Emotional wellness is not about being happy all the time – it’s about being able to handle the wide range of emotions we all experience and to manage day-to-day stress in effective and healthy ways.
We all experience ups and downs in life — days when the sun is shining and we’re full of energy and happiness, and other times when stress and life’s challenges seem to pile up and bring us down. How we navigate through all of these emotions and manage our stress has to do with our emotional wellness.
Emotional wellness is an important part of your overall health and well-being and is one of the six pillars of wellness. Check out the tips below to figure out how to improve your emotional wellness and manage your emotions in effective and healthy ways.
What Is Emotional Wellness?
According to the National Institutes of Health, emotional wellness is the ability to successfully handle life’s stresses and adapt to change and difficult times. Emotional wellness is not about being happy all the time – it’s about being able to handle the wide range of emotions we all experience and manage day-to-day stress in effective and healthy ways.
Emotional wellness can affect all aspects of your life. It can influence your ability to perform well at work, your relationships with the people around you, your desire to carry out everyday activities, and more. Emotional wellness can even have an effect on your physical health and well-being.
How Does Emotional Wellness Impact My Health?
When we don’t have effective ways to manage our emotions and allow stress to build up, it can lead to a wide range of health effects, including:
- High blood pressure
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Stress on the heart
- Increased inflammation
- Difficulty sleeping
- Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking heavily and eating foods high in fat, sugar and salt content
These health effects increase our risk for conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
How Can I Improve My Emotional Wellness?
Because emotional wellness is an integral part of your overall health, it’s important to have some ideas on how to improve it. Check out the tips below and see which strategies you can apply to strengthen your emotional wellness.
- Build social connections and a support system. Studies show that social connections have a large impact on our mental and physical well-being. Most of us crave connection, attention and support from others and are happier with it. Find someone you can trust to share your feelings with and expand from there. Consider joining a social group, volunteering in your community, or reaching out to a wider group of friends or associates to strengthen your connections.
- Take time for yourself each day. When we’re going through challenging times, it’s easy to get consumed with our thoughts and/or withdraw from our normal activities. But to improve your emotional wellness, you need to continue to do things that recharge you and make you feel good. Find a little time each day to do something you enjoy, whether that’s a walk with a friend, a computer game you enjoy, or a long bath.
- Develop healthy habits. When life gets too stressful, many of us sleep less, move about less and develop unhealthy eating habits. This is the opposite of what we need. Establishing healthy habits can improve our ability to handle stress and deal with our emotions. These habits include:
- Get enough sleep. Sleep impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and makes it harder to handle stress. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults get seven or more hours of sleep a night.
- Eat foods your body needs. A healthy, balanced diet is essential for good health and provides you with the strength and energy you need to manage stress. Let the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthy Teaching Kitchen help you build your nutrition knowledge, learn new cooking skills, and find healthy recipes to get the most out of your body.
- Move your body. Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. This can reduce your anxiety, boost your mood, help you sleep, reduce your risk for many health conditions, and much more. Get tips on different ways you can incorporate more activity into your daily routine.
- Set healthy boundaries. Having healthy boundaries in your relationships with others, whether it’s with your boss, your friends, or your family members, can help you protect your personal time, energy and emotional wellness. When you feel like your boundaries aren’t being respected, it can lead to anger, resentment and more stress. Instead, work on being honest and upfront with people about your feelings, learn to say no, and protect your emotional health. Get some tips for how to establish healthy boundaries.
- Practice mindfulness or meditation. More people are turning to meditation and mindfulness as a way to manage stress. These techniques can help you slow down and focus on the present, instead of letting your mind race or focus too heavily on the past or the future. Check out Mindfulness and Meditation: An Easy Guide for Getting Started for some tips and simple routines.
- Be kind to yourself. Ups and downs are a natural part of life, and no one expects you to have a smile on your face all the time. If you’re dealing with a loss or a major life change, treat yourself with the same grace, patience and love that you would give to your friends and family facing a similar situation.
- Set small goals. When you focus too much on the big picture or what the future holds, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Instead focus on smaller, more immediate and manageable goals to help you feel accomplished and less stressed. By shifting your perspective, this can have a positive impact on your mood and emotional well-being.
- Practice gratitude. Taking a moment each day to think about what you’re grateful for can help reduce stress and make you feel better. Try starting a gratitude journal and list two to three things you’re thankful for each morning. Or think of a couple of things you’re thankful for before you go to bed. You can also think of ways to show your gratitude toward others through notes, phone calls and more.
- Seek support. If you can’t get your emotions under control, a therapist, a support group or another form of therapy may help you gain control, learn new coping skills, and manage stress in positive ways. Check out VA’s mental health resources.
- The CDC offers a page devoted to emotional well-being, full of tips for coping with stress, building social connections, increasing your resilience, and more.
- The National Institutes for Health provides an Emotional Wellness Toolkit full of helpful strategies to improve your emotional wellness.
- VA offers several smartphone apps you can download to help you manage different aspects of your emotional wellness, such as coaches for anger management, mindfulness, insomnia and more.
Your emotional wellness deserves your attention. The better you can handle life’s ups and downs, the healthier you’ll be!