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Embracing your emotional wellness

Person walks into the fog

With shorter days and colder nights, the coming months of winter can affect the motivation, energy, and overall emotional wellness of many individuals.

Emotional wellness is a journey toward increased awareness, expression and acceptance of a wide range of thoughts and feelings in yourself and others. Optimal emotional wellness helps you achieve positive self-esteem, satisfying relationships and resilience to meet life’s challenges.

With shorter days and colder nights, the coming months of winter can affect the motivation, energy, and overall emotional wellness of many individuals. As one of the Seven Dimensions of Wellness, our emotional wellness involves the awareness, understanding, and acceptance of our feelings as they come and go.

Whether you are feeling the winter blues or the heightened stress levels that accompany the last few weeks of the semester, here are some easy, 1-2-3 steps to improving your emotional wellness:

Embrace your emotions. We live in a culture where many feel they have to suppress their emotions or actively try to alter them into something different. However, holding these feelings in or not acknowledge their presence at all does more harm than it does good. Leaning into disappointment, grief,  or stress is vital to healing and moving forward. Give yourself the time you need to recognize your emotions and let them out.

Remember the scene in Disney’s Frozen where Elsa embraces her emotions, takes control of her icy powers and “lets it go”? Yeah, kind of like that.

Engage a “growth” mindset. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck argues that we have two-mindsets: “fixed” and “growth.” A fixed mindset “assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static.” A growth mindset, however, “thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”

Stay away from multitasking. In our busiest times, we are often compelled to dive into a multiplicity of tasks. Sometimes doing too much too often leaves us feeling burnt out and stressed. Research has found that “when you switch away from a primary task to do something else, you’re increasing the time it takes to finish that task by an average of 25 percent.” Do yourself a favor and dedicate exclusive time for each task or project you have to complete.

Focus on your breathing. Yeah, it’s as simple as that! This is one of the easiest (and quickest) ways to bring yourself back to a calm, present mental state. When we are anxious, stressed, or upset our breathing becomes quick, shallow and erratic. Be mindful of your breathing by focusing on slow, deep and even breaths. Health Promotion and Wellness offers Mindfulness classes to help students, faculty, and staff practice mindfulness in a variety of easy, effective ways.

Make a furry friend. Whether you are a dog lover or a cat fanatic, pets are a great source of companionship (not to mention an extremely cuddly source of comfort. If you have a pet of your own, spend some time playing with them and forgetting about everything you might be worried about. If you are looking for an excuse to take a break from finals, stop by the PAWSitively Stress Free finals week event at Milner Library on Monday, December 12, and Tuesday, December 13, to spend some time with certified therapy dogs. There will even be free massages available! (By a certified masseuse, of course. The dogs are not that well trained—yet.)

Set a positive password. Many of us are constantly logging in to our e-mails, social media, computers, phones, and more. Make this an opportunity to give yourself an affirmative message and a suggestion to help others or stay positive. Further, because our @ilstu accounts require a password change every 60 days, we have even more opportunities to find other encouraging expressions to give ourselves.

Vocabulary is everything. There are certain words in our diction that may not be serving us well or helping us stay motivated and positive. Phrases like “have to,” “need to,” or “should” create a sense of burden while “I don’t know how,” “I can’t do that” can be discouraging and ultimately limiting to our encouragement. Instead of “having” to do something, trick yourself into “wanting” to do something, simply by switching up your vocabulary.

When in doubt, laugh it out. Of course, there are always situations that can’t be amended by some of these suggestions for emotional wellness. However, wherever there is laughter there is always joy. Whenever you are feeling down in the dumps, treat yourself to funny videos of laughing babies, Stand-up comics, or other sources of laughter that you enjoy.

Join Seven

Challenge yourself to make YOU a priority in 2015! Seven is a free program from Health Promotion and Wellness for students, faculty, and staff that focuses on the importance of the seven dimensions of wellness: emotionalenvironmentalintellectualphysicalsocial,spiritual, and vocational. Seven runs from September to the end of April, and you can join at any time. Participants log wellness activities to earn points toward monthly prize drawings and compete toward end of the year overall point totals. Participants also receive the Seven e-newsletter and information on campus wellness events. For additional details and to sign up, visit Wellness.IllinoisState.edu/Seven.

Additional emotional wellness resources

Guided Relaxation Audio
Information on Seasonal Affective Disorder
Lifestyle Enhancement Program from Health Promotion and Wellness

PAWSitively Stress Free 
Student Counseling Service’s Self Health & Assessments
Emotional Wellness Assessment
Sexual Health
Student Counseling Services
Helping Yourself
Outreach & Workshops

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