October is a magical time of year; the air is crisper, pumpkin spice lattes dominate the coffee scene, and most of us get excited for the upcoming Day-After-Halloween clearance candy sale. It is also when the days start to become shorter, and for some of us, a little bleaker. During the month of October, mental health organizations recognize both Depression Awareness Month and Emotional Awareness Month. In recent years, depression has become a common topic, being discussed everywhere from self-help books to TV sitcoms. You may know about the symptoms of depression or may know someone in your life who has experienced it. I personally struggle with seasonal affective disorder (which is appropriately abbreviated SAD), and it becomes challenging for me to keep up both my cheery disposition and my energy levels. Until talking with a therapist, I never realized SAD can be considered a form of depression, since I think of myself as a generally happy person. After gaining more emotional awareness about my disorder, with each passing year I am better able to cope with the dreary feelings I get around this month. But what is emotional awareness, and how can it help others who are struggling with their mental health?
Emotional Awareness Defined
Simply put, emotional awareness is the ability to recognize and name the emotions you and others are experiencing. This may sound easy, but it is actually something that many people struggle to accomplish. For the longest time I used to think that I couldn’t ever suffer from something like depression because I was too blessed in my life and no reason to be upset. I didn’t mention my feelings to anyone else, thinking if I didn’t talk about them, they wouldn’t exist. Growing up, people are not always given a chance to express themselves or taught much of an emotional vocabulary. This can lead to adults who ignore their emotions, mistake them for something else, or struggle to put their feelings into words.
How Does Emotional Awareness Affect Depression?
It may seem difficult to believe that a person can be struggling with depression or other mental health issues and you may not even know it. I’ve been there before! This isn’t the situation that we would expect to find ourselves in . Being aware and learning to listen for traits of depression can help determine if someone is silently reaching out for help. Listening to yourself is just as important as listening to others. Depression can cause a person to feel so numb that they may disengage from the world around them, losing interest in things that were once important to them. If they do not have high emotional awareness, they may not be able to explain what is happening to themselves or anyone else. Taking some time each day to check in with how you or a loved one is doing can raise your emotional awareness for yourself and for those around you . Other common symptoms or signals for mental health depression include:
- Losing interest in social activities
- Loss or gain in appetite (for me it’s usual the latter!)
- Mention of death, suicide or other dark topics
- Distracted and not focused
Of course, not everyone experiences depression in the same way. Some people become very sad, or very irritable. Sometimes they don’t even know they feel this way; they just do. For people struggling with depression, gaining that emotional awareness can help make it easier to articulate what they are going through. It can also help us all to recognize that depression is the underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
Why Emotional Awareness Matters
Depression is sadly familiar, but it is also very treatable most of the time. My mom is a strong proponent of a piece or five of dark chocolate if we’re feeling down, and my aunt sends me citrus-scented body wash each year to keep my spirits lifted. Personally, I find that movement allows to to release the much appreciated endorphins I need to bounce back to my natural flow of energy. The movements I do myself and use on my clients can be done in the comfort of my own home, or even bedroom if the darker days really have me struggling to get out of my pj’s. Even doing a short five or ten minute video on the bodypeace app perks me up, knowing I did something beneficial for myself even if the rest of the day is spent watching Netflix . Of course, the first step in getting better is knowing that it’s ok to ask for help. When we’re able to recognize the symptoms of depression and explain the symptoms we experience with others, our chances of making a successful recovery are much higher.
As you can see, emotional awareness is an essential component of mental health. Being self aware can support a healthier body and a clearer mind. When your body is aligned physically, mentally and emotionally , your sense of being becomes balanced and free from blockage. A little bit of that clearance candy also couldn’t hurt!
If you feel like you need to be screened for depression or learn more about mental health emotional problems, visit mentalhealthscreening.org for resources.
Lizzie DeLacy, an experienced training and fitness instructor, helps her clients maintain physical, mental, and emotional alignment with her proprietary fitness regime.