Expressing ourselves in a positive and healthy way probably is one of the most difficult things to do. Whether we want to communicate with a coworker, a supervisor, a colleague, a friend, or a loved one, being able to express ourselves in that way can be intimidating for some people. However, even though it can be overwhelming, it is very much needed. Being able to express ourselves helps us take better care of our well-being so that we can be the best versions of ourselves in order to navigate the world that we live in.
It can take a lot of courage, energy, and confidence to feel comfortable initiating an important conversation to address a difficult or sensitive topic with somebody. It may also be hard to stop and think about what we want to accomplish from that discussion. But, we know how important it is to have those conversations as difficult as they might be.
However, expressing yourself doesn’t necessarily need to be, or have to be, a verbal or even non-verbal conversation with someone. It could look something like journaling, writing poetry, drawing, painting, playing an instrument, mediating, or exercising.
At E-Therapy, we know many of our clients and employees need to be able to have some kind of release so they can express themselves in a HEALTHY way. We have compiled seven tips that you can utilize when trying to ensure you are expressing yourself in a positive way to the people who you surround yourself with everyday, whether they are coworkers, supervisors, colleagues, students, family members, friends or significant others. Use these tips when initiating that “must have” conversation when something is bothersome or when expressing emotions through art or exercise to gain a fresh perspective.
Healthy Communication – You need new strategies on how to be your best advocate.
The first of our seven tips is healthy communication because when we want to express ourselves, we need to make sure that we are doing it in a positive way. The most important thing to remember is to have an end goal in mind. What is it that you want to accomplish during these conversations or after you’ve mediated, journaled, exercised. What do you want to have gained after those situations?
Expressiveness – Looking back, you took on more work than you should have.
It might be hard to talk to the person who asked you to do a little extra work or take on one more project, but when you open up and share your feelings about the difficulties you’re having with some of those extra projects and duties, you will feel so much better that you advocated for yourself. There is nothing wrong with taking on extra responsibilities, but there also is nothing wrong with giving some of those responsibilities back. Businesses want their employees to work hard and be successful, but not at the expense of their mental well-being.
Active listening – One of your students needs help. Or, one of your coworkers or colleagues is expressing frustration.
Being an active listener is another important factor when communicating in a healthy way. However, actively listening to someone can be hard for some people. Not only do you have your own end goal in mind, but the person you are talking to might also have a goal in mind. Whoever you are having a discussion with, you need to be all in with it, and that means listening and paying attention to the needs they have as well as the needs you have. When you’re an engaged listener, you are promoting healthy expression which results in a productive conversation.
Learn to forgive – Your students were acting out. Or, to you, your supervisor was being unreasonable.
Don’t hold a grudge. Try not to be angry, even though sometimes it’s hard not to be. You may be upset at a colleague who said something about your work. Or maybe a student who made an off-handed remark about you that upset you. Sometimes it’s hard to not take some things personal and hold a small grudge. But when you don’t forgive, it’ll just make daily life a little bit harder; harder to go to work, harder to interact with that student or peer, or harder to be around or talk to a family member or friend. If we decide to move forward and start every day with a clear and open mind, we can become a better person, a better teacher, a better therapist, a better employee which in turn makes us a better version of ourselves for the people that we need to be there for and support.
Take a step back – Your principal or evaluator has asked you to take on additional responsibilities.
First off, “no” is an acceptable answer. It is okay to say no if your principal, department chair, or evaluator asks you to take on that extra project or be a presenter at the next staff meeting or PD Day. It is okay if you tell them that you don’t have the time to record a “how-to” video that can be shared with all staff or that you don’t have the time to create a presentation because you’re the department lead or you’re a case manager and have 100 students on your caseload. Again, no is an acceptable answer and your evaluator, principal, or AP should know that not accepting additional, voluntary work is not out of disrespect, but that it is you setting boundaries to put yourself first.
Honesty – A coworker, colleague or student has asked you for feedback about a situation or assignment.
Don’t tell people what you think they want to hear just because they are a principal or the one who evaluates you. In addition, students need to receive constructive feedback in order for them to become successful in what they are learning. If you are having a hard time with your caseload, your lessons, or a particular class or student, be honest and talk to someone about it. In the long run, it will help you build better relationships with your students, coworkers, friends and even family members. Having these open conversations allows you to start a dialogue of what you need to be more successful in your role as an educator. You’re also showing students that honest feedback is going to be more beneficial to them, and they will look to you when they need an honest answer.
Yourself first – You’ve had a “day” and need to have some “me” time.
There are times when you don’t necessarily need to have a conversation with someone, but you still need and want to express yourself in a healthy way. That outlet could include non-verbal communication or expressing yourself artistically or physically. Grab a journal and put pen to paper to “free” write about what bothered you. For many, it’s probably one of the best ways to get feelings and thoughts out to feel better. If you’re not a writer, find your sketch pad and draw, paint, sketch, or doodle to help release those emotions. Or, maybe you need a physical outlet to express yourself. Find your favorite dance or fitness class that you don’t want to miss, get outside for a run or bike ride, head to a nearby court for some tennis or basketball or hit the gym for some weight training. Another way to put yourself first is practice meditation. Everyday, take two minutes, or several more, to be in the moment. Relax. Be silent. Focus on your breathing. If you don’t know where to begin your meditation practice, visit our eCALM room where you can choose from several, 10-minute mindful moment videos. Also, once a week, or everyday, write down three things you’re grateful for from the previous day or week.
At E-Therapy, we know that expressing yourself in a healthy way can be hard at times, but in the words of author Catherine Pulsifer, “communication is one of the most important skills you require for a successful life.”