Personal hygiene, good sleeping habits, nutrition and exercise, these are all the basic and essential practices we all learn from a young age. The key word is learn. These are things that have to be taught to us and if we don't, we suffer the natural consequences. We'll cover some of these fundamental practices that everyone should learn in life. To learn more or to take some proactive steps to get some help learning these skills, feel free to reach out so we can help.
Emotional Hygienic Practices
The following are just a few practices or learned skills that help to keep us emotionally healthy and hygienic. In many respects, it’s helpful to think of these practices as core "emotion muscles" that make life and connecting with others easier and more manageable.
Silencing: being still & mindful of the moment
We live in a world full of distractions. Many of them are a result of poor boundaries on our part. It’s all about making time and carving out margin in our daily lives. Imagine saying you don’t have time shower and brush your teeth everyday. You make the time to do those things because you know if you don’t your social life takes a hit. Consider it the same for your emotional hygiene.
Start making it a common practice to set aside ten or fifteen minutes a day to quiet yourself. Be still and sit in silence. Allow the time and space to become mindful of what’s going on within your emotional state. You might find that’s it’s hard to be still and to focus on your emotions for long. Most people who are unpracticed in this find themselves wandering off in their thoughts. But practice makes perfect. The more you do this, the less time it should take to dig down deep.
Pressing: leaning into pain and emotional discomfort
If you’re doing it right, sitting in the silence will allow the space for discomfort and even pain to arise. This is part of the reason why most people don’t sit still and end up conjuring up distractions. The distractions help to avoid pain. When this happens the next practice is to learn to press into the pain. Muscles only get stronger by first being broken down and enduring pain. At first you might not be able to endure as much for very long, but continued practice of engaging the discomfort will allow you stay in the pain for longer periods of time.
As always, there is purpose to the pain. As you press into it, you’ll begin to learn more about yourself. Engaging in pain has a way of forcing you to see things differently and more clearly. But clarity only happens when you dive deep.
Anchoring: grounding into truth
The reason why pain is so hard to engage isn’t just because it hurts, it’s because it’s often accompanied by a sense of hopelessness. Most people can endure incredible amounts of pain if they know there is a purpose or a way out of it. Engaging pain is like letting a tidal wave of emotions push you out into a deep sea. You’ll learn a lot more about yourself beneath the surface, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and lost as well.
Life feels normal and stable because we have certain anchors that hold us steady. But when we create the space and engage the pain, when we let those waves push us out into the depths, those anchors break. So every time we engage in this activity, even if its just a small amount of discomfort, we have to re-anchor ourselves again.
So what does it mean to anchor yourself? In a nutshell it’s wrestling with what is true and what is not. What is true and untrue about who you are? What is true and untrue about your relationships and those you love? You might find it interesting when you press into the pain, how much your emotions are driven by thoughts that are untrue. Anchoring yourself means to plant yourself firmly into what it is you believe regardless of your circumstances.
Discovering: being curious while experiencing pain
Discovering is just another way to say processing. When confronted with new information, a flood of pain and other emotions, there are a lot of things to figure out. Imagine dumping pieces of a jigsaw puzzle on a table. Initially it can feel overwhelming, but slowly you’ll start to sort it out and put it together. The good news is the more you do it, the easier it becomes to develop a method or process for figuring out all the confusion.
The point here in this practice is to not just engage pain for the sake of feeling it, but to start learning more about yourself and how you perceive the world around you. Why do you feel the way that you do? What does that feeling say about how you see yourself or others around you? When else have you felt that way and is there perhaps a theme throughout your life when it comes to this feeling? There are plenty of things to discover and plenty of things to learn.
Expressing: verbalizing insights & Discoveries
This is the last practice that is a culmination of all the others. Something incredibly healing happens when you simply talk about what you've learned and discovered. As though it cements it into your reality. It can be a frightening act to put into words what you think and feel, but it is a critical part of the emotionally hygienic process.
Take fifteen minutes a day to quiet yourself. Allow yourself to move into the painful places of life. Process new insights and discoveries that might surface. Challenge your thought process and what you believe to be true. And finally express what you learn. Journal some of your discoveries. Talk with a loved one or close friend. Talk to your counselor. Just put your thoughts into words. The act of expression helps with the growth process.