We sustain common emotional injuries as regularly as we do physical ones such as bruises and grazes.
While we’re acutely aware that we need to put a plaster on a cut or rest a sprained muscle, we don't take the same approach when it comes to our emotional injuries. If we injure ourselves - perhaps break a bone - we don't put up with the pain and wait for the injury to heal itself. We seek help because we know that if we don't the injury will get worse. If we apply emotional first aid when we sustain a psychological injury, we should be able to nurse ourselves back to emotional health and make ourselves more resilient to problems we may encounter in the future.
If we all get into the habit of identifying an emotional wound and what we need to do to tend to it we can prevent a small injury from potentially turning into a bigger one.
We can all practice 'emotional first aid' in order to boost our long term wellbeing.
These are the common emotional injuries that might require emotional first aid:
1. Rejection: We get rejected all the time, by partners, employers or potential employers, friends, and spouses. Rejections are the emotional cuts and scrapes of daily life.
2. Failure: We frequently fail to attain our goals, to pass tests, or to complete tasks we set for ourselves. Failures are like emotional colds that when left untreated, can turn into psychological pneumonias.
3. Loneliness: We all have periods in which we feel lonely, as though our existing relationships are not fulfilling our emotional needs. The problem is that the longer we feel lonely and disconnected, the weaker our 'relationship muscles' become.
4. Loss: We regularly experience losses in life; when relatives pass away, a friend moves out of town, our kids leave home, or our favourite pet dies. How we rebuild our lives after a loss can determine whether we emerge emotionally stronger from the ordeal, or psychologically weaker.
5. Brooding and Rumination: It is easy to get caught in cycles of brooding and ruminating in which we feel a compelling urge to stew on sad or angry feelings and find it difficult to think of anything else. But doing so is like picking on our emotional scabs--it doesn't allow them to heal.
6. Guilt: We spend several hours a week experiencing mild to moderate guilt which when excessive, can hijack our attention and make it difficult for us to concentrate on our work and responsibilities. Lingering guilt can poison our most cherished relationships and sometimes, impact entire families.
7. Low Self-Esteem: We often experience bouts of low self-esteem—days in which we feel incredibly low and self-critical about ourselves and our capacities. Having low self-esteem is like having a weakened emotional immune system--it makes us more vulnerable and more likely to sustain further psychological injury.
Guy Winch · Psychologist, author
Whether it's confrontation with someone, unexpected financial costs or a bad day at work - our lives are full of potential trigger events that can spark or add to a negative emotional state. Below are some techniques you can apply when dealing with trigger events so that you can lessen their impact.
1. Protect your self esteem: Stop the self-criticism and protect your self-esteem when it’s low by practicing self-compassion. Whenever self-critical thoughts pop into your head, consider what you would say to a close friend who expressed similar feelings. Then address those exact thoughts to yourself. Practicing self-compassion and allowing your self-esteem to recover will give a big boost to your overall mental health.
2. Take control after failure: To combat feelings of failure, be methodical - review your goal and how you approached it. Make a list of all the factors that are in your control such as effort, preparation, and planning, and give thought to how you can improve your execution of each of them. Focusing on variables that are in your control will balance out defeatist thoughts, do wonders for your motivation and consequently improve your chances of future success.
3. Distract yourself from brooding thoughts: When you find yourself stuck in a cycle of brooding and stewing, disrupt the urge to brood by developing a zero tolerance attitude toward your repetitive distressing thoughts. As soon as the thought begins, distract yourself by engaging in a task that requires concentration. Try listing your favourite songs in order, the names of the classmates when you were in school, or your top 10 movies. Provided you catch it quickly, distracting yourself for two minutes is sufficient for the distressing thought to recede and for your mood to recover.
4. Find meaning after a loss: Regardless of how painful or traumatic the loss, one aspect has been found to be extremely important for emotional recovery — our ability to find meaning in the events. Once you’ve begun to heal, think about possible ways in which you might derive some good from the situation. Perhaps you can develop a greater appreciation those who remain, make changes that allow you to live your life in closer accordance with your values and ideals, or take action to honour what or who has been lost. Doing so can be challenging, but gaining a sense of appreciation and purpose will allow you to gain strength from your memories rather than feel broken by them.
5. Recover self-worth after rejection: One of the reasons rejections are so painful is they register in our brains like physical pain. Unless we know that, we’re likely to misinterpret the magnitude of emotional pain we feel as an indication that we’re weak, needy, or pathetic — and damage our self-worth even further. In order to help your self-worth recover, remind yourself of what you have to offer. Make a list of attributes you know you possess and that are valuable in the sphere in which you were rejected (e.g., dating life, social life, or work life). Choose one and write a paragraph or two about why the quality is meaningful and valuable to you and why it would be equally meaningful and valuable to another person (e.g., a partner, friend, or employer). Reminding yourself of the many substantive things you have to offer will help your self-worth rebound, ease your emotional pain, and improve your short and long-term mental health.
Acquiring these new habits isn’t easy but if you apply yourself you can really start to feel their benefits. If you want extra support then we can offer a range of FREE courses to help you acquire or hone these skills.
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It's hard to resolve emotional or psychological problems on your own so we provide access to a wide range of courses that can give you a better understanding of yourself. More importantly, you will be 'arming' yourself with the tools required to get back to being the 'real' you.
Courses are free and are held in various locations across Bristol. There are courses on Anger Management, Panic, Low Mood, Worry, Stress, Sleep Management, Assertiveness, Anxiety Management and Emotional Management to name just a few.
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