An Emotional Hygiene checklist

‘Emotional Hygiene’ describes a way of grouping the essential factors which contribute to the balanced, healthy lifestyle we need to function best. Both the scientific evidence and common-sense point to a basic list of do’s and don’ts for remaining emotionally stable and sufficiently resourceful to deal with the difficulties, stresses and crises that are a regular part of life. Check the list to see whether your daily routine could be improved to develop greater personal balance. Do you:

Get enough sleep?

We now sleep, on average, 20 percent less than we did 90 years ago. Researcher Stanley Coren has shown that a reduction of just 10 per cent can have an effect on how we think and behave.

Exercise regularly?

Regular exercise is important for what it does to the mind, as well as the body. It does not have to be vigorous, sustained or violent. A daily brisk walk, say the experts, is all most of us need.

Eat sensibly?

What we eat of course affects mind and body, but one aspect which is often ignored is how and where we eat. Meals should be eaten unhurriedly, comfortably, preferably in company we enjoy.

Monitor your ‘self-talk’?

We all have negative thoughts which cross our minds. Don’t let these go unchallenged. These often reflect negative beliefs we have about ourselves, others, or life in general. Beware they don’t act as self-fulfiling prophecies.

Smoke and/or drink?

Nothing new here. If you must, do it in moderation. But preferably, follow the health guidelines for alcohol consumption and don’t smoke.

Get enough ‘self-time’?

Time to ourselves, such as regular involvement with a hobby or interest has known benefits. It forces us to ‘switch off’ from our daily cares and concerns and it helps our self-esteem and our sense of identity.

Enjoy social interaction?

People need to be involved in something greater than themselves. This could mean, for example, doing things for a local group or PTA, the church, a charity or joining a choir or theatre group.

Have social support?

Do you have friends with whom you can discuss things? We need a sense of connectedness with those around us, and if things go wrong, it is useful to know other people we can compare notes with outside the place where the trouble is occurring.

Have a project?

Are you looking forward to something you are planning coming to fruition, do you have realisable plans or ambitions? We function better when we have a sense of purpose in our lives.

Manage the stress in your life?

This means planning a schedule which you manage, rather than one which manages you, and allowing enough time to do things. Also, consider stress management techniques such as relaxation, self-hypnosis, visualisation, meditation, etc. used regularly.

Have physical contact?

Touch is important to us. Do you have regular, pleasant physical contact with the special person or people in your life?

Can you self-regulate?

If you are happy that your Emotional Hygiene needs are being met, do you have a way to make sure you can spot it if anything starts to go off-balance?