We often see health articles about exercise, healthy diet, quality sleep, etc., but fewer ones on emotional/mental health because some people may think that they are for those with obvious psychological issues or who can’t control their feelings. But the truth is we need to pay closer attention to our mental/emotional health given how complex today’s world is.

When we say “mind,” we typically think “intellect” and “reason.”With the popularity of characters such as Sheldon (Big Bang Theory), House (House), Elliot (Mr. Robot), and Sherlock Holmes, who says “sentiment is a chemical defect found on the losing side,” many of us now consider emotions and feelings as counterproductive. But the brain is a complicated organ, and emotion and reason are like two sides of a coin. Moreover, the physical affects the mental and vice-versa. So, here are five ways to take care of our emotional health:

Learn to recognize and accept “negative” and “irrational” emotions

When you are sad, angry, or confused, acknowledge it instead of scolding yourself for being negative. This does NOT mean we can immediately express the feeling, or that we’re “right”—only that we have the right to feel. Many people end up with difficult issues because of repressed feelings, so do yourself a favor by recognizing your emotions now instead of burying them only to have to dig them out later in therapy.

Draw boundaries

Don’t allow people to emotionally blackmail you – whether it’s your boss, friends, or parents. Emotional blackmail happens when you feel compelled to do something out of sheer guilt – like your manager insinuating that you’re not working hard enough, so you put in more overtime, or your mom suggesting that you love your dad more because you turned down an errand. Find a better reason to accept the request; otherwise, gently but firmly refuse it.

Stop comparing

Limit (or cut altogether) your time on media such as Facebook or Instagram, which tempt you into peeking at others’ lives and comparing them to your own. We’re usually too curious and discontent for our own good—remember that we’re unique, and having the same outfit/gadget does not mean we will all be equally happy/happier.

Retreat

Taking a mental vacation is much harder than a physical vacation, but is just as important. Retreats are not just for religious people; we all need a respite from our overworked brains and our overly stimulating environment. We should disconnect from virtual reality, get some sun, stare at trees, and write down a thought or two.

Call (or better yet, meet) a friend
Sounds clichéd, but effective in moderation. Sometimes we need to launder things out, and spilling our feelings to someone we trust can benefit our relationships and even work. Sometimes, two heads are better than one.

As writer T.K. Coleman puts it, “Our feelings are not there to be cast out or conquered. They’re there to be engaged and expressed with imagination and intelligence.”