Happy Valentine’s Day, Plante Lifers!
Last week, we pressed pause on overcommitting because of how it affects our overall health. When we’re stretched too thin and in constant go-go-go mode, it’s easy to brush off what seem like minor symptoms because we think, “I’m too busy for this. I’ll deal with it later.” In fact, women especially become so used to their discomfort that it almost feels normal.
But in some ways, physical pain is easier…
With a physical wound, you make an effort to mitigate the damage. If you’re bleeding, you’re definitely going to grab a Band-Aid. If you burn your hand on the stove, you’re going to try to soothe the pain immediately. But what about emotional wounds? We tend to ignore them because they are “invisible” and we think we should be able to simply “get over it” or “move on”. When we can’t, we see it as a sign of weakness.
We experience emotional trauma ALL the time — rejection, failure, loss, guilt, and those obsessive thoughts on repeat in your head, so you need to be prepared to take care of trauma before it becomes a bigger issue. Now, I don’t have a giant metaphorical Band-Aid for your heart and soul, but I do have some strategies to apply to your emotional wounds.
Here are my Top 5 favorite ways to apply Emotional First Aid – STAT!
Why do we ignore our inner pain? A friend shared a post on Instagram with me recently where the author, Jayne Matthews, resolved to stop being “terminally unique” in 2019, to stop thinking that her struggles were so special, so unique that no one else could possibly share or understand them. And that everyone else had life figured out but her.
I think it is this feeling — call it ego, pride, self-doubt, whatever — that prevents us from seeking help when we need it most. While we’re all original rockstars ????,true badass babes — it’s also true that so many of our struggles are shared by our fellow women, and through self-awareness, vulnerability and connection, we can work out any solution together.
This is why I love the concept of Emotional First Aid. Coined by psychologist and author Guy Winch, the concept is simple: emotional trauma is like physical trauma; it needs to be treated and fast, or it will have a greater negative impact on our lives down the road. And because we experience emotional trauma more often — like breakups, losing a friend or a job, grieving the death of a loved one or pet — we need to be that much more in tune with our mind and spirit in order to resolve and heal our pain.
Here is what Winch qualifies as emotional trauma:
- Brooding and Rumination
- Low Self-Esteem
If left unresolved, emotional trauma can lead you to act self-destructively and on impulse, become overwhelmed by guilt, shame or sadness, abuse substances in an effort to numb the pain, or withdraw altogether. And you may not even realize why! So, it’s important to build yourself a little first aid kit for your heart.
Here are a few important things to include:
1) Cancel Your Subscription To Negative Self-Talk
Negative self-talk is hands down the go-to reaction from my clients whenever they cannot accomplish what they want as fast as they want. It’s so easy to fall back on name calling or criticism when we fail or feel rejected, but how can you expect to heal emotional trauma when you’re inflicting more on yourself constantly?
Start by reframing how you interpret failure. Write down all the negative statements you’re making and then create a counter argument.
I’m such a loser, no one wants to date me. → I am awesome, and I need to be with someone who I connect with.
Of course, I lost that project to Susan. I cannot do anything right. → I am a talented, hard worker and now I am open to accepting a better opportunity.
Once you’re able to curb the criticism and replace it with more positive language and affirmations, turn your attention toward the things you can control. You cannot control whether you get a promotion, but you can control the effort you dedicate to your current workload. You may not feel or look as fit as you want yet, but you can control what you’re eating and how often you’re exercising. When you take actions towards a goal, it builds your motivation, not the other way around, and it has a powerful impact on your mental well-being and ability to handle setbacks.
2) Make Discomfort Your B!%*h!
Nothing will work unless you do. This quote has been attributed to everyone from Maya Angelou to Albert Einstein, but I’m going to give the credit here to Mother Nature, because it is the simple law of inertia. You’re going to have to put in the effort to resolve emotional trauma, and it’s going to be hard (but totally worth it too!).
We can get very attached to our unhealthy coping mechanisms, so replacing them with better strategies will 100% be uncomfortable at first. To help you handle that scary rollercoaster of change, adopt the mindset of a beginner. Emotional first aid is all about the TLC, so this practice of cutting yourself some slack will help you open your heart to healing vibes.
3) Make Your Own Spice Girls Reunion
It’s time for some serious girl power! Going back to that idea of being too “terminally unique”, start having conversations with your friends about what’s on your mind. I guarantee you will be surprised by how many of them share the same worries and stress but just have never said anything. (It’s probably because we’re all running around thinking we’re the only one winging it!)
Loneliness is also a common form of emotional trauma that doesn’t get nearly enough attention in our society. Almost half of all Americans view themselves as lonely. There is so much research on the negative effect loneliness has on our physical and mental health, like an increased risk for illness, depression and impaired cognition.
And it can be more subtle than you think. We’ve all probably had a close friend who suddenly dropped off the radar after getting into a new relationship, leaving us feeling left out and bummed out. Having an outlet to create new social connections is essential — so if the girl band can’t get back together, look for places to volunteer, a local art class, a new dance class or try something new with a Meetup group.
4) Distractions Are A Girl’s Best Friend
Psychiatrist and pioneer in dealing with the psychological effects of loss, Dr. Colin Murray Parkes wrote that grief is the price for love. There is no timeline for coming to a place of peace with the loss of a loved one, and everyone handles loss differently. But one thing is standard: positive distraction is an effective way to disrupt the pattern of rumination (and negative self-talk). According to Winch: “Studies show that even two minutes of distraction will reduce the urge to focus on the negative unhealthily.”
So build yourself a little distraction kit. Like to knit? Have those needles on hand. Download your favorite feel-good movies on your Kindle; Amazon and iTunes are always offering discounts on classic comedies. Create a playlist of booty-poppin’ tunes for an impromptu dance party. Book an appointment for a relaxing massage. Bookmark your favorite online illustrator’s website or follow a cartoonist on Instagram and scroll through their work whenever you need an on-the-go solution.
It’s not outta sight, outta mind forever; it’s just a mental detour down a scenic route back to more positive thoughts and feelings. 😉
5) Bust A Move
Combine the physical with the mental by incorporating movement into your daily schedule. Exercise is one of my top five Vital Foods, foods that really feed your body and soul. In addition to being a good distraction, there is a correlation between physical activity and our brain function. Exercise helps our minds get the nutrients it needs to run efficiently, understand and communicate information, and regulate our mood. As a result, we work smarter, sleep better and look and feel like the badasses we truly are. You don’t have to go hardcore; try out some gentle yoga or Tai Chi and bliss out on the endorphins.
On a last note, I want to say that any form of trauma can be serious stuff, and if you are noticing you cannot handle it on your own, please seek the help of a professional counselor or therapist who can give you the attention and advice you need to bounce back stronger, more self-loving and self-aware than ever.
How do you provide yourself with Emotional First Aid? Do you feel you’ve handled emotional trauma in the past positively or negatively? Which of these strategies will you try first? Let me know in the comments below!