Community//

Emotional Fitness 101

A healthy workout for the brain is just as important.

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pic via trescharmantes
pic via trescharmantes

The human psyche is a wondrous instrument. The brain is responsible for every thought and emotional response we elicit. Our very act of thinking is a powerful tool that controls our emotions.

Acknowledging our feelings is another step in the process of how our brain operates. Historically society and possibly family have taught us to be stronger than our emotional impulses. How many times has someone said to you, “get control of your emotions!”? Ironically, that just happened to me. I recently told someone that their comments about a certain matter upset me. They replied by stating how I should interpret their comments as logical, in other words, or as I understood it, to get over it and not be sensitive. Thus I chose to move forward and re-structure my emotions to feelings of gratitude for one’s concern to teach and guide me.

As a parent, I’m sure I have told my daughter to manage her emotions if I felt she was irate or being irrational, but ultimately, no matter one’s age, it comes down to is our ability to handle our feelings. But is this truly possible or healthy? I think the argument is still out there, and perhaps there’s a happy medium.

In a meeting with a doctor, they emphasized how my emotions are my responsibility, and it’s my power to own them and to choose which path to travel, the path of positivity, or the path of negativity. They further argued that no one has the ability to control my feelings no matter the situation. There are times I buy this claim, yet often I struggle that this forces us to suppress our emotions, particularly of sadness, pain, or anger. Perhaps the grander lesson at hand is to healthily acknowledge our feelings while keeping our psyche and well-being intact.

Ashley Carr, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Tampa, noted that in a popular therapy called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), the emotional response is labeled the “emotional mind” and the intellectual or thinking response is labeled the “rational mind.” Either one by itself is not sufficient because it doesn’t really give you the full picture. The combination of the emotional and rational minds is what results in the “wise mind,” which is a more balanced response.

Carr continued that when we routinely ignore our mind’s emotional responses, we are stifling the mind’s natural way of processing these situations, and we miss out on the wise mind approach. It’s only when you accept and notice what your emotional mind is telling you that you can find the balance of the wise mind. In other words, emotional fitness 101.

So, in today’s lesson, we are going to address some ways to ensure our emotional fitness.  If you are like me and enjoy powerwalks or just being outdoors, well, starting today, let’s give our brain the same love.

First: When you have certain feelings or emotions, allow your brain and heart to acknowledge them. Write in a journal, sit and think about it, call a professional or consult in a trusted friend or family. Don’t judge your feelings. Let them be, and when you are ready, move on healthily. Do not let the emotions keep you immobile or stagnant. Write more if that helps. Writing is the greatest cathartic activity for the brain and allows your psyche to detox all the stuff that’s rummaging up there.

Second: Get outside and take a walk and breathe. This allows both the brain and body to loosen up tension, stress, and anxiety.

Third: Be responsible for your feelings. This can be hard, especially if what one said or did may hurt, but we can’t let one have that power. As noted above, write it out in a journal or consult a professional, but learn (as I am still doing) to take back the power of your emotions and wisely choose which path is best for your health.

Fourth: Feel your emotions, but be mindful of how you react. Quick reactions are often the greatest danger. Take a deep breath (or many), get outside, do stretches, or yoga…do anything to help you avoid making rash decisions or actions that you may ultimately regret. Again, choose the wise road when feeling tempted to respond.

Now that you’ve been introduced to the idea of emotional fitness and how to address your feelings, you have just regained your personal power! I’m here learning with you, and I will be the first to admit that emotional maturity is not something we master overnight, it takes practice, patience, and persistence. Remember, the best thing you can do for your psyche and self is pausing to observe, writing, and getting outside. Above all, urge the temptation to react immediately and remember to let things healthily simmer and process so you can move on as wisely as possible. You’re only human, so I know this will take time, but it is worth it.

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