The mind-body connection is deeper than we realize. As research reveals how intrinsically connected mental and physical health are, it’s important for us to do regular check-ups for our emotional wellbeing as well.
Our body is where our emotional, spiritual and physical existence meet. Therefore, self-care at the emotional level also involves the body and lifestyle.
We may have many breakthroughs in therapy, practice affirmations and change patterns. But the body is where all these changes are assimilated. The body thus, could give the first clues of a disturbed emotional health.
Here is a checklist that can help you assess your physical and emotional health on a regular basis.
Basics: Are you running on reserve?
Before we look at our emotional landscape, we need to start with the basics. Our physical routine and quality of life, can reveal a lot more about our emotional wellbeing, than we acknowledge. Here is a quick list to ensure you are taking care of your basic needs and making note of areas that need extra attention.
- How is your appetite? Are you eating on time?
- Do you experience unease, gas, bloating or any digestive symptoms? How long have you felt this way?
- Do you include portions from all food groups?
- Is food a source of joy or stress in your life?
- What is your soul food—something that you enjoy eating that also leaves you feeling nourished and wholesome?
- What is the quality of your sleep?
- Do you feel rested and relaxed in the morning?
- Would a quick nap during the day add to your overall sense of wellbeing? Or is your midday nap making you lethargic?
- Do you have nightmares/recurrent dreams? What do you think they mean for you?
- Do you spend a few minutes before sleeping to set your room, pillows, wear comfy clothes or do you crash into your bed?
You deserve a relaxing space to rest after a long day. Spend a few extra minutes to unwind physically and mentally to ease into restful sleep.
Experts recommend 10-30 mins of sunlight, several times a week. Those with darker skin may need more. Sunlight impacts not just our vitamin doses and blood sugar, but also the serotonin level in our brain and gut. A dip in serotonin is linked to depression and other mental ailments.
- How much direct sunlight do you get in a day?
- When and where can you get these few minutes of sunlight on you?
Your body needs movement, not just to stay fit, but to feel safe and relaxed. While cardio-exercises have a host of benefits, indulging in deliberate slow movements, in the likes of yoga, tai chi, or simply moving in a self-soothing way to relaxing music, can calm the autonomic nervous system; regulate the heart rate and also decrease cortisol levels.
Studies reveal that the lack of option to move (fight or flee) during a stressful event can often lead to trauma.
- How often does your body feel relaxed and fluid to move as it pleases?
- Do you have permission to take up space, walk abreast, move, bend, jump, feel playful in your body?
- Does your work or habit restrict free movement, wherein you hold your body stiff or motionless for long?
- Do you feel stress or tension at any part of your body?
- Get up now and move as your body pleases. Do you sense any fear, muscle tension, or lack of permission to move freely?
A few things you can try:
- Try different movements, like rocking back and forth, moving your arms in the air, lying on the ground and gently moving your legs or feet. What feels good and relaxing?
- Try movements that young children engage in to self-soothe.
- Try to walk barefoot on the earth, muddy patch, or grass.
- Bath time can be a great self-soothing, relaxing ritual. As you bathe, allow yourself a moment to move under the shower as you please, pour down the water slower than usual as you connect with your body. Enjoy the fragrance of the soap and the physical sensation of water on your skin and its pressure on your muscles.
- On a daily basis, give yourself breaks to wriggle, shake your body as it chooses to, jump, scream; or simply move in any way that seems to release pent up energy. You could take inspiration from watching a video of swans shaking themselves to release pent up stress, after a potential fight.
Your breath is your most loyal and often underrated, companion. Being aware of your breath through the day, gives you an instant peak into your mental state.
- How is your breath now? Short and irregular? Long and deep?
- Do you pause between breaths? Is your exhalation longer or inhalation?
- Do you pause breathing (a common trauma response), when you are stressed or receive a not-so-happy update?
- How can you remind yourself to relax your breathing and use it as a tool to connect with your body?
Emotional Health – Listen to your Body
Here are a few tips on how checking in with your body can improve your emotional health.
- Take 10 mins out to check in with yourself: scan your body for aches/tension, tune into your breath, or do a grounding exercise.
- Everytime you feel overwhelmed, step back. Take a few deep breaths. What are you feeling now (name the emotion)? Allow it to be; its okay for it to rise. If you have the time, allow it to run its course for a few minutes. Observe where in the body you feel the emotion.
- Spend 10 mins for emotional workout/brain dump. Write or state out your thoughts, feelings of anger, sadness, or fear using words. You could journal (I am angry with x or pissed that I have to take out the trash even when I have a long day); you could also scream into a pillow, physically shake or release excess stress by moving your hands and legs vigorously.
- Practice self-soothing. Do whatever makes you instantly relax. Physical movement, a bath, gently swaying in a rocking chair, or washing your face with moment-to-moment awareness. Practising any form of self-soothing activity during mid day and before sleep can reduce overall stress and bring in a sense of calm and wellbeing.
Become conscious of your lifestyle, the body’s wellbeing and the clues that the body gives. These can be valuable clues or warning signs about your emotional health.
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