As June comes to an end and July heightens the anticipation for summer. After a long winter, we are looking forward to warm weather, days full of sunlight and outdoor activities; all of which can naturally help us strengthen our own emotional health. Meeting with a licensed mental health counselor can be an additional method to focusing on emotional health. What is emotional health anyway, and why is it so important? Let’s look at the effects of emotional health and some strategies to grow and thrive, emotionally and otherwise, this summer.
Emotional health, also referred to as emotional intelligence, is a vital part of our overall health and our daily lives. Emotionally healthy people tend to be happier, and there is growing research that happiness promotes success in work, relationships and health. Resilience, communication, confidence and compassion all stem from emotional health. Emotional health is developed in two spheres: personal intelligence and social intelligence.
Personal intelligence is our understanding of ourselves. It is a self-awareness of who we are, what we value and the ways we conduct ourselves in numerous different situations. Some ideas for strengthening your personal intelligence includes:
- Authenticity: Acknowledge what you want, you feel, you think, you wonder, etc.
- Focus on your senses: What are five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste?
- Notice your physical movement: Take 30 seconds to notice how your body is naturally moving. We unconsciously adjust to get comfy in a chair or might bounce a foot while we wait. If you notice your body is completely still, do you feel relaxed or do you feel tight and stuck in place? Practice purposeful slow movement like raising your arms or uncrossing your legs as slowly as possible.
- Make a note of trends: Maybe you get hungry 30 minutes before lunch, maybe you get loud when you are feeling stressed, maybe you always sit in the back of a room full of people. Whatever you notice, do not judge it as good or bad. Use your newfound knowledge to learn about yourself. If you want to change it, then make a plan!
- Coping skills: When you are feeling strong emotions (positive or negative) practice some techniques like deep breathing.
If none of this resonates with you, find more ideas here. Self-awareness can be achieved through a variety of enjoyable activities. The key is to make it intentional and habitual.
Social intelligence is our understanding of society around us. Knowing social rules, being able to identify social cues and having a way to conduct ourselves inside of a social environment and outside of it are key. Some ideas for improving social awareness include:
- Experience: A necessary part of improving social awareness is to experience social interactions. This is where summer activities can be especially helpful. Cook out, go for a walk, or schedule an outing with a friend.
- Reflective listening: During a conversation, repeat your interpretation of what the other person said in your own words. Generally, you will either get confirmation that you understood them correctly or you will get clarification of what the other person was really trying to convey.
- Compassion: Self-compassion helps us maintain autonomy in a social environment and compassion for others guides us to see a situation from another person’s point of view.
- Take note of trends: You may start to notice patterns regarding social rules, other people’s facial expressions and your own comfort level. Explore more trends here.
- Know your limits: This can be in regard to crowd size, energy level, time spent with others without a break, etc. There is an important difference between challenging ourselves and overwhelming ourselves. What are your personal signs (self-awareness) that you have reached your limit?
With practice and a balance of social and personal intelligence, we achieve and improve our emotional health. Practice takes time and is not always immediately gratifying. Even after we have practiced personal and social awareness, finding a balance between them in every situation can be challenging. The good news is you do not have to do it alone and licensed mental health counselors are trained to help you learn these skills and succeed!
Evidence has been building for years that individuals are their own biggest barrier to seeking professional help. This is fueled by perceived societal stigma and perceived function of counseling/therapy. See “Stigma and help-seeking.” Common misconceptions include:
- Only clinically depressed and mentally unstable people get counseling.
- Counselors use sales tactics to make me believe something different than I feel.
- The waitlist is too long, and the expense is too great to be worthwhile.
The reality is:
- Seeing a counselor can act as input/output and help you identify and build coping skills and techniques to prevent clinical mental illness.
- Your values and beliefs are a part of who you are and it would be unethical for anyone (especially a counselor) to simply tell you to be different. With guidance, the hope is that you could build on your values to better understand your control in a situation and learn tools to improve social and personal awareness.
- Long waitlists are inconvenient. However, annual patterns suggest (and studies like this one from TherapyDen support) that counseling offices have shorter waitlists during the summer months. If you’re thinking about utilizing a counseling service, now is a good time to look into doing so. In regards to cost, more and more counselors (both inter-agency and private business) are accepting insurance since the need has become evident. Many agencies also have payment assistance plans.
Resources available for employees, dependents
Purdue faculty and staff have access on-campus and off to a variety of mental health resources, including:
Introduced in the April issue of the Healthy Boiler Newsletter, myStrength is the newest mental health tool available to all employees and dependents, regardless of whether or not they are on a Purdue medical plan. The no-cost, emotional health and well-being program courtesy of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Purdue’s medical plan administrator, is referred to as a digital “health club for the mind.” The program’s tools and resources are available to help manage things that can affect mental health such as:
- Chronic pain.
- Problems with sleep.
- Substance abuse.
The program allows each person the ability to craft his or her own unique mental health portal focusing on individual needs and wants regarding their mental health. Accessible online and via the myStrength app, individuals have secure, private support at home and on the go.
- Employee assistance counseling
Available through the Center for Healthy Living on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, employee assistance counseling is available to all benefits-eligible faculty and staff as well as dependents covered on a Purdue medical plan. Appointments with the employee assistance counselors (Nancy Cook and Amanda Douglas) are available in person and via telephone, making it possible for employees — including those who work at Purdue’s regional campuses as well as remotely — to use the services.
Employee assistance counseling provides free, confidential and individualized problem assessments followed by a plan of action developed between the counselor and individual. If ongoing services or treatment is deemed necessary following the six times employees are able to meet with a center counselor, they may be referred to a provider covered by one of the Purdue medical plans or to a local resources agency. Behavioral Health referral information for all campus locations (West Lafayette, Fort Wayne and Northwest — Hammond and Westville) is also available via the Who To Call /Where To Go web page.
Employees seeking assistance managing their medications can meet with one of the center’s pharmacists in person or via telephone to help figure out the best outcomes based on an individual’s specific needs and wants related to medications.
A part of the College of Health and Human Sciences, the specialty clinics offer assessment and therapeutic services for children, adults and families.
- LiveHealth Online Psychology, Psychiatry
LiveHealth Online Psychology provides individuals the ability to talk face-to-face via a computer or mobile device with a licensed psychologist from the convenience of their home, office, car or wherever is most convenient. In addition to the LiveHealth Online psychology option, LiveHealth also offers LiveHealth Online Psychiatry, where, like the medication therapy management services via the Center for Healthy Living, individuals can receive medication management support for common behavioral health conditions such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and anxiety.
- Mental Health America
Purdue employees at the West Lafayette, Fort Wayne and Northwest campuses have local access to Mental Health America services. The organization is dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans. Mental Health America affiliates provide mental health support services, educational programs and more.
- Mental Health America: Wabash Valley Region – Lafayette, Indiana
*Crisis Center Hotline can be reached via 765-742-0244 (call or text) or toll-free at 877-419-1632 for any problem at any time.
- Mental Health America of Northwest Indiana – Hammond, Indiana
- Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana – Fort Wayne, Indiana
- National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) – the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization educates, advocates, listens and leads to help build better lives for those affected by mental illness.
- NAMI Helpline can be reached at 800-950-NAMI (6264), Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Crisis Text Line can be reached by texting “NAMI” to 741741 – 24/7 crisis support via text message.
You are not alone. Be kind to yourself. Life is a dance we learn as we go.
Be kind. Be well. Boiler up!