Emotional hygiene refers to maintaining strong and healthy mental health. Oftentimes, this is a part of our health we tend to forget or put aside yet it is always present in all we do. Psychological injuries happen when we feel rejected, threatened or cheated. This blog is inspired by the work of psychologist Guy Winch and will explore how we can maintain our emotional health.
“You can’t treat a psychological wound if you don’t know you’re injured.” Pay attention for any signs of emotional injury, when you feel lonely, hurt, angry, sad. These are signs that your mental health is being tested. Next, pay attention to how you manifest this emotion. What is your reaction to this emotion?
Very often when we experience negative emotions, we feel like we have failed, and this feeling of failure can convince us that we can never succeed. We need to fight this helplessness and regain control over our emotions. Otherwise, if we experience a similar setback in the future, we risk convincing ourselves that because we could not do it in the past, you cannot do it now either. Such negative thinking risks further damaging your self-esteem and what you believe you are capable of doing. The sooner you break a negative cycle, the less serious it becomes.
A technique you can implement when such negative emotions appear is to work hard on not allowing the feelings and thoughts to ruminate in your brain, thus risking them taking over and becoming ever bigger. Instead, make an effort not to dwell on them and distract yourself with activities that you enjoy. Be compassionate towards yourself, acknowledge your limitations but also remember that you have other qualities and talents. This failure does not mean you are a failure, simply that you experienced one.
The biggest benefit of taking care of your emotional hygiene is that you allow yourself the possibility of repairing a psychological injury before it has the opportunity to grow and fester. Just as you would tend to a broken arm, so should you tend to negative emotions experienced from challenging experiences. The results of tending to your emotional hygiene are that you become more aware of your needs, become more resilient, and more prepared to face new emotional challenges.
For more on your emotional hygiene, have a listen to Guy Winch’s Ted talk (add the below as a hyperlink please) https://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_why_we_all_need_to_practice_emotional_first_aid/details?referrer=playlist-how_to_practice_emotional_first_aid#t-647853
Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.