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NEWS | May 24, 2023

Five ways to improve emotional health: Coping with the ups and downs of daily life comes easily for some, while others might experience extreme anxiety

By Aime Lykins, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs

During the course of daily life, everyone experiences ups and downs resulting from internal or external stimuli. For some, coping with those ups and downs comes easily. However, for others, changes may cause extreme anxiety and mental or emotional distress.

Mental and emotional health go far beyond feeling happy or gloomy, excited or disappointed. Emotions and feelings can affect one’s ability to carry out everyday activities and maintain relationships and mental equilibrium. Emotional wellness is the ability to successfully handle life’s stresses, and adapt to changes and difficult times. Here are five tips for improving your emotional wellness:

Build resilience — People who are emotionally well typically have fewer negative emotions and are able to bounce back from difficulties faster. This quality is called resilience. People are not born with resilience, rather it is a process in which many factors come into play, such as family, community, cultural practices, and faith affiliation. Learning healthy ways to cope and how to draw from community resources can help build resilience. Resilience isn’t just about eliminating stress, it’s also about tapping into personal strengths and nurturing the body to navigate life’s challenges.

Reduce Stress — Stress can provide a rush of energy when it’s needed most and is a survival response. Short-term stress can sometimes help performance, such as meeting a project deadline or competing in a sport. But when stress lasts a long time, it may also harm personal health; the body is constantly acting as if it is in immediate danger. Current research from the Department of Health and Human Service’s National Institute of Health suggests that prolonged stress can result in inflammation, which is associated with heart disease, arthritis, cancer and some mental health conditions. Further research indicates that stress may also impact metabolism and can lead to the body burning fewer calories at rest. Mood journaling each day can help identify sources of stress and allow for emotional self-assessment. Simply identifying sources of chronic stress can be a step in the right direction toward building emotional resilience.

Get quality sleep — Sleep affects both mental and physical health and is vital to well-being. Sleep helps one think more clearly, have quicker reflexes and focus better. There’s more to good sleep than just the number of hours spent in bed. Healthy sleep encompasses three major things: amount of sleep, sleep quality and a consistent sleep schedule. While sleeping, the brain is working. For example, sleep helps prepare the brain to learn, remember and create. Everything from blood vessels to the immune system use sleep as a time for repair. Sleep is not just down time, it’s a biological necessity that contributes to mental and emotional well-being. Preparing the body for sleep can be a helpful tool before going to bed. This may include powering down electronic devices, practicing a self-care routine, setting a comfortable temperature in the sleeping area, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol and heavy foods before lying down.

Strengthen social connections — Social connections can have powerful effects on health, both emotionally and physically. Whether with romantic partners, family, friends, neighbors or others, social connections can influence biology and well-being. Where one lives, works, or goes to school can have a big impact on emotional health. Finding new social connections can be difficult but a few ways to connect are joining a group focused on a favorite hobby (such as hiking or painting), taking a class to learn something new, volunteering within the community, or participating in a group fitness class such as yoga, tai chi or dance.

Cope with loss — When loved ones, coworkers or pets die, a variety of emotions may come to the surface. There is no right or wrong way to mourn. The death of a loved one can affect feelings, actions and thought processes. Together, these reactions are called grief — and people can grieve in very different ways. Grief is a process of letting go and learning to accept and live with loss. The amount of time it takes to do this varies with each person. People may experience a strong, acute grief reaction when someone dies and, at the same time, they begin the gradual process of adapting to the loss. To adapt to loss, a person needs to accept its finality and understand what it means to them. They also have to find a way to re-envision their life with possibilities for happiness and for honoring their enduring connection to the person or pet who died. Grief counseling and connecting with supportive individuals can help.

Be mindful — Practicing mindfulness is about being aware of what’s happening in the present, both internally and externally. This can include taking an emotional inventory throughout the day and noticing the ebb and flow of emotional responses. Becoming a more mindful person requires commitment and practice, and it is a skill that can be learned over time. Examples of mindfulness may include focused breathing exercises, taking a stroll in nature, being aware of eating and drinking practices and completing a body scan. Mindfulness can also include recognizing when someone else is experiencing emotional distress and may need support or intervention.

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance offers onsite counseling services from licensed social workers, a comprehensive well-being program supported by the Department of the Navy Civilian Employee Assistance Program and a wellness-focused community of practice.

These resources are available to all employees and can be accessed during working hours. Employees are asked to work with their supervisors to help make room for counseling appointments during the day. The shipyard places the health of its workforce as a high, command-level priority.