Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

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Finding Your Emotional Fitness

on January 30, 2014

Hey CGRC people, remember this feelings chart throwback?!

I’m a guilty of a couple things:

1.) I jumped way off my healthy-diet-Paleo train over the holidays

2.) I may spend my entire Saturday catching up on “The Bachelor”

3.) I have NOT been diligent about updating this blog! (I wouldn’t say these items are in any particular order, but I woke up this morning and said, “TODAY, you NEED to update that thing!”)

My apologies – guilt is a tricky thing, and I’m sure it will promote an increased frequency of posts to come…

January has brought a lot of awesome events and happenings into my life (including a 30th bday, whoop whoop!). One particular happening right now is a challenge I’m coaching through my work with CoreFitness called “Commit30”. We kicked off on 1/13, and 40+ clients – both old and new – embarked on a 30 day mission to commit to fitness, nutrition, and emotional well-being. We gave them nutrition challenges (clean eating, Paleo, or Whole30), provided bonus workouts outside of our awesome-as-always bootcamp classes, offered small group training, and developed an online community via Facebook where participants can chat with myself and the other coach, Yajaira, AND each offer each other support and suggestions. It’s been really cool to watch unfold!

The thing that I (being a therapist at heart) love about this program, however, is how we’re speaking to sustainable change by asking people to look at not only their fitness, but their behaviors and emotions. I’ve coined it “Emotional Fitness”.  We ask people to find their emotional and behavioral fitness in an effort to keep them on a healthy track they can carry out through life (looking at things like emotional eating, stress, gym behavior, etc.) This by no means is a Websters definition, but it looks something like this:

EMOTIONAL FITNESS (n): One’s ability to exhibit and express healthy, situation-determined emotions in most aspects of their lives in a way that does not interfere with normal, daily functioning (Source: The Caitlin Langan Dictionary). See also “building STRONG emotions” Ex: Caitlin is actively working on her emotional fitness through the Commit30 program by identifying stressors that cause her to become anxious or depressed.

All-in-all, how emotionally fit you are is dependent on how often you “exercise” healthy emotions and intervene on the negative ones. Sure, we are all going to have bad days, mood swings, stressful patches… But, the difference between an emotionally “fit” and “unfit” person is our ability to recognize and respond to our feelings appropriately. There was a period of time in my mid-20’s where I’d get frustrated, stressed-out, have crying spells, etc. and wouldn’t bring myself to say, “Hey, can I talk to you about this in a few minutes? I’m upset right now, and I don’t want to lash out at you for now reason”. Instead, I’d find a way to blame others, pick arguments, or cry over spilled milk without addressing the real issue. What did this lead to? Problems with relationships, stress, feeling negatively about myself and my actions, etc.

The intervention that helped me find my emotionally fitness was therapy, actually. I had to actively work on being present with my emotions – examining why I was feeling how I was, why I behaved as I did as a response, and, most importantly, recognizing what motivated me to change the way I expressed myself AND process negative feelings that were slowing down my “emotional growth” and maturity, so-to-speak. Basically, I had to look at my baggage, deal with it, and recognize how it had previously impacted my every day life. THIS is an exercise in emotional fitness – recognizing where the problem is, responding to it, revisiting it (and practice feeling differently), and, eventually, rise above it.

Recognize, respond, revisit, rise above. There are still time I act like a brat (admittedly). There are still moments my frustration gets the better of me. But it’s drastically reduced – Much like somebody who embarks on a mission to change their diet, or the shape of their body in an effort to become “fit” (and who will inevitably be met with setbacks and hurdles along the way), finding your emotional fitness is a similar journey.

Recognize what feelings are keeping you from being your best self: Are you constantly depressed? Stressed out? Anxious? What led you here? When did it start? What situations in your life support these feelings?

Respond: Take a look at patterns and repetitive instances in your life – Is your job making you completely miserable? Are you in a toxic relationship? Do you constantly have somebody’s voice in your head telling you “You can’t” or “You aren’t good enough”?  Begin to shift your pattern of thinking and feeling. Remove the stressors you can from your life (even something simple – like changing your commute to work so you don’t have to sit on a busy highway, or moving your desk so you’re not stuck next to your pessimistic co-worker). Respond, respond, and respond again.

Revisit: Once you’ve begun to intervene, pay close attention to things that make you “slip up” – Do you keep yourself close to toxic people? Why do you do that? When we find ourselves revisiting our negative emotions, we’re better able to see what keeps us stuck there. It just takes some thought, and perhaps some change and growth. This could be the tough part (much like when one hits a “plateau” in physical fitness, or finds themselves constantly crash dieting, etc.)

Rise above: You may not be totally rid of negative emotions, but you’ll most certainly be able to own them, handle them, and move on easier from them. It’s almost second nature these days for me to say, “I’m sorry, I’m stressed out right now. I’m not irritated at you – I just need space for a minute to calm down”. In fact, I’ve been told I tend to “over apologize” for being stressed, probably in an effort to make sure the person knows I’m not trying to be a “B” and to be almost hyper-aware of how I’m showing emotion!

But seriously, you will rise above it. It just takes a little work in Planet Brain-Fitness to get you there. Emotional Fitness. Boom. Blog Post 2014. Speaking of healthy feelings, I feel a lot less guilty after completing this post and updating the blog. I guess I can now go watch Juan Pablo find fake TV love in peace 🙂

Happy Feelings & Healthy Minds, everyone!


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