Practice emotional hygiene

The pandemic is a good teacher for me. I’m taking the many lessons to heart.

What’s important is coming clear; among the most important, is our relationships with others. Tending the garden of our relationships requires we pull out the weeds of misunderstanding that can get in the way of the beauty, especially as we’re isolated.

Challenge either brings out the best in people, or the worst. I’ve experienced both, within myself and with others. When we’re stressed, other people can feel more irritating, and they can get on our last nerve.

One person shared their shock, hurt, and disbelief when a friend, whom they’d helped extensively, refused to share their huge cache of toilet paper. It has affected their friendship; this breaks my heart.

The meaning and impact of the pandemic is different for each of us. How we’re able to adapt and manage varies moment-to-moment, day-to-day, depends on many factors.

Right now, emotional hygiene is as important as our hand hygiene. It directly affects our health.

I’ve connected with many who find themselves overcome with feelings of sadness, irritability, or grief, seemingly out of the blue. Strong, solid friends tell of times of just losing it.

I’m hearing from people who are embarrassed by something they’ve said or done, or who’ve been deeply hurt by another’s words, actions, or attitudes.

Isolated from our usual diversions, it’s easy to ruminate on what’s been difficult, and embellish other’s behaviour in the virtual reality of our minds. This is not helpful to our health and immune systems.

I often share that the body doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined.

Our bodies experience the effects of our thinking and feeling, secreting either stress hormones, or beneficial hormones.

As Reen Rose shared in her column on Sunday, stress hormones are meant to help us for short periods of time, to move us away from danger, and are harmful to our health when we dwell there.

Used in the long-term, stress hormones negatively impact our immune systems and health. We need to keep these systems working in top order.

Practising mental and emotional hygiene is vital right now. Remembering negative thoughts and feelings are sticky, like a nasty virus; it’s important to be vigilant about what we feed.

I’ve been taken aback by people’s behaviours or responses at times, feeling angry, shocked, or hurt when they act uncaringly, refuse to help, or snap back at an innocent question.

Then, I remember to pause and simply consider that their stress is showing, that’s all.

In such moments, it’s easy to move into judgment or hurt, to take the effects of their stress personally. Instead, I choose to remember these are good people, trying their best in challenging times, just like me. They each have stressors I’m not privy to.

I don’t need to catch the virus of their emotion and allow it to affect my day and my health.

Much like Elsa in Frozen, I can let it go. I’ve learned to cut myself and other people some slack. This has been a powerful lesson.

When people act out of character or are difficult, I’ve learned to take things lightly and to let it go.

I’ve decided to use these moments to remember that few of us have ever lived through such times. We’re all trying our best. I become curious about what else might be going on for them.

When I do this, I find myself filled with compassion and shared humanity. These feelings create health within my own body, and also help tend my relationships.

I choose to remember the effect stress has on our brains and bodies, and that feeding negative emotions hurts me the most.

I am the most direct recipient of my own emotions. While others are impacted by what I’m feeling, it is me who experiences them most directly.

Whether I nurse feelings of gratitude and appreciation, or fear, anger, judgment, and resentment, it’s up to me. I am the governor of my own consciousness, and I am the person most greatly affected by my choice.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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