A first-aid kit for your emotions is something you should prepare for because emotional emergencies can arise as quickly as medical emergencies do. You learn here which exercises you can put in your emotional first-aid kit. You shouldn’t put any pressure on preparing that emotional first-aid kit but do it very lovingly and full of understanding for yourself.
Not everybody is reacting in the same way to the same exercises and tools. Therefore, I have listed many exercises, that you can use when you’re starting to slide into that negativity spiral. Just pick the right ones for you. Or add some that are better for you. If you have more ideas I would love to hear about them in the comments!
Some of the things you can prepare and you have to prepare, other exercises are for the moment when you are already feeling those negative feelings. I have marked them accordingly. The ones you need to prepare are marked with an asterisk. Just keep the downloadable PDF in your first-aid kit so you have the exercises within reach when you need them. You can download the list with more than 20 emotional first-aid exercises for. Just click here.
The exercises will affect different parts of yourself. So I divided them into exercises for the body, for the heart, and for the mind. You can find the ones for the mind and the heart in other articles: click here for the heart and here for the mind.
Before you start putting together your emotional first-aid kit please read through all the exercises. Like this, you will have them in your head already when the emergency hits.
Movement: It doesn’t have to be extreme sports and you don’t need a gym for it. Just a walk, a little exercise or yoga or even just dancing is good for you mood. If you can or don’t want to go outside for this, look for videos on YouTube and try something new. I’m sure that there are forms of exercise or gymnastics that you don’t know yet. Just try them out, nobody will see you. Maybe you even have to laugh while trying it. Even better!
Meditate: This works best if you already learned how to meditate the most important thing: try to shut down your monkey mind and stay with yourself. This is not easy but it would it relaxes you enormously. If you haven’t tried meditation before and you already in an emotional emergency maybe this is not the best time to start with it because you would have a hard time quieting down the thoughts in your head. But if you like to try something new and this is something that will help you to go past the emotional feelings and you are curious how meditation works, then you should try it of course.
The forest: The Japanese have invented the so-called forest bathing. People go to the forest to just be around trees because they relax you and make you happy. Use this for getting better. The longer you are in the forest the better. Studies have also shown that just looking at plans will make us healthier or getting well faster. In general, green plants are incredibly good for you. This is also true when you take care of the plants as a gardener. This you can also do in the smallest and darkest apartment where ever you live. So if you don’t have a forest that you can or want to go to – because you live in the desert or in a big city or it is too dangerous to go there – you can also look for a park, for solitary trees, a greenhouse, a botanical garden or maybe just a shop that sells flowers. Just look for something green and bathe in it.
Breathing: Especially when we get stressed out we forgot to breathe. Just by inhaling deeply and feeling your breath and concentrating on it you will leave stress behind you. If you just have one minute, use it. Because it is already enough to relax a little bit when you are breathing very consciously during that time. If you’re practicing yoga you know that you are learning special breathing techniques there and of course you can use them to wherever you are. It is always important to breathe into your belly and not just your lungs. You can also take a deep breath and count to four, then hold your breath while also counting to four, then you exhale on four and hold your breath again on four. Or you lay down on your back and first, you inhale into your belly as much as you can and then you inhale into your lungs right into their last corner and then you exhale the same way back. This is also a very nice way of relaxation – be careful you might fall asleep. Which brings us to…
Sleep: Negative feelings often arise due to a lack of sleep or they will get stronger by not sleeping well or not enough. A short nap – the best time is between 2 and 3 PM – of 15 to 20 minutes or just more sleep per night, can help that you feel better already. There are many guided power nap meditations that can help you to wake up again, because you shouldn’t sleep too long during the nap. It is important that you really fuel up with energy during sleeping.
Daylight/sun*: When sunlight gets to our skin our body produces vitamin D and this makes us happy. If you don’t get enough daylight especially in winter, in big cities or in dark rooms, you will be unhappier compared to getting enough sun. Therefore it already helps if you get a few minutes of sun right now. Of course, you have to take care that you will not burn your skin. Or if you can’t get any sun, you can buy a daylight lamp and use it at home which also helps to lighten your mood.
Tapping: This is one of my favorite exercises. I do it myself every day. You can do it to boost your immune system longterm or you can do it when you feel anxious and you are afraid that your feelings will turn to the negative side. The tapping affects the thymus gland and this boost the immune system. So it can help you stay healthy in the long run. It also gives you an energy boost when you do this kind of tapping. And this is how it works: take all of your fingers of one hand, relax them and then tap with them on the breastbone – this is the place between your neck and your breasts. Do that for 30 seconds. You don’t need to tap hard, it shouldn’t hurt, just very lightly. You may feel a little prickling feeling there. This energy boost will hold for around five hours.
Power posing: The scientist Amy Cuddy developed the power posing and also had a very interesting Ted Talk about it. She showed that there are some postures of your body that will give the impression of confidence. When we are confident and feel good we will go into that posture automatically. Just think about somebody who just won a race. Most people hold up their arms and smile for example. If we don’t feel like a winner but choose this posture consciously our brain will react to it. When the body is in victory posture the brain thinks that there will be a reason for it. Your mood will get better just by standing in the victory posture. This is what Amy Cuddy calls power posing. The best pose is the Wonder Woman pose: Put your feet a little apart, hands on the hips, shoulders back, chin up and smiling. Hold the pose for 2 minutes.
Birdsong*: The singing of birds has a magical effect on us. This has two reasons. First, birds sing when it gets light in the morning and second, they also sing when there is no danger. Therefore humans over thousands of years are conditioned to feel more awake when they hear birds sing and also they feel safe. This all happens subconsciously. Therefore you can listen to birds singing to feel better. You can listen to it while working, or cleaning the house or taking a walk or whatever works for you. Don’t rely on actual birds singing outside, of course being in the forest has other advantages as you know: exercise, plants,… If you download an app that plays bird song you will be better off. There are several that are free and there’s one that I like in particular and it’s from the sound expert Julian Treasure. Click here to find out more.
Fear vs excitement: If you are afraid then you will have symptoms in your body. If you think about it you will realize that being excited about something has almost the same symptoms in your body. For example a tummy ache or clammy hands. You can reframe these symptoms in your head by telling yourself that this is excitement that you’re feeling. As the symptoms are so similar your brain will believe it and therefore your fear will go away. You might be excited and feel better immediately. This especially works for social fears like giving a speech and mostly not if you’re afraid of spiders for example‚.
Relax your muscles: When we feel negative feelings our muscles tense. When we relax the muscles our body sends the signal to our brain: everything’s okay. All things that help you to relaxation helps to relax your muscles will brighten your mood as well. This can be a relaxation apps on your phone, messages, hot bath, cuddling with your partner or the children, whatever feels good also helps also your feelings.
Laughter*: Laughter and smiling always help with good feelings, that is almost a no-brainer. But for some reason, we are still not laughing enough. Children often laugh up to 400 times per day. Adults only 15 times. You should change that. Put a list together with all the things that make you smile or laugh. Always carry this list with you. It would be best if you also kept a list of one or two items that make you smile or laugh in your purse or your smartphone. Just in case.
This article is part of a series. Read more about the specific exercises for your kit and how you can prepare it. Just click on the links below:
- blog: The first-aid kit for your emotions
- blog. First-aid exercises for your mind
- blog: First-aid exercises for your heart
- blog: How to create your emotional first-aid kit
- Youtube video: How my emotional first-aid kit looks like
- Expat Partner Podcast: Why you need an emotional first-aid kit when you live abroad