You can also help pay bills for someone in need such as a patient with an accruing hospital bill or a children’s home with a high utility bill.
Non-monetary gifts can include :
- Donating food or cooking at the nearest Food Bank around you
- Giving out a room for someone in need of a place to rest
- Transfer your professional skills by offering free training – if you make jewelry from home, you can train those who are unemployed how to make money from home through jewelry. Or if you are skilled in baking, teach someone in need how to bake and earn a living from that.
- Mentoring younger women to grow in their faith, profession, singlehood, marriage, and other spheres of life. “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2:3-4, NIV)
- Visiting aging parents and those who are housed in elderly care. Spend some time with them, play board games, and give a listening ear. Sometimes, all people want is to be heard.
- Compliment someone on their outfit, their success, or something that they are doing.
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16, NIV)
Be open to receiving – It is wonderful to give of yourself. It is also commendable to receive love and gifts from others. Just as we need people to receive what we give, we should also be open to receiving what other people give to us. Be gracious about it and be warm. Sometimes, a simple ‘Thank You’ is enough for compliments.
Rest – Ensure that you have enough sleep. “For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:10-11, NIV)
Forgive yourself – Sometimes, we set ourselves up when we place very high expectations of ourselves. We give ourselves very high targets at work, home, or in society, and we push ourselves very hard to achieve those goals. And when we fail to hit those targets, we crash.
It is okay to give yourself room to make mistakes. No one is perfect. Perfection is only in Jesus Christ. So, be kind to yourself. Mistakes happen. The important thing is to learn the lesson and try not to repeat it. And stop running after perfection, it only makes us weary.
Take Responsibility for Self – Taking responsibility for our actions is a key step in emotional self-care. Say you were in a toxic relationship and left years later, battered and heart bruised with low esteem and self-worth. Part of the healing process involves teaching ourselves to identify toxic traits in potential partners. Also more important is taking responsibility for our decisions and actions that lead us to toxic people. There may have been red flags during the dating period that you may have ignored, but later found out that those were signs of a toxic person. Or perhaps you decided to compromise your values and beliefs in the hope that romantic love will be reciprocated. However, the outcome of that decision, the lesson is to take ownership of our decisions.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8, NIV)
Self-acceptance – There is freedom in accepting yourself as you are. Loving and accepting you for you, strengths, weaknesses, baggage, and all. Accepting yourself and loving who you see in the mirror. Self-acceptance helps you to remain true to yourself. Choose to silence the inner critic and the negative self-talk. Be compassionate towards yourself. You are worth it.
Self-pampering– Have a pamper session with a relaxing bath. Light up some scented candles and dim the lights. You can even add essential oils to the water for some therapeutic effect. You can take it a notch higher by booking a massage at a spa, taking a steam bath, or sweating it out in a sauna. Have your hair and nails done while at it? Your feet and hands will feel loved with a lovely pedicure and manicure.
Emotional Self-Care Checklist
How do you know that you are stewarding your emotions well. This simple checklist can help you remember what caring for your emotions looks like. When you feel like your emotions are spiraling
Practice gentleness. Say YES when it comes to your emotional wellness and essential needs.
Take breaks from social media and television, especially news. It is a great thing to want to be informed of what is happening around you. But emotional self-care teaches us to know our limit for bad news and shut it off.
Rest, adequate sleep, and eating healthy foods that produce fuel and nutrients for your body are all vital for our emotional wellness and self-care
Pray and meditate on God’s word
Practice gratitude, give freely, and be gracious to receive
Accept yourself as you are, work on being a better version of you in Christ Jesus, and practice gentleness on yourself first
Release your emotions through journaling, talking with friends, seeking professional help, or engaging in physical activities such as dancing, swimming, and exercise.