Caring for Self – The Importance of emotional hygiene
In the Ted talk “Why we all need to practice emotional first aid”, Guy Winch talks about the importance of emotional hygiene, and discusses briefly on loneliness, rejection and failure, and some of its impact and consequence. Guy starts his talk with the society’s obsession and favouritism of body over mind. Many people are aware of the importance of practicing physical hygiene, and the importance of care in the face of physical injuries. Yet, most people are not aware of the presence and impact of emotional injuries, despite its higher frequency and greater consequences (TED, 2015).
“What is psychological or emotional hygiene?”
How does one cares for oneself when they are beaten down by life? Most are not aware of the presence of these emotional injuries, and others add insult to injury by beating themselves down even more. Most experience emotional distress in different ways. Such experiences can stem from different reasons. However, there is almost a universal theme that underlies these experiences. They include loneliness, fear of failure and fear of rejection (TED, 2015).
Loneliness is a subjective experience. One can be surrounded with people, and still feel lonely and isolated, specifically emotional and social disconnection. Loneliness distorts thoughts and perceptions, and isolates the individual, preventing them from reaching out for help, for fear of greater hurt. Chronic loneliness causes a myriad of problems such as high blood pressure and suppressed immunity etc., and increases risks of early death by up to 14% (according to Guy; TED, 2015).
Failure. We are brought up in a society, where we are taught to shun failure. Where every failure becomes a personal mark on us, on our character and our future. Most people become so paralyzed by their failures that they never move from that spot. Most of these fear of failure has its roots in trauma, where one single moment defines who the person is in this lifetime. The inability to move from a failure is almost like donning a pair of coloured lens, which influences everything we see, so much so that we forget we are wearing that glasses, and what we receive becomes our reality (TED, 2015).
Related to the above topics on loneliness and failure, is the fear of rejection. When people face rejection, they take it all upon themselves and blame themselves for not being good enough or are undeserving, thus the rejection. They shame themselves and allow themselves to settle for less, often perpetuating the hurt that was already there is the first place. These factors, loneliness, fear of failure and rejection, collectively lowers one’s self-esteem, making one more vulnerable to a host of stresses and greater anxiety (TED, 2015).
What are some of the ways we can practice emotional hygiene?
1. Safely experience and express our emotions.
2. Find ways to self-nourish.
3. Give gratitude.
4. Stay connected to the Nature.
5. Find a cause, and stay connected to a community.
Whatever emotions we are experiencing in the moment, be it positive emotions, and especially negative emotions such as anger and sadness. It is important we find a safe space, to safely express them without harm to self or others. Shout it out, cry it out, or dance it out. Such reactive emotions if allowed to stay in the body, tends to do more harm than good, often exposing the body to high levels of stress hormones thus leading to a variety of other physical ailments.
After releasing the emotions, find ways to recuperate. What nourishes you? A good soak in the bath? Singing your favourite songs? Find ways to nourish your body, heart and soul, and ways to continually generate these good feelings.
Life IS tough. Find ways and opportunities to laugh and smile every moment that you can. Live a life of gratitude. Give thanks to everything you experience and receive, even negative experiences. For they shaped you, made you stronger or wiser and helped you identify something that is important to you in this lifetime.
Stay connected to the Earth and Nature. Wherever you live in, whatever you do. Find ways to be connected to Nature. Be it walking under the sun, pausing to experience and give thanks for the breeze over your skin, to kick off your shoes and feel the grass beneath your feet, to stop and smell the flowers by the side, to pause and rest under the tree or by the river bank. Find ways to be connected to something bigger than yourself.
Stay connected to a community. Find a cause that is close at heart for you, be it an environmental cause, or as an advocate for mental health, or just simply being yourself. Find something to be excited about everyday in your life. Find a mentee to mentor, find someone to inspire by sharing your stories. Your experiences. Go out there. Meet people. Hear their stories. And know you are never alone in your experiences. No matter how dark the times are. For the darkest time, signals that dawn in near.
In conclusion, we share this quote from Guy,
“By taking action when you’re lonely, by changing your responses to failure, by protecting your self-esteem, by battling negative thinking, you won’t just heal your psychological wounds, you will build emotional resilience, you will thrive.” (TED, 2015, 16:05)
TED. (2015, February 16). How to practice emotional first aid – Guy Winch [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2hc2FLOdhI.
Gratitude – Quek Wan Ting