How to Manage Our Emotions in Difficult Times #3 – Our Need for Attention

Did you know?..

…that meeting our emotional needs well is not just key to good mental health but that, by reducing stress levels, it also strengthens our immune system and helps us fight off and recover from infection?

Welcome to the third in a series of articles offering some quick tips on how to meet each of our emotional needs (you can see our nine needs listed in the first article in the series here)

It might feel more challenging in the context of social distancing and isolation, but there’s always a way…

 

#3 Our Attention need

We all want to receive attention… but have you ever asked yourself why?

It’s helpful to think of attention as a form of essential nutrition – receiving attention from others feeds our sense of self-worth, of meaningful existence, and so maintains our mental strength – in precisely the same way that food and water provide nutrition that promotes and maintains our physical strength.

We cannot grow and survive as living beings, from infancy to adulthood, without both of these types of nutrition.

But here’s a thing… our attention need is not met just by receiving attention from others we must also have the opportunity to give attention in order to draw the nutrition. Giving attention – to others or to our surroundings for instance – is just as important in building our self-esteem and giving us a sense of meaning and purpose (which incidentally is another of our emotional needs) as receiving it.

Giving attention also helps us meet our needs for autonomy and control and Security and is a great distraction from our own worries and ruminations

 

So how can we meet our attention need when we’re socially distanced?

  • Perhaps ‘physically distanced’ is a more helpful label for our changed circumstances. We can utilise technological solutions to minimise the feeling of being socially distanced – creating virtual work and family spaces to give and receive attention with our colleagues, family and friends; continuing with meetings, parties, virtual pubs, quiz nights for example
  • When we make that conscious effort to keep our distance from someone we pass in the street (during permitted activities only of course), why not smile and say hello?
  • Where we have more time on our hands, volunteering to help others is a great way to give attention and find some meaning that might have been temporarily lost from our lives
  • If we have children maybe we’re getting to spend a lot more time with them; and this may well be stressful for all. But it can be helpful to notice and reflect on the opportunity it presents to give and receive positive attention
  • Giving attention to ourselves is always a win-win because we’re giving and receiving attention simultaneously! For example, we might feel we should be pushing ourselves on to new challenges because we’re saving on commuting time, but lack the energy to do so. Or we may be overwhelmed with extra work or parenting duties that make us stressed and irritable. Paying attention to these feelings and being compassionate towards ourselves by accepting them and not feeling guilty about them can only be good for our mental health.

 

And finally..

..taking some simple steps to keep ourselves calm is always helpful for meeting our needs. 7/11 breathing is a very powerful calming technique which you can learn how to do here

 

I hope you’ll find at least some of these tips useful; and I’d love to hear about any of your own..

Look out for tips on how to meet need #4 Community, coming soon…

 

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