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URMC / BHP / BHP Blog / September 2018 / Emotional First Aid

Emotional First Aid

By: Sara Smith, BSW

Do you have a first aid kit? If so, what’s inside? Probably some bandages, antibacterial ointment, gauze pads, and alcohol wipes—items that will patch up your body and get you back to what you were doing. But what do you do if you have an emotional wound? Are you prepared for that?

Emotional First Aid is the idea that we take care of emotional injuries when they occur, so they do not become more damaging in the long run. When you get a cut on your finger you put ointment and a bandage on it to prevent infection. When you are injured by things like rejection, loneliness, failure, loss or guilt, how do you take care of yourself?

Here are some things you can add to your Emotional First Aid kit:

  • Awareness - Identify when you have been injured and are experiencing emotional pain. Know yourself and be mindful of any changes in your mood such as increased loneliness or depression.
  • Redirection - When failure makes you focus on the negative, reframe the situation and think about what you can control, what you could do different next time, and how you can plan for improved outcomes in the future. Find your control and ability to adapt instead of focusing on what you did wrong.
  • Distraction - Replaying upsetting or negative experiences in your head can lead to worsened emotional health. Break the negative cycle by finding something to distract yourself with. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique, work on a Sudoku or crossword puzzle or something that requires you to put your concentration elsewhere, even if just for a few minutes.
  • Self-esteem - Notice when your self-esteem has taken a hit or you are putting yourself down. Fight rejection with self-compassion. What would a friend tell you in this situation? Or conversely, what would you tell your friend if they were feeling the way you are right now?
  • Find Meaning - Loss can be a particularly challenging wound to overcome. If you can find meaning, a new purpose, or a way your experience has made you grow or can benefit others, it may become easier to move forward.
  • Acceptance - Being able to accept wrongs done to you, and wrongs you have done, is key to good emotional health. If you are feeling ongoing guilt over something you have done, find acceptance by truly apologizing for this wrong, either to the person directly or on paper. Focus on the impact your action had, not on why you did what you did. If you have been wronged, find acceptance by focusing on letting go. Express your hurt and pain, but also what you want your life to look like moving forward and how you have grown from this hurt.
  • Reflection - Learn from experience. Try each of these techniques out so you know if they help make you feel better. If these are not working for you, take the next step and find someone you trust to talk to. Always keep in mind that your emotional health is just as important as your physical health.

If you would like to talk to someone about how stress, depression or anxiety are affecting your life, please contact Behavioral Health Partners (BHP) at (585) 276-6900.

Behavioral Health Partners is brought to you by Well-U, offering eligible individuals mental health services for stress, anxiety, and depression.

References - Emotional First Aid, Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts. Written by Guy Winch Ph. D. Published 2014 by Plume, reprint edition. 

Keith Stein | 9/4/2018

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