Mental Health Monday: Emotional First Aid

“. . . the emotional first-aid is never about resolving the problem that you’re ruminating about, but settling your emotional state.”

Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fixing-families/202003/5-causes-emotional-explosions

When I feel I’m faced with an emotional obstacle, it feels like nothing but solving that problem will make me feel better.

Yet, over and over again, I see that no matter how upset I am, eating or resting usually makes the problem I’m facing seem less dire.

Can you imagine the difficulty, though? Maybe my heart is broken, or I lost my job, or I truly feel my life is falling apart, and the advice is “eat a sandwich,” or “take a nap.” It’s hard to take advice that feels like it’s disregarding the problem at hand. It’s hard to trust that something so tiny will make a difference in this overwhelming feeling.

So. How do you do it?

Notice

My anxiety has spiked in the past two years. But a pattern emerged: anxiety, nap, relief.

I have also noticed that I get argumentative just before or at mealtimes. Whatever I was so upset about usually goes away once I eat.

In another blog post, I will discuss the more elaborate way I have gone about noticing what coping mechanisms are most effective for me.

Verbalize

Each time I noticed an improved feeling, I would say to myself why I thought I had recovered.

“Taking a nap improves my anxiety.”

“Eating something helps my emotional state.”

Or sometimes I go even simpler, I say, “I know it’s hard to believe, but making yourself feel better is more important than the problem.”

One of the most effective, yet most vulnerable parts of verbalizing is telling other people about this need. I expressed to my close friends that hunger can be a catalyst for negative emotions. So, when I reach out to them, they know they can ask me “Have you eaten?” as a way to help when I can’t come up with that question on my own.

Practice

As with any situational habit, I think the key is transitioning from noticing AFTER to noticing BEFORE.

After

The more times I said to myself “Taking a nap improves my anxiety,” the easier it was to remember that thought when my anxiety was paralyzing me.

During

I will have a thought like, “I feel so terrible, and I don’t know what to do,” then I remember I do have something I can do! I can rest. Or eat. Or whatever coping mechanism it is.

Before

But the best outcome is that I take care of needs before my mental health becomes so severe that it’s difficult. Self-care before I feel terrible, and perhaps stave off the depression sometimes.

Question

Do you agree with the quote at the top of this post? What’s your experience?

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