What is emotional detoxing? Simply put, think of it as a spring clean for the mind. The purging of any toxic feelings you may have is important for improving your mental well-being. But where do you start? Is the process the same for everyone? Surely one size can’t possibly fit all?
Well, it doesn’t, and here’s why: how you feel will depend entirely on what you experience. What you focus on as the primary driver for your negative thoughts will also be determined by what is leaving you feeling low. How you interact and react to others will govern how worn out you feel.
Do you ever find that you are so overwhelmed by your inner thoughts or personal responsibilities that you feel unable to think straight; like you are rooted to the spot in a mental paralysis? Or, that you’re so emotionally fragile that you could overreact to a situation that normally you wouldn’t find stressful at all?
Maybe you’re simply feeling withdrawn and harbouring a ‘lost’ feeling. If this is you, then it may be time for an emotional detox.
So, what exactly is an emotional detox? It’s when we engage in a new practice or behaviour that directly seeks to eliminate the emotions that interfere with our optimal mental well-being. Simple, right? Not exactly, as lasting change is hard and emotional change in particular can be harder to put into practice, especially when we consider that we’re all part of a world which values being busy over slowing down. Unfortunately, in the long run this can leave us depleted and disconnected.
We’ve established that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to embarking on an emotional detox journey. Naturally, there are elements that are the same for everyone but there are other factors at play which we should also consider. The beauty of this process is that you can pick and choose techniques and components that suit you best.
I’ve set out some suggestions to consider for people arriving at this same point from different directions; a homemaker for example, may have different pressures to deal with than let’s say, a senior executive. A student or adolescent will have their own perspective on the need for an emotional detox. All are equally valid and personally important, but the relatability of each is also vital to set out here. However, as I say, read them all and choose what’s best suited for you.
Tips to help homemakers embark on an emotional detox
Mind mirror: This is the quest for self-honesty. What is it that lies at the heart of what may be causing your mental or emotional discomfort and unhappiness?
Being brutally honest with yourself is the best way to begin addressing what the root course is. This is the only way for a person in your position to start making changes.
You may not always like what you see, but the mirror never lies! The mind mirror reflects what you feel.
Staying with the mirror theme, how are things looking physically? The mind and emotions are connected to the body. Naturally there are distinct differences between a physical and emotional detox, yet one characteristic in both is that eating healthy, nutritious foods and moving your body is absolutely essential.
Clear your head: There is nothing more satisfying than a good old clear out and the same applies with your mind. A brain dump to declutter your mind works wonders.
Grab a pen and without too much thought at all, write down whatever comes to mind. This method will help you to identify your unconscious needs and highlight some of the inner conflicts you may never have mentioned before. Yet, there they are, out of your head. Read through your thoughts and try to identify patterns. This way you’ll start to see how your emotional stresses are often directly linked to one another.
Less of the social: We underestimate the powerful grip that social media can hold over us at our peril.
Often, after a brain dump, people discover that social media could be a stress trigger for them. Why is this? When we constantly watch the ‘perfect’ lives of others we make inevitable comparisons. This is an unrealistic reality portrayed as being real.
The more we digest, the less able we become to differentiate; this is tiring and can have a significant negative impact on our emotional wellness over time.
Greatly cutting back or even taking a break from social media can be a highly beneficial part of an emotional detox.
What goes in: When we’re stressed we seek comfort, often in things that don’t do us all that much good. This is human nature.
Desiring and consuming fatty or fast foods are the most common because generally speaking they are also the easiest to access, coupled with instant gratification! However, by engaging in this behaviour merely to dull pain or alleviate stress, simply cannot lead to the personal emotional healing you are seeking.
To compound matters, overindulging can lead to serious health issues down the line such as weight gain, diabetes, and overall poor health.
Reach out: By bottling up all your feelings and emotional turmoil you’ll continue to compound the problem. Take a moment and identify those people in your world who you trust implicitly and reach out to them for help. The same applies when speaking with a professional; you may not know them personally (yet!), but they have the wherewithal to help by listening. Remember, we all need someone at some point in life.
Forgive and forget: Too many people hold onto grudges against others and against themselves; this isn’t a healthy mental attitude, with potentially long-lasting consequences.
Grudge holding can slowly eat away at our emotional wellness. By recognising that everyone makes mistakes, you’ll be able to let go, forgive and move on.
Ways to detox emotions for young adults, adolescents or students
Learned emotional awareness: Many of us were taught from an early age to suppress negative feelings and pretend like everything is fine all of the time. As adults, this suppression of emotions is risky as it stops us from expressing ourselves emotionally.
You’ve probably discovered that your problems won’t vanish because you ignore them. I suggest you start being curious about what you’re feeling. Being aware of your emotions provides a platform to understand them.
When you’re more aware of your emotions you’ll be able to make more of an action plan. Perhaps when you feel yourself getting stressed or angry, you go for a walk outside, or when that certain person puts you down, remind yourself that it’s an expression of their insecurities, not a reflection of you.
Outside the inside: While being aware of our emotions is crucial for self-healing, sometimes we need to get outside of ourselves to experience lasting change on the inside. If you’re feeling very anxious, burned out, or generally just sorry for yourself, the less obvious solution might be as straightforward as to stop making yourself the centre of attention – your own attention.
Look outside for a moment and see what’s going on around you. Try contacting a friend and asking how they’re doing. You’ll be amazed how listening and helping others will alleviate your own pressures. Focusing on someone else and giving out positive vibes helps us to gain a better perspective on problems as a whole, particularly the ones we couldn’t see a solution to previously.
Keep it clean: No detox will do anything if you don’t replace toxins with the things that nourish you. After you have worked through the feelings and emotions that are doing you no favours, it’s time to fill up on the good stuff.
From now on everything you do, watch and say, should be an effort to make you feel happy. Practice compassion and endeavour to spend as much time as possible with the people who make you happy. As my mother taught me, happiness is not a chance or a guaranteed outcome; it’s a skill.
Detox tips for busy executives
Work for change: We’re all familiar with the term ‘toxic workplace’. Employee surveys often document mixed results in terms of job satisfaction and employee engagement across all work environments. This is to be expected, however something new is increasingly coming to the fore – and that’s the ‘victim mentality’ which is starting to emerge more often. Now we encounter "I have the worst job!" or, "Please feel sorry for me because of this or that." This is a negative state of affairs that we need to reverse.
We do not automatically have to be passive victims, unable to affect those we work with. This is because being ‘dysfunctional’ cannot be limited to everyone else; we need to consider whether we are contributing to the emotional unhappiness in the place we work? You can take steps to combat the negativity.
Try a self-assessment: Ask yourself, what am I doing personally that isn’t helpful in creating a positive workplace?
Consider your response very carefully. If you find yourself using terms like quick tempered, quick to find fault in others, unpredictable, never compliment others, impatient, irritable or a complainer, then your emotional detox journey for the workplace needs to start without delay. If you find others fall into these categories, then you’ll recognise you can help and support them.
Stop your negative actions: Wherever possible try to disengage from participating in negative interactions. Remember the saying, "If you can’t say anything positive, don’t say anything at all".
Positive communications make so much more sense for an emotional detox; the beauty of this approach is that it’s contagious – a spirit of positivity and optimism will flow from person to person.
We recognise that emotionally toxic workplaces are made up of many components, but one of the key aspects is the accumulated negative emotion feeding off each other and becoming cultural. This is what a colleague should seek to alter in themselves. Therefore, only when all individuals start taking responsibility for their actions can change occur.
Get ready to go again: This is not a competition, it’s exactly the opposite. So, please don’t worry in the slightest if you find yourself back to square one; never be afraid to reset.
You could even build it into your schedule and detox as often as you want. Just don’t ‘make it a thing’ and stress about it, as that would defeat the objective.
Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based life coach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist (russellhemmings.co.uk).