To get you started, here are five tips for improving your emotional hygiene:
If a physical ache or pain doesn’t get better in a few days, you probably take some kind of action. The same should be true of psychological pain. If you find yourself hurting emotionally for several days because of a rejection, a failure, a bad mood, or any other reason, it means you’ve sustained a psychological wound and you need to treat it with emotional-first-aid techniques.
Many psychological wounds launch vicious cycles that only make the pain worse. For example, failure can lead to a lack of confidence and feelings of helplessness that only make you more likely to fail again in the future. Having awareness of these consequences, catching these negative cycles, and stopping your emotional bleeding by correcting them is crucial in many such situations.
Our self-esteem acts as an emotional immune system (learn more here) which can buffer us and lend us greater emotional resilience. Therefore, we should get in the habit of monitoring our self-esteem, boosting it when it is low and avoiding negative self-talk of the kind that damages it further. . Avoid becoming self-critical after a rejection and, instead, try to boost your self-esteem by focusing on your strengths rather than your weaknesses.
It is natural to think about distressing events, but when our thinking becomes repetitive we are no longer problem-solving, we are ruminating. Ruminating can be very costly to our psychological health, as well as to our physical health, and can put us at risk for clinical depression and even cardiovascular disease. We have to battle negative thinking and avoid falling into the habit of over-focusing on distressing events.
They learn to distinguish mild emotional wounds from those that require “treatment.” Most of us can tell if a cut is deep enough to require stitches or if a bandage would be sufficient. We need to develop the same know-how when it comes to psychological wounds. Generally, if you’re in emotional distress and the emotional pain you feel is not easing, you might need to take action to “treat” the injury.
Failures can make us feel helpless and hopeless and they can sap our motivation. One of the most important things you can do to counter these reactions is to focus on aspects of the task you can improve and approach differently were you to try again. In other words, don’t just look at the hurdle and feel bad that it’s there — figure out your way around it.
Guilty feelings can be useful in small doses. But when your guilty feelings are unresolved, they can be incredibly distracting and severely limit your ability to thrive and enjoy life. Therefore, it is important to take action and address unresolved guilty feelings by trying to receive forgiveness from the person you’ve wronged, or from yourself if your guilt is self-generated.
It can take time to get over a loss, especially when it’s significant. But while time does heal, you also need to fill in the voids the loss created. Give thought to various aspects of your life the loss has impacted and when you feel ready, consider ways to add activities, passions, or people to address any unmet needs the loss has created.
Replaying the same distressing events in your head can lead to both passivity and depression. Make sure to use problem-solving approaches to gain insight and learn what you can from the incident, and then avoid getting stuck in an emotionally painful loop by distracting yourself when the same thought or feeling pops into your mind. Developing new habits is never easy, but adopting strong emotional hygiene will set you on the path to greater psychological resilience, health, and life-satisfaction — so it’s very much worth the effort required.
10. Meet yourself.
Just checking in with yourself on a daily basis, knowing how you feel and what you think about whatever is going on in your life will make you happier, and reduce your stress. Being kind to yourself and having a good relationship with you will make all your relationships with other people go more smoothly. Whether you realize it or not, the relationship you have with yourself sets the pattern for how you connect with others. By developing a nurturing way to relate to yourself, you create a personal experience of both giving and receiving friendship. Knowing your feelings helps you make appropriate choices in every phase of your life. A big advantage of knowing who you are is knowing how to pamper and comfort yourself when you’re stressed or tired. Use what you have learned about your style to develop a style for recharging and relaxing. What makes you most comfortable? What soothes you? What helps you recharge? It can be anything from a bubble bath or your favourite music to a long walk in the country, a phone conversation with your best friend, or a nap. Make a list of your favourite “personal rechargers”. Make sure the list includes simple things you can do cheaply (such as relax with a cup of tea and read a favourite book) to things that are very special (such as spend a day at a bed and breakfast or have a massage and a facial). Keep the list where you can refer to it whenever you feel in need of a recharge, and make use of it often.
Some people believe being a good friend to yourself is selfish, but you’ll discover that it’s really the opposite, because if you maintain your internal friendship, it becomes easier to be a good friend to others, and to recognize when others are good friends to you.
11. Spend time with people you love
Being with people you care about and who care about you is a great way to affirm your value as a person, and to confirm that your life has meaning and purpose. Make sure you take good care of your friendship and family relationships. It’s a great way to take care of you.
12. Clear out resentment and bitterness
Clinging to resentment can be very destructive. Resentment comes from not wanting to take responsibility for yourself—you’ve been disappointed, but you don’t want to really acknowledge it, and you also don’t want to do the work of choosing a new goal, so you avoid it by wallowing in self-pity. If what happened to that you’re resenting mimics a previous trauma, or your worst nightmare you’re more likely to sink into bitterness. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it feels like you’re doomed. It’s a mental mechanism to keep you from having to grow up.