The Importance of Self-Awareness
The Importance of Self-Awareness
“Sitting with your feelings allows you to have presence and gives your emotions a say in who they are within you,” says Certified Caregiving Consultant Louisa Stringer who explores the benefits of self-awareness on emotional health and relationships through a crisis and beyond. You can read more of Louisa’s writing on the caregiving experience here.
In 2015, Disney and Pixar came out with a film called “Inside Out.” This film follows the life of 11-year-old Riley and her emotions which navigate her through a tough and life-changing event. The writers of this movie did a spectacular job of identifying our core personality traits with five of our basic emotions such as sadness, joy, fear, anger, and disgust. Like the instrument panel on the front of the plane, inside the brain of Riley these emotions live, helping steer the feelings, thoughts, and desires of her life.
It is safe to say, sometimes, I imagine what it is like up there at my instrument panel with all my emotions. Especially during these last several months, I am sure all of us can relate to experiencing all types of feelings as we gracefully stumble our way through the ups and downs of the trail that has been put before us.
If I had all the answers of how to steer this trail smoothly, it would lend well to a concise understanding of emotional and relational elements during difficult times. We could wrap it up in a nice bow, read the concluding paragraph, and go on with our lives. But, unfortunately, that is not how it works. So for now, and for what it’s worth, I am going to offer my perspective on how I best navigate my emotions and relationships through not just Covid19 but any traumatic or life-changing events that have come my way. Hopefully these frameworks might help you as you continue on with your life, too.
Quite simply, our emotions help navigate our relationships and vice versa. Both elements must be traversed carefully and deeply when going through something like we are now, which can be defined as hard, confusing, stressful, anxiety-driven and new. Many of the thoughts surrounding the pandemic come from a very similar place as when a family member learns that they will become a caregiver to their loved one--brand new territory for both our emotions and our relationships.
When I have the opportunity to sit down with a family caregiver, I want a key takeaway to be that they know what it looks like to be aware of themselves. It is in this strength they best know how to be. Emotionally healthy individuals are aware of their feelings, behaviors, and notions. When they have a healthy level of self-awareness, it makes it possible for them to maintain healthy relationships. Yet, on the flip side, there are many opportunities in life that can disturb our emotional health and, in turn, lead to adverse feelings, especially in our relationships, such as anxiety, fear, and sadness.
We have all been given a unique opportunity with this pandemic to be present with our emotions and relationships. When I feel sad (among other, challenging emotions), I hear the voice of my therapist telling me to feel what I feel when I feel it. This is the healthiest gift you can give to yourself. Sitting with your feelings allows you to have that presence and gives your emotions a say in who they are within you. If you push them away, you will never get to know them. This is also a gift you can give to the relationships in your life.
Robert Frost’s poem, “Servant to Servant,” is often used as the source of the quote, “the only way out is through.” But I like it better described by Working Daughter founder and fellow caregiving expert, Liz O’Donnell, who says, “the only way through is through.” You see, when we are attempting to get out of something we are avoiding being in it. I firmly believe we must trudge through whatever it is in our lives to come out on the other side. So whatever emotions we are feeling, sensing, observing, either in ourselves or in our relationships right now, we should feel fully immersed and present in them. And when we get through it, we have the honor and privilege of looking back and discovering why it was we went through what we did.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How often do I feel present with my emotions and my relationships?
- What does it mean to you to be self-aware?
- What is your overall emotion during this time?
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