I think if you hear someone say “First Aid”, you would know what that means, you might have taken life-saving first aid training, or you might have come across some tips on TV, social media or read about it. But have you heard about emotional first aid? Would you know how to use it?
I remember when my first aid training was put to the test, I was involved in a road traffic accident. To be honest, my fight or flight mechanism kicked in first before I was able to recall my first aid training. Luckily, I was not alone and other people at the scene were first aid trained.
What struck me most was that Sue (not her real name) was able to calm the young man down who had come off his motorbike. Naturally, he was in shock, and she talked him through what was happening and reassured him that the ambulance was on its way. What she used at that moment in time was not physical first aid; she used emotional first aid. Sometimes that is all that is needed, someone to talk too.
We have all been there; we have an injury we deal with it; we seek medical assistance; we dress the wound. When we walk around with the dressing people, notice, they stop to ask us how we are, and we talk about it without a second thought and sometimes they support us through the injury until it’s healed.
When it comes to our emotional wounds, our mental health, why is it we don’t treat it in the same way?
Our mental health needs just as much attention as our physical health. No one is immune from developing problems, and there are steps we can all take to understand, protect and sustain good mental health. We all need to acknowledge the importance of responding to support good mental health for ourselves and those around us.
We can all experience a emotional injury from time to time. I am talking about things like knocks to our self-esteem, stress or rejection, etc. If left untreated can affect our mental health and can become a more significant problem over time.
What can you do to take care of yourself when you experience a emotional injury?
Here are just a few practical tips for some of the common emotional injuries we might experience:
Let’s face it our self-esteem can take us on an emotional roller-coaster from high’s to lows especially when we use other people’s opinion of us as fuel to power our self-esteem. When we feel like we are not good enough, when we experience setbacks, we feel rejected, our anxiety is heightened or we feel lonely we can become self-critical. We start beating ourselves up and what was once a small bruise becomes bigger and bigger.
Emotional first aid:
Whenever you're self-critical remember self-compassion, it’s not just reserved for others.
So next time you hear yourself go into automatic negative thinking and beating yourself up over it, think about what you would say to a friend if you heard them saying the things out loud that you are saying to yourself. It would be far more empathetic and compassionate, would it not?
We need to get better at asking for help when we need it.
Ask a trusted friend or member of the family, someone who you know would be supportive of you. Two heads are better than one and an outsider might have a different perspective than you do of yourself. Who knows what nice things you might discover about yourself with their help.
Keep a note of the positive feedback and refer back to it if the urge to be hard on yourself sneaks in.
We all feel the need to be connected with others; many of us frequently feel alone. Even some people who are surrounded by others throughout the day experience a deep sense of loneliness. It only becomes a problem when we don’t do anything about it and drive an unhealthy meaning from it (eg. I’m not lovable, I’m not good enough) as fact.
Emotional first aid:
As tempting as it might be to catch up with that box set on Netflix that’s not going to be the answer.
What is needed is to get busy; being busy will help alleviate loneliness. Re-connect with friends, volunteer, join an interest group to connect with like-minded people or learn something new. The key is to find a balance with some me-time while spending some time with others.
Anxiety is a normal emotion, such as sadness, anger, and fear, are essential to our survival, and emotional discomfort is a very normal, a universal human experience.
However, when feelings of fear or nervousness become excessive, difficult to control or interfere with daily life, we need to stop and pay attention.
By replying event’s and dwelling on the negative can make us feel worse.
Emotional first aid:
It’s not as simple as saying don’t think about it and bat those negative thoughts away. Because suppressing the thoughts does not help you in the long run.
What does work is having a diversion, next time those negative thoughts start taking over your headspace it’s time for the diversion to be implemented. The best diversion or distraction is something that requires you to concentrate on it — for example, baking a cake, colouring-in, sudoku or why not try to learn a dance routine.
What the diversion does is it takes your attention away from the thoughts that are not serving you, the urge to revisit distressing thoughts should gradually diminish and your mood will lift. Research shows that even a two-minute diversion is enough to reduce the urge to dwell.
We have all been there dealt with rejection on different levels from not being offered the promotion to being rejected on a date, to not being invited to a party.
Rejection can be deeply hurtful, our default reaction is to use it as a sign that we are not good enough, beautiful enough, young enough, lovable or unworthy.
Emotional first aid:
It might sound simple to say “Don’t take it personally”, but that is what is required of you to reframe the rejection, it’s not about you as a person.
Instead of thinking they thought you were not good enough for him/her or for the promotion, reframe the situation to say “The promotion or person was not a good match for you”. This way, you are removing the blame from them and you.
Reflect on what you can do to change things. Maybe you could do a course to help develop and enhance your skills in preparation for the next promotion.
Next time you experience a emotional injury, try out these Emotional first aid tips and build your emotional resilience to manage the stresses and strains of life.
Mental health problems affect one in four of us yet people are still afraid to talk about it.
Time to talk day encourages everyone to be more open about mental health, to talk, to listen, to change lives.
If you are or anyone you know is feeling down and going through a rough patch, know that you are not alone and there is help out there.
There is no shame in reaching out.
My message to you today ask for help, help each other, see your GP; there are organisations and charities out there that can support you through the sad times.
Do you know someone who could do with a chat?
Call them arrange to meet over coffee; you will be surprised how a catch up can make a difference to someone.
If this blog post resonated and if you feel it might help someone you know, please share it with them.
Let me know your thoughts; I would love to hear from you.
If you would like to find out more about Emotional first aid have a read of Guy Winch's book :
Emotional First Aid: Healing rejection, guilt, failure and other everyday hurts.