“When we self-regulate well, we are better able to control the trajectory of our emotional lives and resulting actions based on our values and sense of purpose.”
– Amy Leigh Mercree
Emotional self-care is all about tuning into yourself and tapping into your feelings. We may try to ignore our emotions, but one way or another, they come out eventually. In today’s abounding stresses, caring for our emotional health is more important than ever.
Nurturing emotional health can calm the nervous system, decrease stress, improve moods, and increase resilience. Here are a few critical pillars of emotional self-care:
Love. It’s something we all seek, yet there’s tremendous confusion surrounding the concept. We’re inundated with ideas of what love is supposed to be. Books, movies, “reality” television shows, societal pressures, the media, advertisements–the list goes on and on. We receive images of what love is supposed to look and feel like–but these are only confusing and unrealistic distractions that will keep you from finding the kind of genuine love you desire. There’s only one definition of love that truly matters: the one you define within yourself. To figure this out, you have to do the work.
Self-love might sound like a radical concept, but it’s not. It’s simply taking the love, attention, affection, forgiveness, happiness, acceptance, and joy that you give to others and turning it inward before giving your love away. When you learn how to love yourself, it becomes easier to attract the right kind of love (platonic and romantic), set clear boundaries, make decisions that align with who you are, and achieve internal emotional stability. This true self-love will permeate all areas of your life. The result: a life you love as much as you love yourself.
Our mindset determines how we feel about the life we’re living. Your perspective shapes most of your reality–and you have the ability through consistent mindset work and personal awareness to take control of your viewpoint (Collins, 2018). You have more power over your moods and emotions than you may realize. The following self-care mindset activities can shift you to a higher state of joy.
You must first be aware of your current mindset to shift your perspective. It’s easy to go about your day-to-day tasks without checking in with yourself to identify how you genuinely feel. As you become more aware of your emotional state, it will make everything easier, leading you to a happier and more authentic life.
An affirmation is a positive thought or statement, written or spoken, that challenges self-limiting beliefs and replaces negative thinking with positive thinking patterns. When you consistently and repetitively implement affirmations into your life, you will improve your mood, train your mind to choose positive thoughts over negative ones, boost your confidence, and elevate your outlook (Cascio et al., 2015).
A positive view of yourself is the first step toward self-love. You receive countless messages daily–directly and subliminally–telling you you’re not good enough. You need to be perfect to be loved. True love is reserved for the lucky. These messages only serve to feed the negative voice inside of your head that says: “You’re not good enough. You need to be better. You need to be perfect because that’s the only way you deserve love.”
To demonstrate that this idea is false, think of this: are the people you love in your life perfect? No. They’re not–and still, you love them. You love them because you recognize all of the positive things about them and tend to focus on these things despite their imperfections. You deserve to love yourself with the same commitment and focus on positivity–but first, you must gain control over the negativity you’ve been absorbing throughout your life. How do you do this? An easy way to rewire your self-talk is through positive daily affirmations.
Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center of the page lengthwise. In the left column, list what you don’t like about yourself or think you need to change about yourself. This part of the exercise may be a bit painful, but it’s necessary to identify your pain points to eliminate them.
Now you can begin to rewire your thinking. Write a positive thought that counters the negative one in the right column. Think of it as an argument: your brain is telling you one thing, and now you’re going to tell your brain that it’s wrong. Write anything that feels like something you would want someone else to say to make you feel loved.
It’s time to symbolically say good riddance to all of the negativity clouding your thinking. You may choose to throw the negative thoughts away, tear them into tiny pieces, burn them–you get the idea. Please get rid of them in a way that tells your brain negative thinking will no longer be tolerated.
If you do these exercises every day, your positive affirmation will replace negative self-talk, boost your mood, increase self-esteem, make you more self-aware, and empower you to see that you have considerable control over your thoughts.
When you introduce the concept of a morning and evening ritual into your daily life, you give yourself a healthy routine that frames your day. As most moms know, routines are vital for keeping children emotionally stable. Bedtime routines are associated with increased family function and improved sleep (Mindell & Williamson, 2018). Family routines have also been shown to increase resiliency during family crises (Black & Lobo, 2008). Repetition is the key to shifting your emotional state to one of stability, clarity, calm, and satisfaction.
If you can carve out 30-minutes (or even 20-minutes) for yourself in the morning, you can implement a mood-boosting, focus-shifting, energy-raising ritual at the very start of your day. Having a morning ritual sets the tone for the rest of the day. It will also help you feel happier, calmer, and more productive—an all-around better version of the already wonderful you.
While you sleep, you can twist and turn in ways that make your body feel stiff throughout the day. Stretching when you wake up puts your body back into alignment. Try this 5-minute Morning Full Body Flexibility Routine for Beginners (Morrison, 2021).
Reaching a place of calm and centered clarity first thing in the morning is a beautiful way to get ahead of anything the day may throw your way. Try this Morning Meditation for Mothers (Chambers) for a guide to meditation.
Since you become dehydrated while you sleep, your body, organs, and mind need hydration to function at their highest level. Water, herbal tea, or fruit smoothies are a great way to start your day.
The idea of morning pages, brought to us by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way, is to handwrite three total pages (about 750 words) as part of your morning routine (2002). Looking over your objectives for the day helps shift your mindset to one of gratitude and clarity. A positive outlook will make your day exponentially better.
Taking time to care for your skin is good for your overall health and appearance. Check out this post for a step-by-step morning skincare routine.
Giving yourself 20-30 minutes in the evening is the right time to slow down, soothe yourself, and feel grateful before heading off to sleep. An evening routine gives you time to process the events of your day and express gratitude, which, as we know, helps reduce depression and prepares you for a more restful night of sleep (Lin, 2015).
Engaging in slow stretches signals your body it is time to prepare for rest. Try this 5 Minute Yoga for Bedtime routine (Yoga with Kassandra, 2020).
A warm, nourishing beverage prepares your digestive system and body for rest. Try some sleep aid herbal teas like chamomile or lavender (Link, 2021).
It’s important to fall asleep with a clean face and nourished skin to help fight breakouts and signs of aging. Check out this post for a step-by-step evening skincare routine.
Reminding yourself of the good things in your life leads to a more peaceful, deeper sleep (Wood et al., 2009).
Before bed, a meditation practice signals your brain to relax, prepare for rest, and release any emotional pain or anxiety from the day. For guided meditation, try this 10-Minute Meditation for Sleep (Goodful, 2020).
The good news is, your daily routines don’t have to be perfect. While consistency is undoubtedly beneficial, studies have shown missing or altering the practice every once in a while will not derail the progress made in creating the routine (Arlinghaus & Johnston, 2018).
– What’s one way you can improve your emotional self-care?
– How will you start implementing this change? When, where, how. Be specific!
We’ll discuss the third pillar in the next lesson: social self-care.