Caring for Our Emotional Hearts
By Lue Turner, mentor, Genesee Valley Center
April 24, 2014
We hear a lot about caring for our hearts and bodies physically, but what about caring for our hearts emotionally? What are simple ways we can take care of ourselves amid all the challenges, pressures and stresses that also are part of life? How can we do self-care with so many other demands on us?
Imagine a large empty cylinder being filled slowly with rice. The rice represents all the things we are trying to manage in life: school, stress, relationships, aging parents, children, work and so on. The container can be pretty full of rice. Now imagine you have some small rubber balls that represent all the things we know we need to do, or can do, to take care of ourselves or manage stress. The balls can represent eating healthily, getting enough sleep, exercise, and even getting the oil changed in the car. When we put those balls of self-care in the cylinder on top of the rice the balls overflow and cannot fit in. This is often how our lives are. We are so busy with all of the things we are trying to manage that we have no “room” to take care of ourselves.
There are small things we can do, however, that do not take much time and can have a big impact on our emotional well-being.
- Saying “No” to something occasionally. When we say no to something we are actually saying “Yes” to something else. Saying “no” to a TV show may mean we are saying “yes” to an hour of study time, or reading a book to a child.
- Asking for help and accepting help. Let others show off their talents for you. We all know people that are skilled at doing things—let them do some of that for you in the form of help.
- Keep it simple. There is no need to make everything a big production. Keeping things simple (such as birthday party or family gathering) actually reduces stress.
- Adjust expectations. No one is superhuman. Be realistic. The question to answer is “Am I doing the best I can, given the frame of mind I am in, given the resources I have, and given the circumstances I am faced with?”
- Turn off the phone. Having some uninterrupted time means getting something done.
- Have a schedule and make others aware of it. Be sure to schedule time with loved ones, along with study time. When loved ones know when they will get their time they will be much more accommodating to the time you need to spend on other activities. Also, schedule what is rejuvenating to you; not as a reward, but as something to keep you going along the way.
- Think positive. Remember that we do not “automatically” react to things with emotions. There is always a thought we have first and it is paying attention to that thought which helps us regulate our behavior in those times we feel “out of control.”
- Talk to others. We are never alone in what we are going through. Sometimes just by sharing our thoughts we find understanding and kindness from others.
Now imagine that cylinder again. The balls that represent the ways we take care of ourselves emotionally are put into the cylinder first. Then the rice that represents all things we are trying to manage in life gets poured in—the exact same amount of rice as before. Guess what? Everything fits. When we care for our emotional hearts first, everything else in life falls into place.