Last week we began to take a look at how to improve our assessment of where we are physically. This week we are looking at where we are emotionally and mentally. This can often be a difficult task because it includes the practice of observing without attaching.
What do we mean by observing without attaching? Most of the time, whenever we have an emotion or a significant thought, we attach to it and follow it down a rabbit hole. We begin to experience it and get caught up in it like rapids in a river. Here’s an example. It’s the middle of the day and you realize that it’s the 16th of the month when you thought it was the 15th. You remember that a bill was due yesterday. Immediately you get caught up in the anxiety and fear of “Will there be late fees?”, “How much is this going to cost?” Often, we cannot shake this experience until we resolve the problem and can climb back out of the rapids. Once we are through the rapids we rarely look back to assess.
In assessing our mental health, the incorporation of a mindful and meditative practice can be helpful at observing these experiences. Sometimes we can catch them in the moment and observe the experience before it sets off the cascade of adrenaline (or the fight or flight response). Other times we can observe by reviewing our day and taking a look at what emotions or thoughts we experienced that day. What were some of the patterns and topics? Do I tend to focus on work, relationships, or health? Is my emotional state relatively stable? Or does it change dramatically throughout the day? Am I able to flow from thought process to thought process, or do I ruminate and obsess over topics until I resolve the perceived uncomfortability? What emotion would I say dominated my day? On a scale of 1-10, how intense was it?
Spend a few minutes each day in quiet review of your emotional state that day. There are an abundance of helpful apps and programs to assist with meditation and mindfulness. We will also take a much deeper look at these practices in the future but this will get us started. Just like with our physical health, a more frequent assessment will be more useful than an intermittent one. Journaling or taking notes on these answers and experiences can help us to better understand where we are emotionally. Also, sharing our observations with a trustworthy supportive person can also help us to stay accountable in this process.