Emotional Vulnerability: Take care of your body to take care of your mind

Unmitigated stress can hurt your health

Our mind, body, and soul are all interconnected. How we treat our bodies has a major impact on our minds and our soul, and vice versa. It’s important to know how we are contributing to our emotional vulnerability. Life is hard. Emotions are raw and real. It’s important to understand how you may be contributing to your emotional vulnerability.

What is vulnerability?

Vulnerability is the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. In other words, when we leave a vulnerability unattended, we are opening the door to being physically and emotionally harmed.

Often when we feel emotionally vulnerable, we are in a state of mind called “Emotion Mind”. Emotion Mind is when our emotions run rampant, we engage in mood-dependent behavior and our “emotions get the best of us.” Emotional distress can be reduced by decreasing factors that make us more vulnerable to negative emotions and moods.

To increase your emotional resilience to negative or undesired emotions, think PLEASE.

PL: Treat PhysicaL Illness- Being sick lowers your resistance to negative emotions. The healthier you are, the more likely you’ll be able to regulate your emotions. When you are injured, observe the urge to “just wait it out.” Often times we may think, “I should be able to power through this,” or “it’ll get better on it’s own.” See a doctor, chiropractor, dermatologist, or a specialist when needed. Reflect on what interferes with you attending to your physical illness and work toward problem solving the barriers.

E: Balanced Eating- Focus on eating balanced meals that make you feel good and avoid eating foods that upset your stomach or make you feel lethargic. Be mindful about urges to engage in emotional eating or eating out of boredom. Both eating too much and excessive dieting can increase your vulnerability to Emotion Mind. Research indicates that “self-imposed diets” show negative effects of eating too little. In other words, the more you restrict your food intake, the more likely you are to binge eat or having psychological problems (preoccupation with food/eating, increased emotionality and dysphoria, and distractibility). When you eat balanced and nutritional foods, you are less likely to have emotional control.

A: Avoid Mood Altering Substances: Alcohol and other substances, like certain foods, can lower resistance to negative emotions. Stay off illicit drugs and use alcohol in moderation. All substances, including caffeine and nicotine, increases our emotional vulnerability. Some of us may not feel an increase in emotional vulnerability while under the influence, rather experience Emotion Mind the days after.

S: Balanced Sleep: An increasing amount of research indicates that lack of sleep is related to a wide variety of emotional difficulties. Sleep is often undervalued in our culture. As a society, we are busy and constantly getting things done that we tend to slack on getting to bed at a decent hour. For people who work long hours, are single parents, are taking care of their loved ones, we tend to put sleep on the backburner. Maybe 11pm at night is the only “me” time you have, and you really want to catch up on the show. The thing about sleep is, we can’t “catch up” on it. There is no “making up for lost sleep.” Making sure you get the amount of sleep that feels right for you and your body is one of the most important variables to overall emotional well-being. Some people need 7 hours and other people know 10 hours. It’s also important to maintain a sleep routine, especially if you have difficulty sleeping. How much sleep do you need?

E: Get Exercise: Aerobic exercise, done consistently, is an antidepressant. Not only is exercise great for our our physical health, it’s great for our emotional well-being. Try and get some type of exercise every day. 20-30 minutes of cardio a day can increase emotional resilience. When your body is strong and healthy, you are less likely to slip into Emotion Mind and will feel less vulnerability overall. If you are new to exercising, build mastery. Start with 10 minutes and slowly increase the amount of time. Find a workout that is FUN that you WANT to get up and attend. You are more likely going to engage in physical activity if you are doing something that you look forward to. For some of us, that won’t be going to the gym for 1 hour. It may be running outdoors, spin class, yoga, dance classes, and other group classes (group classes are great for meeting people!)

Today’s guest blogger is Marissa Colangelo. Marissa Colangelo is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with Compass Behavioral Health, specializing in treating adolescents and adults with emotion dysregulation, primarily personality disorders, anger, depression, impulsivity, substance abuse, and anxiety.

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