How do you know that you’re in need of emotional healing? Do you need to get help, or should you wait and see if this feeling will pass in a few days?
I am not a trained therapist; I’ve noticed some patterns over the years, in myself and in other people. See what you think.
Physical symptoms sometimes reveal emotional problems. Digestive upset, headaches, other kinds of aches, blood pressure problems, sleep problems, sexual dysfunction or diminishment of desire—these and many other physical problems might be telling you about problems in your thoughts and emotions.
Extreme fatigue and extreme activity are equally unhealthy. Fatigue, apart from physical causes, can also indicate depression. Hyperactivity, especially if it comes and goes, could indicate a bipolar condition. Both fatigue and hyperactivity can be used as coping mechanisms when you are trying to avoid an issue that needs attention. I (Vinita) tend to respond to stress by shutting down and becoming chronically tired. Another person might respond to stress or a problem by getting busier. What we have to be aware of are extremes.
Patterns in your interactions with others say a lot about how you are. We know how common it is for a person who is physically ill or in pain to become impatient, fearful, short-tempered and otherwise not himself—physical distress causes upheaval in every area of life. The same is true for emotional ill health. If you find yourself arguing more, finding fault, becoming suspicious of others, or just wanting to avoid even the people you care about, it’s a safe bet that your emotional life needs some healing and restoration.
Your dreams offer information. The dreams you have during sleep can be quite informative, and you can find help understanding your dreams through counselors and books on the topic. But your other dreams—the visions you imagine about your life, the goals you have and the plans you make—these say a lot about you too. Are you still dreaming and planning for your future in a hopeful, positive way? Or has the hope been replaced by cynicism and worry? Do you talk about what you’d like to do or where you’d like to go? Or have you stopped making any real plans? When you are struggling emotionally, whether in grief over a loss or anxiety about difficult change, you don’t have much emotional energy left for forward thinking, for dreaming.
Self-imposed limitations or unrealistic expectations might point to imbalance. We have to place some limits on ourselves to keep life organized and reasonable. But fear or worry that goes out of balance might manifest in preoccupation with safety or radical revision of plans and routines. If you are saying to yourself more often than not, “Oh, I can’t do that,” then begin to ask the follow-up question: “Why not?” We might also make elaborate plans that are not realistic; we do this because we are stuck and cannot evaluate in a clear way how to solve a problem or approach a task.
We will go to a physician when our physical life goes through pain and upset, but we tend to expect that we will just get over emotional problems without any focused attention or any seeking of outside help. This is unwise. And it sets a bad example for children and grandchildren who watch us for clues about living well. If the ten-year-old sees her mother get the help she needs for anxiety or depression, that same child a few years later may just get the help she needs when she struggles through a horrible year of high school.
So, take responsibility for your emotional health. Use the summer months, with their longer days and gentler weather, to spend time evaluating how you feel and why.