Updated: Dec 10, 2019
What if we prioritized our mental health the way we do with brushing our teeth? What if we taught our kids to do this the way we teach them to wipe their butt and take a bath. It's not just about how we smell and look, it's about how we feel too!
Maybe it’s the term “Mental Health” that throws everybody off. Maybe it’s only the word “mental." So, let’s not call it that right now. Let’s see if we can eliminate the stigma, at least while you’re reading right now. Let’s look at it more as working out, but strengthening and training your brain, not your body. (Though, those can go hand-in-hand sometimes!) Emotional Workout? Brain workout? I call it Emotional Hygiene but that doesn’t sound enticing either, does it? What about Emotional Well-being? How about Overall Health? Brain Health? Emotional Health? Or how about we just admit we aren’t robots?
Emotional Hygiene is the act of prioritizing emotional self-awareness to nurture one's mental health. Once we prioritize our emotional and mental health, we are able to figure out what works to keep ourselves centered and balanced.
I'm so sick of hearing people apologize for "being emotional." You're a human being! You have emotions. I think when people say that, they're really apologizing for crying or being upset about something. Which again, you are not a robot, therefore you have emotions. Somehow, we can get together with our friends and express our hardships, many of which are emotional. But for whatever reason, we have fear that if someone finds out you go to therapy, you’ll be judged or that something must be wrong with you. I look at it as the opposite. You’re choosing to manage your hard life and your real emotions. That’s a good thing. That’s a strong thing. You care about your thoughts, your lifestyle, your emotional wellbeing. You’re practicing Emotional Hygiene. You’re working-out!
I want to explain the therapeutic process. Therapy can be a great way to practice emotional hygiene. I’m not saying this because I am a therapist and I want more business. I am saying this as a human being who has struggled through this hard life, as have you, and has chosen to admit that I may need help from time to time. Many therapists become therapists because they have received such life-changing help and they want to pass it on. While my experiences haven’t been the one and only reason I became a therapist, it has always been life-changing and worth every penny. I know for many, especially adolescents, you may have no idea what therapy looks like or what the experience is like. I can only speak for myself as a therapist and my experience as a client.
For me, therapy is a place that you can express your inner, private thoughts with comfort and safety. Therapy is a place where judgement is not present. Similar to writing in your journal but you receive validation and helpful responses. Therapy is a place that vulnerability actually feels good instead of weak. A place where relief is overwhelming, and security is provided. Therapy is a place where you are challenged as a human so that productivity and positive progress is made to achieve overall emotional stability and wellbeing. They don’t teach conflict resolution in high school. We are not taught to prioritize our self-care and wellbeing. In therapy, learning how to be the human you desire to be in this world, while living your hard life is achieved.
Many times, the process has a successful, productive and positive outcome. When clients participate and genuinely want help for growth, the outcome is positive. When clients are not fully invested or possibly forced to attend therapy (like many teenagers,) the outcome is not as successful.
So how does one practice emotional hygiene? Self care. It seems to be the buzz word right now. It's a real thing and an extremely important thing.
We need to BE MORE to do more rather than do more to be more.
“But isn’t it selfish of me to take out time of the day to do what I want to do?” “I don’t want to be selfish. I don’t want to go to the party/work event/obligation, isn’t it selfish of me to choose to stay home and relax instead?” It all depends on one thing. Consideration. If you make all of your “self-care” needs decisions based solely on yourself and what you want to do at that moment without taking others into consideration, you’re being selfish. We have to be careful not to do something selfish by justifying it and convincing ourselves that it’s “self-care.” (Which many of us are guilty of doing.)
But if you are lacking balance in your life and need to set aside time for you to center yourself because you’re about to lose your effing mind, that is truly self-care. Training your brain, working-out. Or if you like my phrase, Emotional Hygiene. Whatever you want to call it, you are concentrating on how to be the best version of yourself WITH the consideration of those you care for in your life.