We were all brought up knowing the corresponding first aid and responses for different kinds of injuries. Bandages for minor cuts. Gauze major wounds. Ice packs for sprains. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for drowning. And there’s the emergency room at the hospital for anything beyond our control. Curiously enough, when it comes to emotional injuries, most times, we are left on our own until we heal, that is, if we heal at all.
Loneliness, rejection, and failure create psychological wounds
There is a prevalent “favoritism we show the body over the mind,” says author and licensed psychologist Guy Winch during his TedX talk titled “Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid.”
“We sustain psychological injuries even more often than we do physical ones,” says Winch. He adds these injuries can be failure or rejection or loneliness, which gets worse if ignored, impacting our lives in dramatic ways.
“Loneliness creates a deep psychological wound, one that distorts our perceptions and scrambles our thinking. It makes us believe that those around us care much less than they actually do.”
How to develop “emotional hygiene” to keep a wound from getting worse
Winch goes on to explain that chronic loneliness increases the likelihood of early death by 14 percent and causes conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and suppression of the functioning of the immune system, making a person vulnerable to all kinds of illnesses and diseases.
Winch says failure and rejection work the same way. Once the mind convinces us that we are incapable of something or that we are worthless and deserve to be rejected, and we start to believe it, then we begin to feel helpless and stop trying too soon. Worse, Winch adds, is we tend to deepen the wound by calling our selves names, or thinking things are our fault instead of recovering from the blow it has done to our self-esteem.
“That’s why so many people function below their actual potential. Because somewhere along the way, sometimes a single failure convinced them that they couldn’t succeed, and they believed it.”
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Winch shares ways we can develop emotional hygiene to keep an emotional wound from getting worse.
1. Treat yourself with compassion when hurt.
The lower our self-esteem, the more vulnerable we are to stress and anxiety, and failure and rejection will hurt more.“So when you get rejected, the first thing you should be doing is to revive your self-esteem, not join Fight Club, and beat it into a pulp When you’re in emotional pain, treat yourself with the same compassion you would expect from a truly good friend.”
Rumination or replaying a scene over and over in our heads is a habit we should catch early and change, advises Winch.“By spending so much time focused on upsetting and negative thoughts, you are actually putting yourself at significant risk for developing clinical depression, alcoholism, eating disorders, and even cardiovascular disease.”
3. Distract yourself from (repetitive) negative thinking.
According to Winch, studies show even a two-minute distraction is sufficient to break the urge to ruminate at that moment.“And so each time I had a worrying, upsetting, negative thought, I forced myself to concentrate on something else until the urge passed. And within one week, my whole outlook changed and became more positive and more hopeful.”
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Winch ends by mentioning that a century ago, when people started practicing proper hygiene, life expectancy rose by 50 percent in just a matter of decades. “I believe our quality of life could rise just as dramatically if we all began practicing emotional hygiene,” he concludes.