Outlive, My Birthday Gift from My Man
My man and I share a lot of similar values around health. So I was not very surprised when he got me a health book, Outlive, for my birthday this year. I read the table of contents and saw the last chapter was on Emotions. I tend to like to read the end of books first anyway but I also wanted to hear his perspective on emotions.
The entire way he frames the chapter is that it is his one chapter where he is the patient and not the doctor. He also titles the chapter “Work in Progress”.
One of the most poignant sentences he writes is that without emotional health the rest does not matter. And I cannot agree with him more. Emotional health IS essential to health.
One of the ways that I work with my clients with their stress levels is through their relationship with their emotions. Resisting emotions creates stress and tension in our bodies. Emotional health is not about being happy it is about not being in resistance or avoidance to our hard emotions. It is about allowing hard emotions to move through us.
My coaching teacher Brooke Castillo says, “There is no escape from emotional pain, it is either pain now or pain later”.
The default choice of “pain later” means that emotional pain is hanging out in our bodies. When we do it chronically, which most of us do, they pile up making us feel and act heavy, irritated, and impatient.
When we resist our emotions long-term they turn into diseases. Every disease is rooted in emotion. I know that is a big statement and I mean it.
Emotional imbalance leads to destructive habits and a health destructive state that opens the body to the vulnerabilities of disease.
I am one of the first people who does not like feeling my feelings. I’d rather check out and hit the dopamine escape buttons too. I have lived there and know that hell.
So because I do not want to live depressed and covered in eczema I actively choose to feel my hard emotions. Regularly, as a self-practice, I schedule time in my calendar and take myself on walks and go sit in nature to intentionally feel, process, and let my emotions go through me.
I talked with several of my clients about this, this week. We spent time looking at their own personal costs of not feeling (like overeating, joint pain, depression, substance use, loss of connection in relationships) and we spent time pointing out to their brain the benefits of leaning in and feeling like (more internal space, lower stress, more patience, less exhaustion, less need to escape into sleep).
Our brains avoid hard emotions by default, avoiding pain including emotional pain is how our brains have helped us survive. We must overcome this default avoidance in order to lean in and feel.
Peter, the author of Outlive, writes, “Finally, as I learned the hard way, striving for physical health and longevity is meaningless if we ignore our emotional health. Emotional suffering can decimate our health on all fronts, and it must be addressed.” I would take it even one step further when we address our emotional health first, then physical health and longevity are far easier to access and maintain.