I am convinced that emotional check-ins are one of the most important things you can do for your mental and emotional health. And yet, nobody seems to know about them! So today, we’re fixing that. I’m telling you everything you need to know about emotional check-ins. What they are, how to do them, and why you desperately need them.
Everywhere you turn, people are talking about wanting to feel better. And I’m guessing you are too. Maybe you want to feel happier or less anxious. Maybe you want to feel more focused or less distracted. Or maybe you want to feel less stressed and more fulfilled.
Now for the most part, I’m on board. But there’s a glaring problem. No one seems to pay attention to how they’re feeling now. Very few people seem willing to take an inventory of what emotions are present in the current moment. We seem to rush to the future. We want to skip ahead and feel better fast. But how can we feel better later if we don’t even know how we feel now?
Helpful interventions begin with accurate assessments. When you go to the doctor with a sore throat, she doesn’t guess you have strep and hand you a prescription. No; she takes your vitals, does a thorough examination, and then swabs your throat. If your car is making a strange noise, the mechanic doesn’t just open the hood and start pulling stuff out. No; she starts by running diagnostics and getting an accurate sense of what’s going on. And then she starts fixing things. You can’t feel better later, if you don’t know how you feel now. And this is why emotional check-ins are so important.
Emotional check-ins are designed to help you slow down. They’re designed to help you get an accurate reading of how you feel. Because remember, helpful interventions begin with accurate assessments. So if you want change how you feel later, you better start with how you feel now. Here are five, simple steps to get you started on your very own emotional check-in.
1.Tune into your body. Your body often sends physical cues about how you’re feeling, long before your emotions fully register. And for a lot of people, the body is the easiest way to tune into what you’re feeling. Perhaps your shoulders are tense, you’re walking quicker than normal, or your heart is racing. Perhaps you’re sitting more slumped than normal, you’re talking less in a meeting, or your muscles feel heavy and tired. Notice these physical cues, and let them serve as a prompt to check in with yourself.
2.Take a deep breath. Imagine how difficult it would be for a nurse to take your temperature if you were running circles around the exam room. It would be chaos. So why would you try to do an emotional check-in with your mind racing? If you’re a regular on my channel, then you’ve probably heard me say this 100 times before. A slow, mindful breath is one of the best things you can do for your health. So take a slow, deep breath, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. This helps slow your mind and reduce distractions, making it easier to focus on your emotional experience. (Want a super helpful tutorial on mindful breathing? Watch one here.)
3.Ask the question. Use the simple question, “How am I feeling?” Make it even more specific by tacking on the phrase “right now” or “in this moment.” This will help focus your brain on the current moment, which is an awesome practice in mindfulness. This ensures that you can as accurate a reading as possible. And don’t be afraid to ask this question out loud. It will help direct your attention and your thoughts to your emotional check-in.
4.Use descriptive words to capture how you feel. It’s critical when you’re describing y ouremotions to use detailed, specific, and nuanced words. Imagine if a physician just diagnosed you as “sick” or “achey.” Those generic terms wouldn’t help guide treatment. In the same way, it’s not helpful to do an emotional check-in and say, “I feel bad.” That is surface and vague. And you can do better. Maybe you’re feeling drained, depleted, worried, confused, distracted, hurt, rejected, judged, or overwhelmed. Those words are more specific and detailed. And as I’ve said before, the more accurate the assessment, the more helpful the intervention. So get specific with your emotions! (PS: for a printable list of emotion words, click here.)
5.Brainstorm what might be contributing to those emotions. When it comes to humans and our emotions, it’s rarely simple. And there’s rarely a clear cause. But we can often hypothesize about some contributing factors or potential explanations for the way we feel. By brainstorming some of the things that might be contributing to your emotions, you’re gaining greater insight into your experience. And while insight isn’t necessary for change, it makes it a heck of a lot easier.
To be honest, it’s tough to acknowledge difficult emotions. It’s hard to sit with discomfort. But it’s important. And as one of my favorite quotes says, “You can’t heal what you can’t feel.” Simple stated, if you don’t know how you feel, you can’t do a dang thing about it.
Like almost everything healthy, emotional check-ins take some effort at first. They may feel odd or awkward, and that’s ok. New things take practice. So to help yourself practice, pick an activity you do daily, and connect your check-in to that. Set an alarm on your phone, or keep a sticky note nearby to serve as a reminder. Continue to practice. After a while, you’ll start to notice a difference, an increased level of awareness. And most importantly, a powerful opportunity to do something different.
Helpful interventions begin with accurate assessments. So get serious about your assessment, and give emotional check-ins a try!
PS: Having a hard time lately? This simple phrase will help.