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Sticks and stones will break my bones but…

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Do you know the recommendations for how many times a week you should exercise? Could you tell me how often you should brush your teeth? What about what you should do if you burn your hand on a hot pan? I imagine you could. You probably teach your children these things too. Likely, it wouldn’t even cross your mind not to. It’s taken as a given that we should take care of our physical health.

So what if I asked you how you take care of you emotional health? In my experience the most common response is a blank stare. At best people have to stop and think about what they do. It’s not automatic like the answers to questions about physical health. There is a tendency to value physical health over mental health and it’s time to make a change.

For example, if you cut your arm and I suggested you gouge at it to see how much worse you could make it, you’d think me preposterous. Yet, the majority of people do the emotional equivalent of this without even realising what they are doing. 

How often have you called yourself a ‘silly fool’, an ‘idiot’, or ‘stupid’ after making a mistake? When you go on a date that doesn’t work out and you think to yourself that it must be because of your terrible chat or huge thighs? At your annual appraisal your boss gives you 10 positives and 1 area of  improvement and you go home berating yourself for having done so badly? 

This kind of critical self-talk causes and exacerbates emotional distress and is extremely damaging to your self-esteem. Low self-esteem is a risk factor for poor mental health. It might come as more of a surprise to you that low self-esteem is directly linked to physical health problems including hypertension, IBS, and migraine as well as poor mental health, such as stress, anxiety, and depression.

It takes just 2 minutes of distraction to change negative patterns of thinking. Doing this to interrupt your negative self-talk for just one week can be enough to not only heal emotional wounds, but also to build emotional resilience. 

3 easy ways to get started:                                                                                                                                                  

1) When your catch yourself feeling stressed or talking to yourself like the school bully, stop and think of 10 things you are grateful for. 

2) Do 10 minutes of mindfulness per day. You’ll find a guide here

3) Take time for some breathing exercises. There’s an app for that here

It’s time to respond to emotional injuries like failure, rejection or hurt in the same way that we respond to physical ones like cuts and bruises. Start practicing emotional hygiene yourself, teach your children, model for your colleagues. It’s time for the era of ‘shake it off, it’s all in your head’ to come to an end.

Big thanks to this week’s guest Headblogger, Clinical Psychologist and member of the Headtorch Advisory Board, Linda Craig.

There’s still time to take part in the World Mental Health Day Campaign – join us!

 

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