Emotional Self-Care

Emotional Self-Care

Rose MacDowell

There are many kinds of self-care including mental, financial, physical, and emotional. What is emotional self-care? Emotional self care means becoming aware of your emotional needs and making healthy decisions that honor those needs.

Look up "self-care meaning" and you may find the results confusing. What does emotional self-care actually look like, and how can you practice it in a way that works for you? How can you reap the rewards of self-care, such as improved concentration and feeling more grounded? 

Let's look at how to put emotional self-care into practice for a happier and more productive life.

Why Is Self-Care Important? 

Self-care helps you to live authentically, in tune with your needs. You can give up behaviors that don't serve you, such as people pleasing, suppressing emotions, or using food or alcohol to avoid feelings.

Studies show that self-care can help to reduce anxiety and depression, lower stress, boost happiness, improve your energy, and make relationships more fulfilling. Self-care allows you to cultivate a stable core within yourself that is less subject to the demands and moods of others. You put yourself first, not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that honors your value and gifts.    

How To Practice Self-Care

An emotional self-care plan should include several steps to help you increase your self awareness and recognize your emotional triggers. Here are some emotional self-care essentials to incorporate into your daily life:

Learn To Say Yes -- To Yourself. Number one on any emotional self-care checklist is to learn to yes to your own needs and desires. Many of us have been trained to put the needs of others ahead of our own, a habit that can lead to burn-out, anxiety, and feelings of resentment.

When you learn to say yes to yourself, we check in with yourself before you say yes to other people. You're honest about how much time and energy you have to spare, and say yes to your needs before taking care of the needs of friends, family, co-workers, or anyone else in your life. 

Develop Emotional Intelligence. Emotional intelligence helps you to observe and understand your own emotions. To develop emotional intelligence, monitor your feelings in different situations with different people.

Instead of reacting from an emotional state, try to regulate your feelings and respond from a place of awareness and control. Part of emotional intelligence is being able to give a name to your feelings as they arise, and learning to control your emotions without suppressing them. 

Learn To Recognize Your Emotional Triggers. Emotional self-care means knowing your emotional triggers and being able to manage or avoid them when necessary.

Are you triggered by being tired or overworked? Maybe your emotional buttons are pushed by family members, your partner, or children. When you recognize your emotional triggers, you can learn to control your stress and step away from situations before you become reactive. 

Create Healthy Boundaries. Boundaries are about cultivating healthy separateness from other people. This does not mean that you don't have close relationships, but that you can say no when necessary and don't allow the lines to blur between your life and the lives of others. You can take care of people when it's appropriate, but without sacrificing yourself in the process. You don't try to control others, or allow them to control you. 

You limit "I'm sorry." Apologizing for things that aren't your fault or you aren't genuinely sorry for is a way of not being true to yourself. You may say "I'm sorry, but" before expressing your feelings or disagreeing with someone to diminish what you say.

By saying I'm sorry too often, you take responsibility for the choices of others, or for situations no one can control. Be aware of how often you apologize, and try to limit it to times when you feel genuine remorse. 

Become Aware Of Self-Talk. The language you use when you talk to yourself has a profound impact on your self-esteem. Notice the words you choose when you speak to yourself. Are you often negative or critical? Are you positive and supportive? Speak to yourself as you would a child in your care, with understanding, encouragement, and forgiveness. 

Listen To Your Body. Our bodies give us clues to our emotions. If you're not sure how you feel, pay attention to your body. Is your stomach in knots? Are you short of breath? Is your heart pounding? Your body will usually tell you when someone has crossed a boundary, or isn't safe to be vulnerable with.

Listening to your body is similar to listening to your instincts, your subconscious alert system that can read subtle signals and cues in the behavior of others.

Don't Overexplain. Many of us feel we need to explain our decisions, whether we're saying no to an invitation or making a choice for ourselves. Self-care means not feeling the need to justify, make excuses, or overexplain our decisions to others.

You can make choices and draw boundaries without rationalizing them to anyone, particularly people who aren't close to you or won't be affected by your decisions.   

Protect Your Energy. Emotional self-care takes energy. Reserve your energy for people and situations that don't drain you or make you feel overwhelmed. You have the right to save time and resources for yourself, and aren't obligated to always pick up the phone, do favors for others, be a friend's only emotional support, or organize family events. 

Accept Compliments. Allow yourself to accept compliments graciously without dismissing or diminishing them. Practice simply saying, "thank you," when someone compliments or praises you, and letting yourself take in positive words. 

Ask For Help. Sometimes self-care means realizing you can't do everything by yourself. Practicing asking for help without the expectation that other people should help you if they aren't able to or don't have the time. 

Don't "Catch" Emotions. Emotional self-care means allowing other people to have and express their feelings without needing to feel those emotions ourselves.

If you often find the moods of others contagious, practice strengthening your boundaries. Remind yourself that other people can have their feelings and you can have yours. You don't need to experience their emotions to be empathetic, supportive, and understanding.