When we are vulnerable to our emotions, overreacting to small triggers and to life challenges is very common. Research shows that our health habits are strongly connected to our emotional vulnerability. For example, if I only sleep 5 hours, drink two cups of coffee, forget to eat during the day, and procrastinate at work, I find that I am more reactive and emotional. I might lash out when my partner complains that I did not load the dishwasher correctly, curse at the person who cuts me off on the highway, or shut down when someone gives me negative feedback at work. Anger, shame, anxiety, and sadness become more intense and harder to manage. As a result, my judgement and decision making becomes ineffective.
So how do we reduce the risk of having our emotions control us? Healthy habits are an important part of reducing emotional vulnerability.
Select one of the six health habits below to work on over the next week. Set a goal and monitor your progress. When you have mastered one area, pick another goal to work on. Remember we need to stay “S. T. R. O. N. G” to effectively manage our emotions.
- Sleep as much as you need – not too much, not too little. Set a bedtime and block off 7 – 8 hours per night for sleep.
- Give yourself plenty of time to wind down before bedtime. You might consider taking a hot bath or shower one hour before bedtime and then reading for 30 minutes. Sometimes I wind down by reading short articles on my phone.
- If you choose to watch a TV show, select shows that are 30 minutes. Do not select a 2-hour movie or an exciting novel. It is very difficult to stop watching a movie or reading a good book in 30 minutes.
- Practice a mindfulness exercise called, “Counting your Breath” for 5 minutes before bedtime. Breathing exercises can help calm the mind and body.
- Take care of your health! If you are sick, take the day off and make sure to rest and eat healthfully. If you have a headache or backache, take Tylenol or Motrin. Do not tough it out. If you haven’t had a physical or dental exam in the past year, schedule an appointment!
- Resist the use of alcohol or marijuana to relax or caffeine to wake up. Do not use cigarettes or illegal substances. Regular use of alcohol, marijuana or caffeine, even in moderation can cause emotional vulnerability whereas the abuse of these substances can induce mood disorders and sleep disorders.
- To wake up in the morning without caffeine: Drink a large glass of water, wash your face with cold water, and do a short 5-minute work out such as jogging in place, push-ups, sit-ups or stretches. *When I wake up, I drink a strong cup of homemade ginger root, honey, and lemon tea. Ginger has been used for thousands of years to reduce fatigue because it increases circulation.
- To relax in the evening without alcohol or marijuana: Go for a walk, meditate, or engage in fun hobbies that take the edge off.
- If you smoke cigarettes or vape, get on a smoking cessation program!
- Once a day, do something that gives you a feeling of being in control. For example, set a realistic to-do list and complete it each day. You might also create a morning and/or bedtime routine that includes 3 – 5 rituals such as journaling, meditating for 10 minutes, loading the dishwasher and vacuuming the house, exercising for 20 minutes, or drinking a warm cup of decaf coffee or tea in the morning.
- Nutrition – eat a balanced diet, don’t over or under eat. Keep your blood sugar balanced. Avoid junk food and fast food. Try to focus on eating whole foods rather than processed foods.
- Set a goal to meal prep for the week on Sunday. *My clients who meal prep make significant improvements managing their mood.
- Set a goal to observe and manage your emotions around food. Do not make decisions about food based on your emotional state. Many people overeat when they are having fun or when they are bored or stressed. Some people do not eat at all when they are stressed.
- Pack healthy snacks and keep them in your car or bag so you have no excuse to eat processed or fast foods due to hunger.
- Get exercise – try to do 20 minutes of exercise each day. Research shows that exercise helps improve depression and anxiety more than medication! 20 minutes of exercise might include walking, cleaning the house, or working out at the gym. Remember exercise can include any activity so be creative.
- It is critical to exercise each day to release stress hormones that build up in the body. The only way to effectively release stress hormones is by sweating and urinating so also drink plenty of water (6- 8 cups)!
Contact me: If you need help reducing emotional vulnerability and setting goals to change your health habits, contact me through my website and we can schedule an appointment.