Taking your "emotional temperature" (or "emotional vital signs")

One of the most important "life skills" which nobody teaches us but is enormously helpful is to be able to take our own "emotional temperature". Or to assess our own "emotional vital signs".

How am I feeling exactly - am I anxious, afraid, tired, angry, content, disappointed, lonely, elated, frustrated.

The parallel to our physical health is pretty direct - in order to know "what is wrong" with us physically, the first thing everybody does is check your vital signs. Temperature, blood pressure, pulse, respirations. Just by doing a quick scan of those we can zero in on or eliminate a whole bunch of areas to look at.

Our emotional states are no different but we don't really approach them that way. We just go along when angry without doing anything about it or even realizing that it is the state that we are in. If you had high blood pressure would you go and do things to make it worse until the point where you collapse? Well if you don't measure your blood pressure you may be doing exactly that and if you are angry and you are not aware of it, you may be adding to it until something breaks there too.

Driving while angry should be added to the various definitions of "impaired driving".

We can make a commitment to and develop the skill and the habit of "taking our emotional temperature." It is emotional hygiene. We owe it to ourselves and to those around us to do this regularly and consistently because if we don't, we are just thrashing through life unaware of our emotional states and almost guaranteed to cause havoc to ourselves and others.

Assessing where we are is the first step to changing it - if our pulse is racing, we take a few deep breaths to slow it down. Emotionally, if we are angry or agitated we need to pause. It is not up to others to recognize our emotional states and tell us to "calm down" or "take a deep breath". It is our own responsibility to do that because we are responsible to for our emotional health as much as we are for our physical health.

We are responsible for our emotions.

Consistent practice and habit of assessment will produce tools for remedying some of those states that are undesirable. And increase our appreciation of those states which are desirable such as absence of anxiety - absence of anxiety is "wasted" if we don't recognize it as such and acknowledge it. By being able to "compare and contrast" our states of anxiety and fear and absence thereof we will get better at replicating one and avoiding the other. It is a learned skill, it is not a talent and nobody is born lacking the ability to acquire that skill.

I wish somebody told me this about 40 years ago.


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