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Guidelines For Emotional Health

I found it a very interesting exercise to try to come up with a list of
the most important suggestions I could possibly make
and have them fit nicely into this relatively small space.

The list is arranged in order of importance.
If you don't follow all of these guidelines,
work on them from the top down.

TAKE REASONABLY GOOD CARE OF YOUR BODY

Many people think that taking care of their body has nothing to do with emotional health. Nothing could be further from the truth. Failing to take care of your body adequately creates emotional problems - regardless of all other factors.

Be sure that you eat enough, sleep enough, drink enough liquids, use the bathroom when you have to, have enough air and space in your life, and be adequately warmed in winter and cooled in summer.

Do not become obsessed with your body. You only need to take care of your body adequately, not "perfectly." (Obsessing about these things works the same way as excessive use of alcohol or drugs: It only serves to hide problems, not to solve them.)



READ YOUR BODY'S "NEED MESSAGES" CLEARLY

Your body gives you feelings which indicate when you need something (like water or food).

Don't lie to yourself about these messages
(in order to follow some diet, for instance).
Learn to read these need messages immediately,
and to satisfy your needs completely.

A good rule of thumb is:
"take care of your needs at the first sign of discomfort."
(Never become extremely uncomfortable or in pain
before you eat, go to the bathroom, sleep, etc.)



GET PLENTY OF ATTENTION AND LOVE

Only our physical needs (above) are more important than getting enough attention and love.
If you don't have a regular source of love and attention in your life you will crave it constantly.

Preoccupation with this desire can sabotage all your other efforts at emotional self-care.


TAKE THE TIME TO RELAX

The rule of thumb here is:
about one-third of your awake life should be spent relaxing or "doing nothing."

Doing nothing is also called mental health time
because it is the only time when
we can focus fully on ourselves,
how we are feeling,
and how things are going for us.

If all of your time is spent working or playing,
you can't possibly feel centered or "know yourself."

If you can't use one-third of your time for this,
at least set aside an hour or more each day just for you.



READ YOUR BODY, YOUR "FEELINGS"

While you are relaxed, take some slow deep breaths and notice the physical sensations your body is sending to your brain. These sensations will always be one of the feelings associated with your needs (like hunger or thirst) or one of the feelings associated with your wants (see below). As you notice these feelings, make very clear decisions about what you are going to do about them.

YOUR EMOTIONAL FEELINGS
A list of the five natural and universal feelings.

You feel this... When.... The first thing to do is... Then you can...
SADNESS You LOST something you previously enjoyed. Feel it thoroughly, and cry if you need to. Take action to REPLACE what you've lost.
ANGER Someone or some thing is BLOCKING you from something you want. Feel it thoroughly before deciding what to do. Take action to GET PAST THE BLOCK or, if that's not possible, to learn to get along WELL without it.
JOY You've GOT what you want Take the time to ENJOY it thoroughly. If you need to do anything at all, do something that makes you enjoy this time even more.
SCARE Your EXISTENCE is threatened. Feel it QUICKLY, and let it go. Protect yourself!
EXCITEMENT You are ON YOUR WAY to something you want. Take the time to ENJOY it thoroughly. Don't hurry to what you want. Enjoy the process of getting there.

Even though these five feelings can be natural, they can also be brought about through our mind and our imaginings. We can believe we have what we want, or that we lost what we wanted, or that our existence is threatened even when it is not really true. This is what complicates things.

If you know that your sadness, anger or scare is because of something you are imagining, let it go! You are only causing yourself unnecessary pain (and possibly trying to manipulate someone with it).

If you know that your joy or excitement is because of something you are imagining, enjoy it! (Just know it's a fantasy, and don't believe it's real.)

GUILT and SHAME are very common in our culture, but they are never natural feelings. They are always imagined, unnecessary, and unproductive. (Read other topics for a more thorough look at guilt and shame.)



PUT YOUR DECISIONS INTO ACTION

All feeling and analyzing is worthless if you don't take action.

If you find it difficult to do what you need to do,
start with small steps.
Then notice your "batting average" (the percent of the time that you are successful).
And notice how quickly this success rate improves while you stay at it.

Don't try to ignore what you need to do!
It won't work.


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Enjoy Your Changes!

Everything here is designed to help you do just that!

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Write To Me, I Want To Hear From You!
Tony Schirtzinger, Therapist (Milwaukee) 

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