“Get over it!” “Let it go!” “Move on!” Easier said than done, right? Emotional suffering is something that we are all bound to experience. Did you know that 1 in 5 adults in America suffers from a diagnosable mental health condition? It is hard to free yourself of past mistakes, feelings of shame, the pain of broken relationships, guilt, and grief. While it’s normal to get upset or have a bad day, you really shouldn’t unpack your bags and live in that emotional space, which, unfortunately, many people do. Holding onto your anger, sadness, or frustration for an extended period of time has many adverse effects on both the mind and body. As a society, we are taught to easily recognize signs of a heart attack or stroke - maybe we need to do a better job of recognizing the symptoms of emotional suffering so we can help ourselves and others before it’s too late. Suicide is now taking more American lives than highway accidents per year, and if we, as a society, learn the signs of emotional suffering, we can do a better job at getting people the help that they need and deserve.
Some of the noticeable physical effects of mental strain that should act as a warning if you see them in yourself or others include:
Sleep disturbances - sleeping too much or too little, or having nightmares.
Dramatic weight fluctuations or changes in eating habits.
Unexplained physical symptoms such as chronic fatigue, lack of energy, headaches, backaches, or stomach pains. These often act as a distraction from psychological distress.
A decline in personal care. When the body can’t handle the load, it tends to shut down.
Changes in personality and extreme mood swings that have been noticed by more than one person.
Turning down social activities or finding little pleasure in things you once loved.
Experiencing little to no interest in sex.
Encountering compulsive or obsessive behaviors like hand washing, repetitive thoughts, or having irrational fears.
Everything listed here can negatively affect your overall quality of life and can be long-lasting unless you learn to embrace and address your suffering.
To begin the healing process, one first must invite the pain and welcome it into your world, releasing yourself from fear of suffering. By exploring that emotion, you can reach its source and understand its root cause, a freeing experience. Accept what is, and don’t deny your thoughts and feelings. Allow them to exist and acknowledge them - there is a reason you’ve hung onto them for so long. Once you’ve accepted them, you can move on to getting help, inviting happiness, joy, and satisfaction into your life.
Start by practicing self-love. Speak kindly to yourself and surround yourself with people who also talk kindly to you and others. Engage in relationships that are mutually supportive and sever ties with toxic people who bring out the worst in you or bring you down. You get to choose your tribe!
Don’t isolate yourself from good people. When you’re ready, reconnect with friends, volunteer, and say “yes” to social activities. You can ask for support without having to discuss what’s troubling you. Try to practice mindfulness through meditation, yoga, and deep breathing.
Focus on taking care of your body. Make a conscious effort to get good sleep, eat a balanced diet, exercise, and stay hydrated. Get outside and take a walk or go for a hike! Being in nature is an excellent way to check-in and reconnect with yourself. Listen to upbeat, positive music - and dance! All of these things work to repair your nervous system, bringing you an overall sense of wellness.
Above all, remember that you are not alone, and by facing your pain, you’re likely to inspire others to address their own suffering more courageously. You’ve suffered long enough. Don’t allow negativity to hold you back any longer! Use it to propel you in a new, positive direction. Happiness is available if you choose to let go of your past. You are a warrior. Be brave. Stay strong.