Recently, I had a minor but difficult surgical procedure to lance an abscess on my leg. It was very painful, and while I recovered physically pretty quickly, I had some Post -traumatic stress reactions—bad dreams, flashbacks, and upset—after my recovery. I had to acknowledge my upset and feelings, and let them out before the stress reactions subsided. I often help my clients do this, too, not only with PTSD from shocking or painful experiences, but also with grief and old memories.
Life is not easy, and we often encounter problems and difficulties that require us to pay attention to our own feelings. Relationships, too, whether with family, spouses and partners, friends or even colleagues, can create emotional fallout that we need to take care of.
In addition, if we want to maintain emotional health and balance; create as much happiness as possible in life; and maintain what the twelve-step programs call serenity, or inner peace; our emotions require care. I call this ongoing, routine care of feelings emotional hygiene.
Most of us learned things about bodily hygiene and health in school and at home, from our parents: wash behind your ears, brush and floss your teeth, wash your body and your hair on a regular basis; as well as washing your hands frequently to minimize your exposure to viruses and germs. Even eating well, sleeping and exercising can be considered part of hygiene – maintaining good health. To do this well, you do these healthy things on a regular basis – once in a while isn’t effective for creating good health.
Emotional hygiene is similar. Most of my clients are surprised to learn that their emotions, too, need daily care to maintain optimum balance. Just as a little showering, hand-washing and tooth-brushing can help you maintain physical health and well-being and reduce your time in the doctor and dentist’s office, emotional hygiene can help you maintain emotional well-being and reduce the need for therapy, prescriptions and stress-related problems.
Here are some of my recommendations for daily emotional hygiene: