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The last few years have brought a torrent of information about our physical health, but doctors, caregivers, and health officers alike agree that the pandemic took a major toll on our emotional health as well. This October, for National Emotional Wellness Month, Thurston County Public Health and Social Services (TCPHSS) staff offer tips for staying strong both inside and out.

Thurston County Public Health and Social Services wants to wish everyone a happy October National Emotional Wellness Month. Photo courtesy: Thurston County Public Health and Social Services

Emotional Wellness Month has been around since 2004 though taking time to rest, rejuvenate, and recharge have always been a vital part of a healthy life. Thurston County Public Health & Social Services has come together through department collaboration to provide help with guidance, resources, and programming regarding emotional wellness.

Unseen Stress = Real Life Problems

Though the restrictions and limitations necessitated by COVID-19 are slowing down, its impact remains with us. Many people are struggling to find ways to manage challenges in their personal lives that are stressful and overwhelming. Learning ways to cope with stress in a healthy way will not only help your physical and mental well-being, but it will help those who are around you and aid in the overall success of the community.

Our emotions are more than just behind-the-scenes players. Emotional wellness influences all aspects of our mental and physical health. Having strong emotional wellness allows individuals to have fewer negative emotions and helps them bounce back from difficulties in their life faster, due to having the skills to manage their stress.

Emotional Wellness and Impacts on Your Body

A person meditating at an office desk
Emotional wellness is vital because stressors can lead to physical problems, health issues or mental illness. Photo courtesy: Thurston County Public Health and Social Services

Stress duration makes a real difference in the long run. If anxiety doesn’t go away and begins to interfere with your life, it could start to affect your physical health. The National Institute of Health explains that individuals can experience problems with their sleeping, immune, digestive, cardiovascular and reproductive systems. You also may be at higher risk for developing a mental illness such as an anxiety disorder or depression. That is why it is important to take your emotional wellbeing seriously and learn steps to reduce overall stress and improve your mental state.

Emotional wellness is about more than just cheering yourself up. When stressed, our body reacts by releasing specific, targeted hormones. These hormones may cause your heart rate to increase, your muscles to become tense and your brain to become more alert.

When the body is exposed to chronic stress over time, your body continues to stay alert and this increases the risk of a variety of diseases including depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Stress can cause a variety of symptoms including forgetfulness, changes in sleeping patterns, reduced energy or focus, forgetfulness, frequent aches and pains, headaches, upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation, stiffness in neck or jaw, and weight changes.

How to Stay Emotionally Healthy

Thurston County Public Health & Social Services suggests some simple ways we can restore, repair, and rebuild our emotional wellness. This can include finding someone to share your feelings and concerns with, setting aside time for wellness activities, building confidence, relaxing, and maintaining a strong support network of people around you.

two people sitting, one with their fingers crossed the other's hand on top
If you or someone you love is struggling, support is out there. You don’t have to go it alone and resources are available 24/7. Photo courtesy: Thurston County Public Health and Social Services

Check in with yourself, too. Are you feeling anxious or overwhelmed? What do you feel in your body, mind, and emotions when you are experiencing stress? Have you noticed an increase in the frequency or intensity of these feelings? Do you make time to take care of yourself on a daily basis? Are there people in your support system that you can ask for help when needed?

Even little things like reaching out to a friend or loved one for a chat, eating a balanced meal, getting plenty of sleep, doing deep breathing and stretching exercises, and avoiding smoking, drugs, and alcohol will help improve your emotional wellness.

Thurston County Public Health & Social Services is Here for You

If you or someone you know is struggling, Thurston County Public Health & Social Services can help. They offer a free online, interactive workshop called Living Well Thurston for people with chronic physical or mental health conditions, or chronic pain, and their caregivers. Sessions are two and a half hours and occur once a week over seven weeks. The workshop includes a book (either Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions or Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Pain). To find out when the next workshop begins and to register call Lesley Price, Living Well Thurston Coordinator, at 360.867.2515.

Those suffering can also reach out to the free and confidential resources at the 988 Lifeline. If you or someone you love needs help, there is a network of caring support reachable 24 hours a day by calling or texting 988 from anywhere in the United States. Chat functions are also available and the service operates in English or Spanish.

Emotional wellness is vital to your overall health and wellbeing. We should all dedicate a few moments each day to checking in with our body and mind. Don’t let stress impact your health, slow your recovery, or rob your joy. Thurston County Public Health & Social Services is here to help.

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