The “Best Of” Feature: Four Voices Converse on the Importance of and Commitment to Emotional Fitness

Why is emotional fitness critical to well-being and how can it be accomplished

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This country is largely enamored with physical fitness; a positive, of course. Yet what about the understanding and need for emotional fitness. Do we recognize and engage in it?

Emotions are part of our everyday experience and humanity and understanding and managing them is critical to our well-being, relationships and success in our professional and personal lives, and yes, our reputation.

Hopefully the following insights stimulate your thinking if you don’t already consider giving daily time and attention to your emotional health with conscious, consistent workouts.

Many individuals struggling with behavior and relationships in their professions and personal lives, are also struggling with a deficit of emotional fitness. This is why this is a topic of significant importance.

I noticed this week on a website the recommendation to go to the “emotional gym” and it captured my attention. An emotional gym? I got it though, working to build and develop ourselves in healthy emotional ways and to build our resilience, into strengths. How do others view this concept?

Meagan Turner
Grad student

(Meagan Turner)

In school, we hear all about how mental health and physical health are equally important, but in the world of (emotional) gyms, particularly my physical therapist friends, mental health is rarely acknowledged.

Often, when we need to rely on healthy emotional reactions, we can’t unless we have practiced them in moments of calm.

To continue the gym analogy, it is much like working out in a gym before actually competing – you have to build muscle in practice in order to perform. 

Emotional fitness, like physical fitness, involves the regular practice of healthy emotional habits. In the same way working out increases muscular density and tone, developing cognitive flexibility improves one’s capacity to handle a variety of situations well.

There are simple exercises that can be done to build the habit of emotional strength:

Box breathing: breathe in for four seconds, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four, repeat. 

Pausing for 60 seconds once a day to do a mental scan of your body to notice your breathing and where you feel tension in your body.

Progressive muscle relaxation before falling asleep at night, where you gradually tense and release all of your muscles starting from your face and moving down through your body.

Because emotional fitness tends to be a rare quality in the professional world, being proactive with emotional health can make you stand out above your peers. Many qualities of emotional fitness coincide with those often listed as what makes a great leader as opposed to a good leader.

Lynette Kearney

(Lynette Kearney)

My own experience has taught me that emotional ill health has a far bigger impact on our physical health than the other way around.

Making as much effort to understand and deal with our emotions on a regular basis makes us stronger, more resilient, better equipped to deal with problems that arise; life becomes easier and better, and we enjoy life more.

I’ve gotten in the habit now of doing deliberate positive thinking. It’s a mental exercise I do a few times a week.

Instead of waiting for my mood to become negative and then try to remind myself of the good things in my life, or that I can get through it like I have in the past, I proactively take time remind myself of everything I have to be grateful for, of the all the wonderful people in my life, of all the success I have achieved, how my life has improved, and how I have grown over the past few years. 

That way, when that bad day arrives, those days where life seems so negative and hard and miserable, my brain already knows how to handle the situation. 

Shelby Ring
Ruby Riot Creatives

(Shelby Ring)

I think that you can’t successfully thrive professionally or personally without learning how to touch and release the emotions we face every day: building up the resilience to come in contact with uncomfortable, stressful, difficult situations and face them without them hijacking your entire day and energy.

When you’re faced with staggering information, setbacks, or changes as a leader, you have to have the capacity to trendset and be the pace car of your organization. If you go down, the rest of the ship goes down with you. 

So I have several techniques I’ve learned that I do daily when I’m faced with trauma or a huge blow energetically. 

I’ve incorporated various methods of releasing charged anger, outrage, and resentment when I’m triggered in business arrangements, deals, or amidst my community so I can release that emotion in a productive way, and bounce back in a matter of 30-45 minutes, rather than have a full breakdown pity party that derails the rest of my day.

My emotional gym fitness routine: creative writing to songs that pull various emotions out of me, writing to various memories I have experienced, sitting with a few crucial meditations that help me process sadness, grief, outrage, heartbreak, disappointment, and I have a few online accounts I follow that post humor.

I think humor and the ability to laugh is crucial in grounding and coming up from heavy emotional topics. 

And actual physical workouts each week I follow religiously include weight lifting. My body informs my mind how I am capable of overcoming heavy things; dance classes to show I know how to be flexible and I am a powerful communicator, and a HIIT yoga tribal dance class I teach that helps me release aggressive charges in a safe way, surrounded by community.  

I have found writing and processing out stories first thing in the morning has been a therapeutic way to tap into some of my best work, and tap into my genius, and this habit helps me anchor into a place of power energetically for facing the rest of my day. 

Michael James Nuells
Professional Actor and Special Events Manager

I’m usually working on and am a part of many high caliber projects that can get to be very stressful and tedious throughout their courses of completion.

In these moments, I understand and realize that in order for me to successfully and thoroughly complete my parts, I have to stay emotionally ready, focused, trained, etc. 

In these cases, being physically strong and prepared is easy, as I know my limits and where I can push my body to the extent that I need. Emotionally, I understand in most cases I`m required to push myself even further. 

For example, I must be even stronger in these situations as it relates to dealing with many people and multiple personalities, all relaying directions and seeking leadership from me, (while) keeping emotionally strong in the characters I play and focusing to keep the lines clear on my true life and reality. 

Emotional fitness and strength are a part of my safety place, and keeps me grounded. 

I`ve kept up my habit of working out in my “emotional gym” a few times a week. This has allowed me to stay connected to my true self, face everything going on in my life both professionally and personally, and continue to build confidence and self-love, which I define as real love. 

For those who are struggling with normal day-to-day life, I wish they knew all of the amazing benefits of the “emotional gym,” which include increased self-worth, decreased stress, growth towards higher self-esteem and increased happiness. 

I’d want them to also know that emotional fitness is underrated and underutilized by most, so they should start their practices immediately and not wait any longer to start reaping their own personal benefits.

A few of the major, important actions that I take which assist in my “emotional gym” include:

Taking time to focus on replacing my negative thoughts and emotions with more positive, realistic, and productive ones. For example, instead of focusing on my weaknesses, turning these thoughts over to my strengths.

Creating time to meditate daily and reflect on my emotional well-being. Building emotional strength is a continued work in progress, so I find that taking time for quiet reflection is important for my development and growth here.

Regularly practicing emotional discomfort by pushing myself out of my comfort zones.

This allows for me to accept my emotions, not become controlled by them, and to expand my emotional energy wisely while focusing on what`s within my control.

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