We all have a brain; therefore, we have a level of mental health. This level changes on a sliding scale. I think of it like the number line we used in math class, the long arrow with a zero in the middle. We either rate on the negative or the positive side of that mental health line. Our mental health gauge slides up and down the continuum, all day every day.
This continuum scale doesn’t measure our emotions. When we are upset, angry, or totally pissed off, we don’t necessarily slide down to the negative side. That is a misconception about mental health. We can have these negative feelings, but still, be responding in a healthy way. We can be way up at +10 and feel like screaming our heads off. The reason that we are on the plus side of the continuum is….. we don’t. We use learned behavioral responses to react appropriately to our extreme emotions in a healthy manner. Being able to respond this way to negative emotions takes practice that many of us haven’t really had. Therefore, we slip and slide on the mental health scale and our emotions rule us.
The reaction that we have to our emotions is very telling. Are we throwing a hissy fit? Are we cussing someone out and heaven forbid, throwing a potted plant? That, my friends, is the action that slides us down into subzero on the mental health scale. Do we respond to our extreme hurt, anger, and frustration by shutting down and walking away? Same result, down the slide we go. Unhealthy responses to emotions are learned behavior. Lack of training and mimicking what we see is how many of us learn our emotional responses. We may know what acceptable behavior is but when adding the fuel of strong emotion, we aren’t able to control ourselves.
We learn how to deal with uncomfortable emotions throughout our lifetime. Responding in an unhealthy way when we are emotionally charged is often the outcome when there hasn’t been solid parental teaching with emotional support. Not to say that the parents withhold this information in raising their children, they may not have the training themselves. They may mirror unhealthy emotional responses from their own upbringing.
Realizing that you don’t react in a healthy manner to emotional upheaval is the first step in becoming healthier. It takes some pre-planning to change a response that has been ingrained. The shutting off and stuffing negative emotions is as harmful as the outbursts, it is just internalized. Having the foresight to respond with our words, in a controlled manner-not screaming- is a big step in emotional & mental health. Walking away from the situation, while acknowledging the issue is often the healthiest way to respond to an emotional upheaval. Then the hard part, you must pick it up again at a later date to learn, to mature, to heal from the emotional pain. It may have been a total misunderstanding, or it might be a circumstance where a decision for your best mental health needs to be made.
Mental health and emotional health are one and the same. Mental illness, however, is a brain malfunction and disease process that needs psychiatric assessment and treatment. We are in charge of our emotional well-being. If it is in a negative space, therapy, and counseling may be what is needed to heal. Take charge of your mental health, acknowledge your deficits, and make your reaction plan when you aren’t in the middle of an emotional crisis. Follow that plan! If you need to write it on a sticky note and read it throughout the day, do that. Even small steps in emotional control bring big results in your mental health!