When it comes to physical wounds like cuts and bruises, many of us are trained at a young age to reach for the first aid kit and treat it immediately with bandages or ice packs. But when it comes to day-to-day emotional injuries like failure, rejection, guilt and loss, most of us are told to ignore your feelings and get over it before having enough time to properly treat our emotional injuries, which can have a detrimental impact on our lives if left untreated.
‘Emotional First Aid’ is an idea coined by psychologist Guy Winch, who claims that we should take care of these emotional injuries when they occur, so they do not become more damaging in the long run. It is a psychological medicine cabinet to help you overcome the hurts and hang-ups that hold you back and a tool kit for becoming more successful, productive, and emotionally resilient. Here are some tips on how to do so:
"'Emotional First Aid' is an idea coined by psychologist Guy Winch, who claims that we should take care of these emotional injuries when they occur, so they do not become more damaging in the long run."
Pay attention and reflect
Like physical pain, emotional pain has symptoms too. Be sure to identify them when you have been injured emotionally. Know yourself and be mindful of any changes in your mood such as increased loneliness or sadness. Acknowledging and accepting your feelings early will give you the space and time to process them. The next time you find yourself having an emotional reaction towards a remark or event, allow it to come to the surface (however painful) and ask yourself what it is telling you.
In fact, a recent AIA Healthier Together study that was aimed at discovering how people live healthier, longer and better lives, shed light on eight key ingredients that played an important part in our everyday lives. One of them was to understand yourself and your emotions whereby 54% of Malaysians said they frequently use coping strategies to understand their emotions and how they feel about themselves.
"Like physical pain, emotional pain has symptoms too. Be sure to identify them when you have been injured emotionally."
Redirect harmful feelings
The nature of psychological and emotional wounds tends to make it easy for one to spiral and stumble onto more failures. Failure can often drive you to focus on what you cannot do instead of focusing on what you can.
When failure makes you focus on the negative, try your best to redirect your feelings and reframe the situation to think about what you can control.
List down what you could do differently next time, and how you can plan for improved outcomes in the future. Once you find that you’re in control, you’ll likely gain the ability to adapt and move forward, instead of dwelling on what you did wrong.
Monitor and protect your self-esteem
When you feel like putting yourself down, take a moment to be compassionate to yourself. Your self-esteem is like an emotional immune system that buffers you from emotional pain and strengthens your emotional resilience. When you notice yourself replaying negative thoughts in your head, take a 2-minute distraction-break to stop the cycle. Try to imagine what you would tell a dear friend who is in a similar situation. Write a message expressing compassion and support. Then read it to yourself. This can help keep your brain from going down the rabbit hole of reinforcing negative emotions.
Accept the faults
Being able to accept wrongs done to you, and wrongs you have done, is key to good emotional health. If you have ongoing guilt over something you have done, find acceptance by truly apologising for it. Focus on the impact of your action, not on the mistakes you’ve done. Conversely, if you have been wronged, find acceptance by focusing on letting go. Express your feeling and visualise how you would change moving forward.
Find meaning in loss
Loss is a part of life, but it can scar us and keep us from moving forward if we don’t treat the emotional wounds it creates. Some of these losses will be triggered by major events like the loss of a loved one or a damaging relationship. While knowing this doesn’t exactly make them less painful but finding meaning in our experiences over time can help us feel more at ease with our stories. When you are ready, acknowledge the painful feelings and start to reflect on what you have learned from your experiences. Consider how you might gain or help others to gain a new appreciation for life. Remember, changes you make today can help you live a more meaningful live tomorrow.
Always remember that you don’t have to go through these experiences by yourself. By reaching out and talking about our feelings and experiences, we begin to normalise them.
We recognise that many of us share the same worries and pain which can bring relief. Speaking with a professional can also be a good alternative as they are trained to talk about your feelings.
And on the flipside, if you know someone who is going through a difficult patch, reach out to them whenever you can as it might change their lives for the better.
Adopting 'Emotional First Aid' into your life and practising it on a regular basis will take time. Not only it is important for your mental wellbeing but also helps you to live a fulfilling and purposeful life. We should always remember to take care of our own health physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here at AIA, we care for you and want you to live your best for a Healthier, Longer and Better Life.