In ancient Roman times, October was the eighth of the ten-month calendar. This was oddly fitting, as this starts our eighth month of our Covid-19 calendar. For eight months, our family, friends and community have been struggling with a variety of stressors which impact our health and well-being. Over the course of the year, we have spent time and energy working on our mental and physical health. Our focus has often been on eating well, working out, spending time in nature, building community togetherness through a screen. Our efforts were to help us feel more in control in an out of control situation. But there is an often-overlooked preventative measure - Emotional Wellness. As Dr. Mark Lerner of the National Center for Emotional Wellness explains, it is “an awareness, understanding and acceptance of our feelings, and our ability to effectively manage through challenges and change.” Emotional Wellness is a key component to overall resiliency through difficult times. Over the past two and a half years, our Parkland community rallied to provide effective, best practice trauma services into place for those affected by the MSD tragedy. We pulled together to run, walk and swim our way into healthier bodies. But through it all we had overwhelming thoughts and feelings. That is where Emotional Wellness helps to stabilize us. One of the key components is accepting how you are feeling, all the feelings – good, bad or ugly. When we fight against what we are feeling, it can be hard to experience life on life’s terms. We might run away from “hard” feelings by shopping, eating, gaming or blaming others. We might run towards experiencing only positive feelings which fuels addiction, makes it difficult to complete tasks, hold a job or engage in relationships once they get past the fun stage. Emotional Wellness allows us to look at all of our feelings and experiences without judgement. It is what it is. We can look at the situation and see how we would like to act, change or talk without having those emotions color the situation. So even if a student is livid that their paper did not upload correctly and their teacher marked them down, they can notice those feelings but respond politely and effectively. By focusing on the core tenets of emotional wellness everyone can manage out of control thoughts and feelings, even when they are overwhelmed by stressors. Seek help when you need it from friends, family, therapists or peers. Find small things to be grateful for each day – fluffy white clouds in a blue sky, a delicious beverage, smelling a flower. Build your mindfulness muscles by fully experiencing your five senses, allow thoughts and feelings to flow through you without sticking around while you are noticing your awareness of sights, smells, taste, touch and sounds. Share your new found wisdom from your latest mistake – you might be surprised at how much you learn when you try and fail! We can help others by supporting their emotional wellness too. Our job is to bear witness to their struggle. Instead of trying to fix a situation, acknowledge that their thoughts and feelings are valid, then ask what they would like to do about it. They might need to exercise, create art, play music, scream or shout to get the feelings outside of their bodies. Once those feelings and thoughts no longer interfere, they can be supported in problem-solving their next steps. By holding space through discomfort, we can support their ability to move through hard times. You don’t have to do it alone. Professionals United for Parkland has a dedicated cadre of clinicians ready to support your family and the community at large.
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