Love, you deserve to be healthy. You are worthy of feeling loved. You are beautifully, brilliantly and uniquely you. Taking time to develop a routine aimed at nurturing the mind, body, and spirit is immensely important. Today I want to talk with you about emotional wellness.
First, let’s talk about wellness.
What is Wellness?
I actually love the definition form UC Davis’ Student Health and Counseling Services page where they state:
“Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices towards a healthy and fulfilling life.”
Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a “dynamic process of change and growth…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being,” (1).
This very much resonates the philosophy that I have coined: Vital resiliency. Vital resiliency is not simply defined as being free from symptoms or disease, but rather it involves vitality which refers to being fully alive and resiliency which refers to being able to maintain your vitality despite stress.
You can read more about this in my blogs under the category Dr. Nicole Cain’s Philosophy & Media.
How Do I Improve My Emotional Wellness?
Emotional wellness is a crucial part of our overall health that often gets overlooked due to the busy age we live in (2). This is a little bit ironic due to the definition of emotional wellness as it is being able to successfully manage stressors and to be able to adapt to difficulties and overall change.
Thankfully, there are practices that are powerful allies in helping us to improve our emotional wellness; here are my favorite five solutions to help you become a stress-savant:
- Create a Stop Light Strategy Guide: Let’s face it. If we’re breathing, we are exposed to stress. Sometimes I look with envy at my cavapoo as she chews joyfully on her purple and white squeaky bone, nary a care in the world. Since I am not a care-free-cavapoo, I have to learn to manage stress in a way that is healthy and works. First, we have to identify when we are feeling stressed and then identify different levels of stress, and finally, create a plan for each level.
I like to use the stoplight analogy:
Green = Feeling relaxed, carefree, and calm. (My cavapoo as she munches on her bone.)
Yellow = Feeling stressed, body is tense, heart rate is a bit quicker, more easily irritated, difficulty sleeping, muscles sore.
Red = Panic mode. Extreme stress, agitation, anxiety, anger, depression, physical responses ramped up.
Once you can identify what it’s like for you in each of these stages (you may have some colors in between, too), you can be proactive in your self-care. If you are green going into yellow, you need to level up your self-care or de-stressing-strategies. If you are yellow going into red, soliciting support may be necessary, and if you do enter the red zone, be sure to have rescue strategies in place to help get you back down to yellow and then ideally to green.
Come up with a list of self-care solutions with a helper or ally. The solutions that work in yellow may not be the same options for when you’re in the red. For example, when I’m feeling more agitated hanging out with a trusted girlfriend can be very helpful, but if I end up in the “red zone” I actually would prefer something that works with my body and prefer to go for a run or take a hot shower.
- Seek balance: Unless you’re already a stress-savant, your lifestyle might be part of your stress problem. Look at your lifestyle. How much time do you spend working, serving others, or giving away your time and energy as compared to giving time, energy, and resources to yourself. We all start each day with a certain amount of bandwidth. Some of us have more than others based on our history, environment, trauma, genetic, health, and socioeconomic factors. Understanding what you need to stay in the green zone is just as important as knowing what you need to do to get you out of the red. Create realistic goals and priorities with what you need to get done and say no to unnecessary things that overextend you. As I say this I do want to mention that sometimes it’s impossible to say no, and sometimes our circumstances are not changeable. To those who are stuck in a situation where you have no option to change the balance and are feeling pretty disempowered consider mini adjustments, not major ones. For example, listen to an uplifting book or podcast while you commute. Do four-count-breathing several times throughout your day. Stretch for at least 5 minutes each day. The internet is chopped full of some pretty cool tips for clandestine-desk-stretches that you can find with just a couple of clicks.
- Accept support/stay connected: Those who live in community have better health metrics, live longer, and report feeling happier. It is important for you to stay connected with others around you. Not all of us have families that offer us unconditional positive regard. That’s why the helping profession is so important. In fact, research has shown that counseling is often just as effective or more than traditional psychotropics. You are worthy of support and you do not have to be alone. Most insurance plans cover counseling, but if you do not have access to counseling through your insurance and you have a financial need, many university programs and community agencies have the resources to offer you care at a cost that can work for you.
- Be mindful: Mindfulness literally changes your brain, changes your life, and changes the trajectory of your future. One of the things I tell my patients is that even if they are anxious and having the worst panic attack of their life, that the most powerful solution is to actually sit in that anxiety and panic, to be mindful, in the moment, and without judgment to watch it in its completely unobstructed expression and then watch as it leaves. I know, that sounds like an impossible feat. I have had anxiety in my past. And when I was told this, I thought my doctor was off her rocker. But what we see in the literature is that the more we resist, the more something will persist. By allowing the body and mind to express it’s symptoms, identifying the message or the unmet need in that emotion, we are taking away its power over us, and discovering solutions to reclaim our sense of power, peace and joy.
- Instead of putting out fires, be proactive. Create your Stoplight Strategy Guide with a helper or trusted friend.
- Mindfully sit in the emotion. Without judgment, notice your unmet needs, root causes of your suffering, and allow your mind and body in its wisdom to communicate to you the solutions to reclaim your life.
- It takes a village. Find your allies. Discover your tribe. Find helping professionals that you trust. You do not have to do this alone.
Being emotionally healthy/well does not mean you are happy all the time, but rather that you are aware of how you are feeling and that you know how to be in your emotions healthily. What else can you think of?
Sending you love, peace, and patience in this wonderful journey of emotional wellness.
Dr. Nicole Cain, ND, MA
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- UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services retrieved from:
https://shcs.ucdavis.edu/wellness/what-is-wellness on September 22, 2019
- “Emotional Wellness Toolkit.” (2017, December 11). Retrieved from
- “Mental Health: Keeping Your Emotional Health.” (2017, May 18). Retrieved from
- “6 ways to improve your emotional wellness.” (2014, December 18). Retrieved from