A First Step to Emotional Self-Care

If you’ve flown commercially, you’ve heard a flight attendant instruct what do during loss of cabin pressure:  put on your oxygen mask first.  The reason is simple – if we don’t take care of us we won’t be available to help others.
It’s important to take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and socially. Of these, emotional well-being may be the most important.  It’s difficult to keep balanced in other aspects of our life when we are out of balance emotionally.
When something upsetting happens, we tend to enter a mental/emotional whirlwind.  Judgment thoughts stimulate anger, fear, guilt or shame.  These feelings stimulate more judgments, which further intensify the feelings, until we are in an emotional tornado and either flee or fight.
Emotional self care begins with learning how to break out of this storm.  Here’s a process that may help:
Step 1.  Recall an upsetting event, perhaps something you or someone said or did. Describe what actually happened without including judgment.


She said ___.” instead of “She’s selfish (or other judgment).

I applied my brakes to avoid hitting him.” instead of “That jerk cut me off.

Step 2.  Go into your body and notice any upset sensation. Perhaps it’s a tightness, heaviness, or nervousness.  Don’t name or describe it; just experience the sensation.  If you find yourself mentally telling a story or judging, return your attention to the feeling.   Keep your attention on the bodily sensations for at least three breaths.
Step 3.  Think of something you appreciate. It could be a pet, a person, a place, an object, or an event.
Step 4.  Go into your body and notice how it feels when you consider this thing you appreciate. Just experience the sensation as fully as you can for at least three breaths.
Repeat the steps once or twice.  You may notice less upset feelings and judging.  It’s okay if not; you’ve still stepped outside the storm to restore emotional balance.
Build your emotional “muscle” by practicing with minor upsets such as discourteous drivers, etc.  Work your way up to more upsetting situations, usually involving those closest to you.

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