MAINTAINING BALANCE: emotional health in a stressed-out world

“Life is a bumpy road and we all have different shock absorbers.” That is the analogy Stephen Doucet Campbell, registered Psychotherapist with Shalem Mental Health Network, used as he began his presentation entitled “How to Maintain Emotional Health in a Stressed-out World.”   

Stephen pointed out that mental health and emotional wellness are not the same thing: we all have to work to maintain our emotional wellness, whether or not we are dealing with a mental health issue.  Stephen stressed that we have to have grace for ourselves when we feel unwell.  Too often we assume everyone else handles things perfectly, while we get the blahs. It’s like comparing ourselves to what appears to be everyone else’s perfect lives displayed on their social media profiles. The reality is that we all experience challenges to our emotional wellness as we deal with the planned and unplanned transitions of life.

Stephen walked the audience through nine “big picture” pieces that contribute to emotional wellness:

·       Practice gratitude

·       Pursue your interests

·       Develop a routine that works for you (and your family)

·       Physical health is important

·       Generosity—Serve and give to others

·       Spend time with supportive people

·       Stay organized

·       Know your values

·       Increase your emotional intelligence

There are two myths we need to avoid. The first is the Happiness Myth, thinking we are “supposed” to be happy all the time. Happiness is temporary; strive for the state of contentment. The second is the Balance Myth, thinking we can keep all the competing components of our selves – emotional, mental, intellectual, physical, spiritual, environmental, occupational, financial and social – in perfect balance all the time. The reality of life is that different parts demand different emphases at different times of life, so we need to live accordingly.

Finally, Stephen addressed mindfulness, which helps us address the fatigue of constantly full minds.  He stressed the need to “be present” in our relationships, in conversation, in prayer, in the moment.  A helpful mindfulness exercise is this: when you are doing something, pause and identify five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

Stephen concluded by encouraging us to go easy on ourselves. Life is not perfect. As you face life transitions and experiences, find a place to talk, and be a part of a community that won’t judge you for asking for help.