Our parents or caregivers instilled in us the value of physical self-care early on in our childhood. Maintaining good personal hygiene and eating healthily are essential for our physical health. After all, these are basic needs that allow us to live a longer and healthier life.
Most of us believe that our physical well-being is the end of our overall health, but we don't realize that this may be at the expense of our emotional health. We tend to place more value on physical health than on emotional health. How could we believe something is important when there's no physical indication of it?
We get the common cold or catch the flu when our bodies are unwell. We go to our doctor when physical symptoms pop up. If necessary, our physician will prescribe us medications so we can get better soon.
Sadly, we don't pay much attention to our emotional health. When we feel negative emotions, we'd rather escape from them and occupy ourselves with things to numb the pain. It's rare that we pay attention to what's going on inside us, as opposed to when we're experiencing physical symptoms. When our emotional health is suffering, how could we possibly tell?
What Is Emotional Health?
The definition of emotional health is still up for debate, as it’s clearly more difficult to describe than physical health. But the National Institutes of Health defines emotional health as one's ability to “successfully handle life's stresses and adapt to change and difficult times.”
Why Is Emotional Health Important?
Emotional health is crucial because how you feel has an impact on every aspect of your life. Strong emotional health improves resilience, self-awareness, and overall well-being. Our emotional health influences how we accept and respond to feedback and criticism, how we provide and receive instructions, and how we observe and understand what others do and why.
If we want to prosper and thrive in both our professional and personal lives, we need to learn how to maintain our emotional health. It's what enables us to not just survive but also to heal and thrive in general when faced with adversity. If we want our daily lives to feel whole and balanced, emotional health is a must.
Emotional health vs. mental health
Mental and emotional health are integrally intertwined, yet the scope of mental health is far broader than that of emotional health. The American Psychological Association defines mental health as “a state of mind characterized by emotional well-being, good behavioral adjustment, relative freedom from anxiety and disabling symptoms, and a capacity to establish constructive relationships and cope with the ordinary demands and stresses of life.”
When it comes to our mental health, it's all about how well we can engage with the world around us without causing ourselves undue stress.
A person's emotional health is only a small part of their mental health. You can still have good emotional health even if your mental health isn't the greatest. It's possible to manage mental health problems while also dealing with emotional health concerns at the same time.
Emotional health is a lot more about being able to understand and deal with your emotions. Mental health is a more general term that includes how well you can understand and process things that happen to you. It also looks at how well you can make sound decisions and stay focused on the things you need to do at a given moment.
Emotional health vs. physical health
Being in a positive emotional state is extremely beneficial to one's overall health. Research shows that emotional distress makes a person vulnerable to physical illness. Chronic emotional distress like anger and anxiety are both terrible for your heart and may eventually lead to stroke, heart disease, and diabetes if left untreated.
People with depression are at a higher risk for diabetes. When someone is chronically depressed or anxious, they may lack the energy and drive to exercise or eat healthily, creating unhealthy habits for illness to manifest. The connection between our emotional and physical health is very strong, which is one of the main reasons you should strive to keep your emotional health in check.
Am I Struggling With Emotional Health?
People who are emotionally healthy are not in a constant state of happiness. It just means that they’re more aware of the emotions they’re having and are able to deal with the stuff life throws at them. They are more resilient and have a better sense of how to deal with the usual emotions that everyone goes through, like anger, disappointment, and sadness.
You may be struggling with your emotional health if you:
- Keep yourself busy as a distraction from unwanted feelings
- Isolate yourself from your loved ones and close friends
- Have very low self-esteem
- Have difficulty taking care of yourself
- Sleep too much or too little
- Let emotions get the best of you
- Feel irritated or anxious around people, even your loved ones
- Indulge in emotional eating and drinking
How to Improve Emotional Health
Many things can affect how you feel about yourself. Similar to how you improve your physical health, emotional health takes dedication and hard work.
The good news is you are in control of how to improve your emotional health. You can achieve this by incorporating some emotional health activities:
Cultivate an optimistic mindset
An optimistic mindset is a strong tool you can use to improve your emotional health. An optimistic mindset can help you overcome even the most difficult obstacles, but a negative mindset can transform a positive experience into a negative one. Small but helpful activities done regularly can have a big impact on how we see the world.
Whenever you feel that a certain situation is stirring up negative thoughts in you, you can remind yourself of the potential of an optimistic mindset with positive affirmations. Repeat them to yourself as much as necessary.
Surrounding yourself with positive people is also a great way to cultivate an optimistic mindset. You are who you surround yourself with, after all. Keeping a gratitude journal is another effective technique, as it reminds you of the things you’re grateful for in your life. Gratitude makes us shift to what’s present rather than seeking what’s not.
Regular exercise has advantages that extend far beyond physical health. Exercise has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which improve your mood and productivity.
It can also help you feel more in control, be able to cope better, and have more self-esteem. Your emotional health can improve even if you only do moderate exercise a few times a week. Some doctors recommend trying out an exercise plan before taking medications.
Mindfulness has been linked to emotional health several times. Mindfulness is considered an effective antidote to common forms of emotional distress. It can help with understanding and managing emotions better, coping better with difficult thoughts, and improving your relationships.
There are different ways to practice mindfulness, but the most common ones are breathing meditation and journaling. You can incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine by being mindful of whatever task you are working on. For example, when you are walking, simply observe and feel the act of walking itself, and nothing more. You can do this with other tasks as well, such as when you’re writing, doing household chores, or taking a shower.
Strengthen your support system
Relationships are built when you connect with friends and family. This helps you get the support you need to handle even the most difficult situations with confidence and can greatly improve your emotional health. Opening up to your loved ones and close friends about your struggles is one way of strengthening your support system.
Another alternative is to seek professional help. When dealing with emotions that can feel out of control, it may be a clear indication that you need to consult with a mental health professional, especially if it’s already affecting multiple aspects of your life.
Seeking help may feel intimidating at first, and that’s why more and more people prefer online therapy over in-person therapy these days. Online counseling has proven its effectiveness in treating anxiety and depression. Online therapy is known for its convenience, affordability, and ease of communication.
We often try to hide our emotional problems because of the stigma that makes it hard for many to admit they have them and get help. Accepting our own emotions can be hard because we think it's weak to feel them. We push them down and get ourselves drowned in unhealthy habits.
Taking care of your emotional health means that you can live a longer, healthier, and happier life. If you feel that you’re struggling with life’s challenges and find them overwhelming, don’t hesitate to ask for help. You can start today by scheduling an online therapy with DoMental.