Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I get angry. Sometimes I feel strong, and sometimes I feel very small. Sometimes I get anxious and upset. Sometimes I feel so happy I can’t imagine ever having a bad day ever again. Sometimes I feel like I could change the world, and sometimes I feel like nothing I do makes any difference.
Life has emotional content, and that’s a good thing. One of the best signs of psychological health is the ability to experience the whole range of human emotions. Of course there is a time for everything, and that means a time to cry and a time to laugh, as well as every other positive and negative emotion. (See Eccl 3:4)
I didn’t always understand that. I lived with enormous emotional pain for a long time, but always tried to look good on the outside. I learned through some very tough times that it doesn’t work to be afraid of the emotional content life brings. It’s much better to embrace it, learn to manage it, and enjoy the ride!
In this country about one in four adults suffers from some mental health disorder during any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That’s pretty big numbers! According to some experts, perhaps 75% or so of visits to a primary care doctor have as their underlying reason some psychological issues such as anxiety or depression. The impact of these disorders is enormous, both personally and economically.
Now it can seem a huge leap to go from having a bad day to having a mental health disorder. But just as with our physical health, we must pay attention to little lifestyle habits on a regular basis in order to remain emotionally healthy. Our psyche needs care just as our body does.
Ask yourself some simple questions such as:
- When you have a “bad day,” what do you do?
- When you feel upset, how long do you stay there?
- What are the primary emotions that define your life?
There is an enormous industry devoted to providing medications and professional help for those struggling with mental health issues. Much of that is necessary and helpful. But how much of that might be lessened if we took care of our emotional/mental health on a regular basis? I believe with regular care, we can live emotionally much healthier than we do.
Here are a few questions you can use to do a quick “checkup” of your mental/emotional health and lifestyle:
- How much of my usual day is characterized by pain, fear, guilt, shame, anger, or anxiety?
- How many of my decisions – small and large – are motivated by these negative emotions?
- How able am I to feel and express positive emotions such as joy, peace, hope, and love?
- How aware am I of the impact of negative past experiences on my emotional life now?
- In the past year have I made real progress in learning to manage my mental/emotional health well?
- If I am struggling with my mental/emotional health, how am I reaching out for help?
I’m grateful for the degree of emotional maturity I’ve developed. I hope you’re growing in the same direction.
Your turn: What grade would you give your mental/emotional health? What challenges have you faced in this area? Do you see any area of your emotional health that needs work? I’d love to hear from you.