by Dr Augustine Panchoo
In many circles, the month of May is designated as Mental Health Month. Therefore, I will pen a series of helpful tips which hopefully can help us through this difficult period.
Allow yourself to feel. Sometimes there are societal pressures that encourage people to shut down their emotions, often expressed through statements like, “Big girls don’t cry,” or “Man up.” These outdated ideas are harmful, not helpful. Everyone has emotions — they are part of the human experience — and you have every right to feel them, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socio-economic status, race, political affiliation or religion.
Do not ignore how you are feeling. Most of us have heard the term “bottling up your feelings” before. When we try to push feelings aside without addressing them, they build strength and make us more likely to explode at some point in the future. It may not always be appropriate to process your emotions at the very moment you are feeling them but try to do so as soon as you can.
Talk it out. Find someone you trust that you can talk to about how you are feeling. You may find that people are eager to share about similar experiences they have had or times that they have felt the way that you are feeling. This can be helpful, but if you are really only interested in having someone listen, it’s okay to tell them that.
Build your emotional vocabulary. When asked about our feelings, most people will usually use words like bad, sad, mad, good, or fine. But at the root of “good, bad, sad, mad, or fine” are many words that better describe how we feel. Try building your emotional vocabulary by writing down as many “feeling” words as you can think of and think of a time that you felt that way.
Try journaling. Each day/night write down at least 3 feelings you had over the course of the day and what caused them. It does not need to be a “Dear Diary” kind of thing. Just a few sentences or bullet points to help you practice being comfortable with identifying and expressing your emotions.
Consider the strength of your feelings. By thinking about how intense your emotions are, you may realise that what you thought you were feeling at first could better be described by another word. For instance, sometimes a person might say they are stressed when what they are really experiencing is something less severe like annoyance; alternatively, anger might really be a stronger, deeper feeling, like betrayal.
See a mental health professional. If you are taking steps to be more in touch with your feelings, but are having trouble dealing with them, mental health providers like counselors and therapists have been trained to help. Some free or low-cost options are provided by some professionals. Some churches do have persons who can help you navigate these emotionally draining times. Make a call, reach out to someone who might be able to direct you.
Dr Augustine Panchoo is a clinical psychologist and can be reached at WhatsApp #473-406-3601 or email: [email protected]
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