Emotional well-being is not a life factor we believe we have much control over, at least not to the same degree that we believe we do with our bodies, careers and finances, yet that might be more perception or assumption than fact and reality. 

Consistency to tending to our psychology at an “emotional gym” could prove key to feeling more in authority over our lives, improving our emotional balance, resiliency and success.

This is vital to learn and a driving variable in our outcomes. 

(Long Quach, Psy.D., clinical psychologist)

“Our emotional health plays a huge role in our executive functioning and relationship maintenance,” says Long Quach, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and clinical supervisor.

The benefit of paying as much attention to our emotional “fitness” and strength as we do with the strength, shape and well-being of our bodies, careers or financial health might just require programming our minds to necessity and value to intrinsically drive our discipline and behavior to engage in it.

“There’s a reason why many people throughout history attribute their success to mental toughness,” Quach says. “David Goggins comes to mind. Because unpleasant feelings like anxiety, sadness, fear, loneliness, guilt, etc. are inevitable, working on our emotional fitness can allow us to harness their potential.”

Emotions are not what we want to take the time to examine, study, understand and navigate, or we believe we just don’t have the time or energy for the process yet Quach says we can choose to look at them differently.

“I always emphasize to all of my patients ‘our emotions are our friends and not our enemies,’” he says. “A good example is anxiety. The relationship between anxiety and performance has been studied for a long time and there’s a sweet spot where a person can perform at a high level with the right level of anxiety.” 

There is a caveat however, Quach says.

“Of course, when someone has not had a chance or desire to work on their emotional fitness, they will not be able to tolerate intense emotions as someone who has been working on it,” he says. “The parallel between emotional fitness to physical fitness is very apparent. For example, you would be able to move a heavy couch a lot easier as someone who has been working out versus someone who has never worked out.”

Quach has recommendations on how to pursue emotional “fitness’ in regards to stress, anxiety, depression and especially impulse control of problematic behavior, yet it isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

“This is a complicated question with many variables that are unique to the person so the answer will be varied or very long. The complicated factors have to do with the person’s age, life experience, history of mental illness, and a natural propensity to tolerate stress,” he says. 

Quach says there are simple actions that can prove helpful.

“There are steps that anyone can use to start their emotional fitness journey,” he says. “I’d recommend first, learn to name your feelings, the scenarios where the feelings come up, observe how they impact your behaviors, thoughts, and performance, and then systematically learn to be with those emotions.”

(Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay)

Quach says that keeping record of what you learn is smart and can light the path to successful adjustments.

“You can then write this data down and see if there’s a pattern and try to change those patterns. Like physical fitness, consistency is key, but also like physical fitness or even financial fitness, it is always good to consult with a professional so you can do it the most effective way,” he says.

When we have low self awareness of our emotions and show difficulty to others in how we manage them, relationships and our reputation are negatively affected.

“We see this every day; emotional dysregulation leading to behaviors – body language, verbal language, behavioral language – that lead to problematic behaviors,” Quach says.

“These behaviors then cause friction with those around them or even impairing their professional responsibilities. This then leads to additional emotional distress and in turn, a high likelihood of (more) problematic behaviors. 

The result of this common type of human interaction is unwanted and painful.

“The person can now be digging themselves into a deeper hole, burying their reputation,” he says.

Regularly going to the emotional gym, so to speak, can not only aid in building self awareness of our emotions and gaining understanding of ourselves, it helps us learn how to respond, not react, in more healthy ways, develop emotional fitness and balance and improve our reputation, professionally and personally.