Many of us take stock during the summer. With the longer days and, usually, some time off from work and school, we have more time to sort out our closets, deep-clean the carpets, and evaluate our plans.
I think we should add to our taking-stock activities an assessment of our emotional life. How do I feel, and why do I feel this way? On a day-to-day basis, it’s easy to march through the hours and get our work done while disregarding our emotional health. Emotions can get in the way of productivity. They can require time and attention, and sometimes tears. Why give room to that kind of mess when there’s a life to be lived?
We must give room to our emotions because they are intrinsic to the rest of life. And if we don’t attend to what’s going on emotionally, those feelings are going to catch up with us anyway. If our emotional life is unhealthy, it will cause disturbance elsewhere—in relationships, in our ability to function at work, in our physical health as well.
How do we go about dealing with something as hard to pin down as feelings? Here are some simple ways to begin:
Keep a journal, if only for a short time, and make your emotions the focus of the writing. Just for the next few days, write in this journal in the morning, at midday, and in the evening, asking yourself the simple question: How do I feel? If you have time, follow up with: Why do I feel this way?
Talk to a loved one you trust and who is around you frequently. Ask questions such as:
- What emotions do you notice in me most often?
- If there’s an emotion you’d like to see more in my life, what would it be?
- Do you think that I say with my words what I’m really feeling inside? Or do you get the sense sometimes that I’m hiding what’s going on emotionally?
Involve yourself in activities that are satisfying and healing. Go for a walk or bike ride. Visit an art gallery or museum. Watch your favorite sports team. Attend a concert or a movie. Spend an afternoon watching a favorite movie. Dig into the books or magazines you really enjoy. Get out your paints or knitting or garden tools. Do something that really feels wonderful.
If you know you are in trouble emotionally, identify the kind of help you need. Is it time for grief counseling or a support group? Would a therapist or pastoral counselor help you get a fix on what’s wrong? Can your family help you take a few days for yourself at a retreat house or someplace away from home that will restore you? Have you gone too long without seeing a good friend or having fun with a sibling? Do you need assistance—from pastor, counselor, colleague—to reconcile with someone who has hurt you or whom you have hurt?
Take one step toward emotional healing this week. It may help more than you think.