Emotional first aid

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If you hurt yourself and were bleeding, would you enlarge the wound to make it worse? Of course not! You would clean the wound, treat it with ointment, and cover it with a bandage so that it could heal.

I watched an excellent TEDx talk today in which the speaker, Guy Winch (a psychologist), discusses how we need to learn emotional first aid. If we learn how to protect ouselves and take care of our hearts and minds, we can learn to be emotionally healthy.

This is huge!

Opening the drapes

I have been learning this myself over the last 11 years. I am still working hard to learn how to do this. Just understanding that we have power to change our  thoughts and hence our emotions is life-changing. It is like opening the curtains and a window to let the warm sunshine and fresh air into a dark, cold, stale room.

We each have the power to nurture good emotional health! AND to teach our children how to do the same!

“What do we know about maintaining our psychological health?…”

“What do we teach our children about emotional hygiene?…”

“You know, we sustain psychological injuries even more often than we do physical ones.”

Good emotional hygiene

Dr. Winch explains that negative experiences such as loneliness, failure, and rejection can have a powerful impact on us unless we handle them in a way that is emotionally healthy. We need to recognize how we approach challenges such as these and practice good emotional hygiene.

“You have to fight feelings of helplessness….You have to gain control over the situation. You have break this kind of negative cycle before it begins. 

“Our minds and our feelings–they’re not really the trustworthy friends we thought they were. They’re more like a really moody friend who can be totally supportive one minute and really unpleasant the next….

“When you are in emotional pain, treat yourself with the same compassion you would expect from a truly good friend.” That sounds a lot like the Savior’s instruction, “Love your neighbor as thyself” (Matt.22:39). That phrase is the basis of learning about self-care.

2 minutes of distraction

He shared how when his twin brother was enduring chemotherapy, he (Guy) developed the habit of constantly thinking of how difficult it must be for his brother. His brother was extremely positive, uncomplaining, and doing well psychologically. Guy knew that while he was “psychologically… a mess,” he “knew what to do. Studies tell us that even a 2 minute distraction is sufficient to break the urge to ruminate in 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.”

As we learn how to battle negativity, we can learn how to heal. He shares how to practice emotional hygiene, including avoiding rumination.

I believe this TEDx speaker contains truth in it. I wanted to share it with you.

Dr. Winch elaborates on this topic in his book, Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries.


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