We’ve had news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic almost daily for over a year and a half. The economy has major problems — hysterical, mass exit from Afghanistan, many people out of work — oh, it’s hard not to feel a little emotionally shaken about something nowadays.
Although you may hesitate to admit (or even realize) it during the chaos, emotional wellness is essential in your daily life — just as important as washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough.
Psychologists define emotional wellness as “an awareness, understanding, and acceptance of your emotions, and your ability to manage effectively through challenges and change.”
In short, emotional wellness equips you with the skills needed to absorb complex challenges that will ebb and flow throughout your life. Taking on challenge after challenge, day in and day out, is part and parcel of life — and productivity.
So what are you doing to develop and protect your emotional health? Here are some helpful practices to keep you on the right track.
1. Prioritize Physical Wellness
Entrepreneurs — seemingly more than others — think that they can burn the candle at both ends day after day and night after night, working hours that you wouldn’t curse your worst enemy with — and then they’re surprised when something breaks down in body or soul.
Your body and mind are intrinsically connected, perhaps even more so than you realize. As a result, taking care of yourself physically reduces the risk for all kinds of emotional and mental health issues, including stress, depression, and other illnesses.
Do what mama told you: Eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise — every day. Those three things can make all the difference in emotional wellness but may be difficult during a pandemic, family problems, work overwhelm, etc. Yet, moments of distress happen to everyone and make healthy routines even more necessary.
2. Tap the Power of Habit
Uncertainty hurts emotional wellness by making you feel vulnerable or like you have no control over your outcomes. But there are still things that you have control over, and your daily habits will help you see where your best power is waiting to encourage you.
It isn’t just working people who need routines to help them stay on track during the day and recharge at night. If you are depressed, out of work, a stay-at-home parent — setting and sticking to habits can revive your willpower and motivation. Habits are the key to productivity and staying well — whatever your life currently looks like. Start with the small things and only take on more when you are able.
Below are the basics that everyone can usually get under their belt to start physical and mental wellness. Get these habits down as a base and build from here.
- Wake up at a set time each morning.
- Eat a healthy breakfast.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Limit screen time, especially before bed.
- Set out clothes for the next day.
- Make and follow a to-do list.
- Have something on your list that you’re excited about each day.
Practice habits that give you pleasure, too, such as date night with your partner or friends. Don’t let whatever “hole” you are currently in, either personally or professionally, stop or prevent you from being happy.
Healthy, happy people are much more likely to be physically and emotionally stable people who work to stay well. What that statement means is essential self-care. So add self-care routines to your Calendar as a check-in reminder.
3. Use Anxiety as Fuel
It’s natural to get anxious during turbulent times in your home or nation — and we have world issues added right now. I don’t think I can stand another wildfire or hurricane, and if one more of my friends gets COVID — Jeez, we have problems. It may not be completely preventable, but you can channel anxiety into productivity when that nagging feeling strikes a blow to your senses.
Anxiety generates adrenaline, which can give you a burst of energy. For example, you can clean and organize your workspace, or you might use that itchy feeling as a chance to get some exercise or tackle a project that you want to finish.
One night the anxiety attacked — and in San Francisco, I got up and ran around and around the block. Then, I got back home — and put a big ole’ checkmark on my to-do list showing that I’d done my exercise for the next day and slept like a baby.
Once you’ve used up that anxious energy, you can think more clearly about the root cause of your anxiety (yeah, surprise, work deadlines). Taking a few moments to regroup and think — will help enable you to work through your emotions. You’ll be able to return to peak productivity — rather than turning out mediocre work as a result of unaddressed emotional turmoil.
4. Keep a Journal
Don’t underestimate the physical and emotional benefits of keeping a journal. Journaling helps you make sense out of the circumstances you’re going through. Whether it’s office politics, the ongoing pandemic rhetoric, a boss that is on you for every little thing — a coworker that won’t shut up, or your sick kid, each new issue can give you an interesting way to frame your reflections in a journal.
Your journal can be as simple as a bulleted list. You can write about what you hope to get done in the day — or your writing may be as complex as a stream-of-consciousness narration of what’s bothering or confusing you. I like to have a big long story of complaints and make them sound as desperate and whinny as possible.
Through the act of journaling, you may find it easier to recount your emotions and deal with them honestly — in the comfort and security of a lined notebook page. Just an FYI — I write so much that people get curious about what I’m writing about, and they wonder if I’m “saying” something about them. I have had a few curfuffles in this area (more than one person has “peeked” at my writing).
So — take a leaf out of my book and lock up your journal writing complaints. No one else should be privy to this information unless you want them to — this writing is just for you.
5. Know Your Limits
It can be easy to feel like you aren’t doing enough during any stressful time. But, unfortunately, the feeling that you aren’t doing enough is not where you want your headspace for heightened productivity — and can lead you to overwork (again, heads up entrepreneurs everywhere).
When you overcompensate with your schedule and load it up with non-essentials, you’re asking to have trouble in another area of your life. Overloading your Calendar with tasks will only diminish your emotional wellness.
There are only 24 hours in a day, so you have to prioritize your work schedule or life schedule (and for these, these are not the same). Based on your values and goals, pick realistic items to put on your to-do list and commit to them. Be sure also to schedule downtime to refocus and recharge.
6. Make Time to Connect
Indeed, you can push connections aside. Surely you cannot. As it turns out, connecting with others outside of work is essential to your emotional well-being.
There are many ways to connect with others. Check up on your neighbors with a phone call or a text, FaceTime some friends you haven’t seen in a while. Write a letter to a family member who lives across the country. These are connections you may not be thinking of as connections — but they are.
Whatever you do, don’t think social media is enough. Studies have shown that “likes” and shares provide an endorphin high, but they do not produce the depth of connection that you need.
Work for connections that provide you with the emotional fuel that you need to keep going. You can only keep about five of those close connections in a sustained way. Even your connections must be balanced. Find and cultivate relationships that make life fun — help you stay healthy — and that can help you with your goals, such as further your career.
Staying well physically and mentally is essential. You have to prioritize early and well to come off victorious. You wouldn’t go into a physical race without training or preparation, yet you think you can do this life race with no help. You can’t. Start concentrating on your habits first and move forward from there.
Image Credit: matheus bertelli; pexels; thank you!