Practicing Emotional First Aid: Maintaining Our Psychological Health

By: Jason M. Jowers, MS, MFT

Pixabay[First Aid Box Tin Can by Alexa_Fotos on October 11, 2016, CCO]
Pixabay[First Aid Box Tin Can by Alexa_Fotos on October 11, 2016, CCO]
Many of us prioritize our physical health, especially this time of year as we go through flu season once again. We get the sniffles and the sneezes, with the soon to be congestion and fever. And if you didn’t get your flu shot, you soon wind up in your local doctor’s office or urgent care, hoping for some much needed meds, a doctor’s note, and some sick days.

When we are physically sick or hurt, it’s a no-brainer to take care of ourselves. But what about our psychological health? Is it okay to take time off when we are anxious, depressed, or emotionally overwhelmed? Why is our physical health seemingly so much more important than our psychological health?

This TED Talk features Dr. Guy Winch, a licensed psychologist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Dr. Winch proposes that we start prioritizing our mental health just as much as our physical health. And the way he says to do this is to practice emotional first aid. In his work with clients, he has emphasized the need to practice mental and emotional hygiene, stressing that it is equally as important as practicing physical and dental hygiene.

Some key points he makes in his presentation are:
• We are confronted with psychological injuries much more often than we are with physical ones. These are injuries such as failure, rejection, and loneliness.
• To be aware of feelings of helplessness that arise.
• We should pay attention to the emotional pain we experience and recognize this pain is trying to tell us something.
• We are our own worse critic when faced with rejection or failure. He suggests treating yourself with the same compassion that you would expect from a truly good friend when they are trying to comfort and boost you up.
• That we must protect our self-esteem by noticing these unhealthy psychological habits and explore what they are trying to tell us.
• Also, that ruminating thoughts come and go. A two minute distraction is enough to break the urge to ruminate in any given moment.

These issues are all ones we face on a daily basis and are common barriers for both civilians and military service members alike. For more on practicing emotional first aid, be sure to watch Dr. Winch’s full TED Talk here. And for more about mental health barriers in the military, be sure to catch the archived recording of our “Staying Strong by Seeking Help” webinar. CEUs are still available through April, 19, 2019.

References

Winch, G. (2014). Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid. TED Talk. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_the_case_for_emotional_hygiene#t-108616

This post was written by Jason M. Jowers, MS, MFT, of the MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Development concentration on our websiteFacebook, and Twitter.  You can also listen to our Anchored. podcast series via iTunes and our website.

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