Emotional First Aid

the most important skill we’ve never learned

We know how to put a bandage on a cut or take antibiotics to treat an infection, with no questions asked. Yet, on a daily basis we sustain emotional injuries and have no sure remedies in place. Ahmed Genena takes a look at how to apply soothing balm on those emotional hits.

Anyone who has ever ruminated over rejection or felt the pain of embarrassment knows only too well that emotional injuries can be just as crippling as physical ones and those emotional bruises don’t seem to heal as quickly. Being yelled at by your supervisor, being blamed unfairly for something or fighting with a friend or colleague; when people are treated unkindly, it causes emotional injuries. More often than not, people just wave them off. They tell themselves to get over it and move on. If that works, that's great. But, a lot of the time it doesn’t and that's when people need emotional first aid. If emotional hurts are ignored they can get worse as when people replay the situation over and over again in their mind it causes a lot of stress. Chances are they will re-hash it with colleagues, or go home and tell loved ones what happened, as well as remembering the scene and with it the hurtful emotions. This is called ruminating and It has been medically proven that the ‘re-hashing’ is what causes harmful stress.


Following are some steps to counteract emotional bruises and cuts

Develop self-awarenessThe first step is to realize that something is bothering you. It's common to have something go sideways, and to tell yourself not to give it another thought. But, if that's not happening, and you keep trying to ignore it, pay attention, as what you resist persists. When emotional issues do not get resolved, psychological injury can occur. The first step is to realize that something is bothering you. When you can name it, you can tame it, so bringing it to your conscious awareness is very important.

Tune into any ruminating you may be doingRumination, or obsessing over negative events, is a habit. It feels like not being able to stop thinking about the unfair or hurtful thing that happened. Start by thinking about the problem and possible ways to solve it, as this is a healthy conscious pattern. At the end of the day most misunderstandings can be resolved with effective communication, so it’s important to take action and not try to sweep challenging events under the carpet.

Keeping in good companyWhen ruminating about negative experiences, we have a tendency to want to share it with others. It can make things worse and double the trouble when people talk about the same thing over and over again, and don't try to solve the problem, it will depress them both and create a negative environment. So it's important to act quickly if ruminating starts and rather than discuss the problem work together to process what happened and help by offering a solution.

Avoid self-sabotageWhen you find yourself spinning your mental wheels, and going nowhere this will cause stress. And stress can lead to depression. Be mindful of negative self-talk or using food, alcohol or drugs to cope. This is just an escape and self-sabotage will cause more stress that can lead to high blood pressure and heart problems.

Be MindfulPractice mindfulness, as staying present can help you identify what to do about the situation. Listen to your internal talk, as it will give you a chance to take another perspective and change the story you are telling yourself. Breathing consciously and physical exercise can also help, as well as writing it down as some people find putting things into words helps.

Pay attention and take actionThe body evolved the sensation of physical pain to alert us that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. The same is true for emotional pain. If a rejection, failure or bad mood is not getting better, it means you’ve sustained a psychological wound and you need to treat it.

Be aware of emotional spiralingFailure can often drive people to focus on what they can’t do instead of focusing on what they can achieve. To stop this sort of emotional spiral, learn to ignore the post-failure “gut” reaction of feeling helpless and demoralized, and make a list of factors that you can control. For instance, think about preparation and planning, and what you can improve as this kind of exercise will reduce feelings of helplessness and improve chances of success.