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Summer Wellness Series Part 6 - Emotional Well-Being


Cultivating Emotional Well-being: Pursuing a Balanced Life 

 

Welcome back to our Summer Wellness Series where this week we’ll focus on emotional well-being. We are often so busy in the hustle and bustle of modern life, amidst deadlines, commitments, and responsibilities, it's easy to neglect our emotional well-being. When was the last time that you stopped to reflect about how you were doing emotionally?  

Personally, the times I’m most prone to step back and reflect are when those feelings of gut-wrenching anxiety creep up from major deadlines and too many other responsibilities hitting all at once…when everything feels like a priority (even though that is rarely the reality of the situation). I generally don’t recognize it right away, but I eventually become self-aware and can feel it physically impacting me: reduced appetite, disturbed sleep, scattered thinking, and shallower breathing to name a few. Thankfully, this is not a common challenge for me, and I have developed my own coping strategies for such episodes allowing me to effectively assess and process the feelings, understand the factors underlying them, and to effectively implement a plan to address them in most instances. Our emotional health is so intertwined with our physical health and is an essential ingredient to ensure a fulfilling and happy life. In this post, we'll explore what emotional well-being entails, why it's important, and practical strategies to cultivate and maintain it. 


What is Emotional Well-being? 

Emotional well-being refers to the ability to cope with life's challenges, manage stress effectively, build satisfying relationships, and maintain a positive outlook. It encompasses emotional resilience, self-awareness, and the ability to navigate complex emotions in a healthy manner. If you were to assess your state of emotional well-being, what strengths would you find present? What challenges are you facing? And are there barriers to your well-being that could be easily addressed? Taking the time to understand our current state of well-being, and to identify where we’d like to be is an important step on our path to optimal emotional well-being.  


In order to be successful in our pursuit of emotional well-being, we also need to look at the concept of emotional intelligence. It refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence is generally said to include a few skills: namely emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same. How are you faring in your ability to identify, utilize, manage, and regulate your emotions? It is important to note that this is a life-long process that we have the capacity to learn and enhance over time. It often requires some editing of societal messages that refer to certain emotions as “positive” and “negative,” or gender-based messages against boys being emotional, etc. We need to get comfortable with the idea that we have the right to feel any and all emotions we have…they are simply part of everyday life.  


Why is Emotional Well-being Important? 

Research consistently shows that emotional well-being is linked to overall health and longevity. A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that individuals with higher emotional well-being had better physical health outcomes and lower mortality rates over time (Keyes, 2005). Moreover, emotional well-being enhances our quality of life by improving our relationships, boosting productivity, and fostering a sense of fulfillment and purpose (Ryff, 2014). 


Strategies to Enhance Emotional Well-being 

Emotional well-being is a skill that anyone can learn and requires ongoing effort to maintain. There are many strategies that can be utilized to cultivate a place of emotional well-being in our lives. While this is not an exhaustive list, below are six core strategies that you can integrate into or strengthen in your life to aid your pursuit of optimal emotional well-being.  


1. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation 

Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, are powerful tools for improving emotional well-being. They help reduce stress, increase self-awareness, and promote a greater sense of calm and clarity (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). I recently attended some restorative yoga classes and to my skeptical surprise, the exercises and breathing methods truly allowed me to quiet my mind (which is always processing something) to such a degree that I felt I nearly turned my mind off. It was such a reprieve from the many tasks, thoughts, and interactions I regularly face. How do you quiet your mind? Do you have any strategies or systems in place to help you be more mindful?  


2. Cultivate Positive Relationships 

Strong social connections are fundamental to emotional well-being. Nurture relationships with family and friends and seek out supportive communities. Research suggests that having a strong social support network can buffer against stress and enhance overall happiness (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2010). We’ll be looking at social connection in depth next week, so stay tuned.  


3. Engage in Regular Physical Activity 

Exercise is not only beneficial for physical health but also has profound effects on mood and emotional well-being. Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins, those chemicals in the brain that act as natural mood lifters (Craft & Perna, 2004). This topic was the focus of last week’s post.


4. Practice Gratitude 

Cultivating a habit of gratitude can significantly enhance emotional well-being. Take time each day to reflect on things you're grateful for, whether big or small. Research shows that gratitude practices can improve mood, enhance resilience, and reduce symptoms of depression (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). It is easy to overlook this practice when we are under many stressors in our life, but practicing gratitude helps shift us toward more positive thinking and an improved outlook on life. What things are you grateful for today?  


5. Set Boundaries and Manage Stress 

When possible, learn to say no to commitments that overwhelm you and prioritize activities that bring you joy. Effective stress management techniques, such as time management, delegation, and relaxation techniques, are essential for maintaining emotional equilibrium (American Psychological Association, n.d.). We, as a society, do struggle to delegate tasks to others who may be capable of handling them. In my role as Board President of a local civic association I am regularly receiving emails from the residents asking the board to take on an event, lead an initiative, etc. I have had to regularly say that the board is unable to take on the request and have been asking those presenting the ideas to help lead the task. It has been working with surprising results. Part of this process was me simply acknowledging I cannot please everyone in this volunteer role serving thousands of residents, nor can I possibly take on the many requests made of me or the board. This takes some pressure off, and people ultimately do understand this idea, though maybe they did not get the answer they were expecting.  


Historically, being a person of the people-pleasing nature, I would not acknowledge how busy I was in the workplace when other colleagues were making requests of me. I would regularly overextend myself, which added stress and work hours to complete the tasks on time. I have learned to have an honest dialogue with those I work with, expressing the competing demands and priorities. If uncertain, it is okay to ask of your supervisor, “Which of these tasks do you believe to be the highest priority?” Not everything is as important or time-sensitive as we initially believe them to be. What requests do you need to say “no” to or reprioritize?  


6. Self-Reflection 

Taking time to recognize and cope with our own emotions is an important daily task in order for us to move toward greater emotional well-being. Reflecting on each day is a helpful tool for personal growth. Consider taking time at the end of the day to ask yourself some questions: How did I feel today? What emotions did I experience and how? How did I express them or cope with them? What helped me to do well? What did I learn and what will I do differently the next time?  


Conclusion 

In conclusion, nurturing emotional well-being is a continuous journey that requires self-awareness, intentional practices, and a commitment to self-care. By incorporating these strategies into your daily life, you can cultivate resilience, improve relationships, and experience a greater sense of happiness and fulfillment. Remember, investing in your emotional health is one of the most valuable investments you can make for a balanced and meaningful life. What action(s) can you take today to help you in your pursuit of optimal emotional well-being? 


 



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