Every day, we constantly check our cell phones, look at the number of steps listed on our Fitbits and the current state of our grey hair. However, when was the last time we took a few moments to check in on our feelings and emotions? When a major life change occurs like a marriage, divorce, birth, etc., we usually take the time to think about how we are feeling as a result of this shift. But we don’t often make the effort when our lives are more routine. You don’t have to have a medical degree to realize how important it is for us to self-check on our emotions regularly.
Why it is Important to Have Emotional Awareness?
Emotional awareness helps us know what we want or don’t want. It enables us to build better relationships with our family, friends and colleagues. When we are aware of our emotions, we can talk about feelings more clearly, avoid or resolve conflicts better and move past difficult feelings more easily. Ignoring our feelings may help avoid acknowledging them for the short term, but this can bring about bigger mental health problems in the long term. It can also prevent us from feeling the joys of life.
How to Self-Check our Emotions
The first step is to do a mental body scan of ourselves to recognize how our bodies are feeling. Is our pulse feeling elevated, shoulders tight, our teeth or jaws clenched? This will help us to detect anxiety or agitation in ourselves. If we do this often, we will notice patterns and can work on ways to calm ourselves such as through breathing exercises or meditation.
Next, we need to direct our attention to our minds by asking ourselves some questions. How are we feeling right at this moment? Are we happy, sad, guilty, lonely, angry or jealous? The more clearly we can pinpoint our feelings, the better we can understand and work on changing them. Feelings are experienced consciously, while emotions manifest either consciously or subconsciously. It may take practice to identify our exact emotions. A good way to start is for us to stop for a moment to examine our physical response when we notice a shift in our feelings. Then assess our thoughts about what just occurred. For example, after a stressful phone call, acknowledge our thoughts, even if we are unable to label the emotion yet. With time, we will be able to be in tune with our emotions and can then begin to benefit from it.
It is important that we check in with ourselves at least once per day. Some people do this first thing in the morning while others prefer to do it right before bedtime. Just be aware that for some people, doing it at night can affect sleep. It only takes five to ten minutes to do an assessment of how we are feeling. If doing it at night, think about how the day went and how we feel about it. Focus on the positive and negative moments and check in on how we felt about them. For some, writing their thoughts and feelings in a journal or in the notes on their cell phone gives them more perspective because they can see their thoughts in front of them. From those feelings, we can assess our emotions. Once we have become comfortable with self-checking, we can initiate it more frequently, such as when we are taking a walk.
The Benefits of Checking our Emotions
Checking in with our feelings helps us to figure out if we need to take further action regarding our emotions or are we just able to accept them. If we are feeling fleeting sadness and depression, it may be okay. If we have had a recent car accident, we may feel anxious or wary. By identifying our emotions, we can place distance between ourselves and the event, and see the cause and effect involved. This helps to prevent emotional breakdowns and can stop us from taking out our negative feelings on our loved ones or the cashier at the supermarket. On the flip side, if we identify our feelings are upbeat and happy after certain events, we will want to increase those experiences as we know what made us feel great.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, it is extremely important to self-check our emotions as we have been plunged into an altered life with many unfamiliar stressors and emotions. Keeping attuned to our feelings and emotions can help lower our anxiety and improve our overall well-being so we can handle this situation as best we can and look toward better times.