The end of the semester brings a spectrum of many different emotions. On the one hand, many students are stressed about their final exams. Others are excited to graduate or start their summer internships. To help understand these emotions and strengthen our emotional health, PRISM spoke to on-campus health and wellness professionals.
Gary Truce, a professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University, said that emotional wellness means really knowing yourself.
“Emotional wellness is knowing we can handle any situation that comes our way,” Truce said. “We want to be in touch with our development mentally. We want to know that we can handle life’s situation emotionally. We want to know that we can relate to all creatures plants and animals spiritually.”
Emotions control our lives and being emotionally well is something that constantly must be worked on, according to Truce. He also highlighted that bringing awareness to emotions, including the negative, is part of checking in on ourselves.
“Developing an awareness about this whole aspect of how our minds can be conditioned is very important, and it’s tough because we’re on a rollercoaster ride in life,” Truce said. “Life can be that way, but we have to be aware of what or who is trying to take our mind in what direction.”
Sarah Thompson, lecturer of health and wellness studies at BU, acknowledged that this is easier said than done. She believes that working on communication, trust, relationships, finding an outlet of expression and being vulnerable can all help people become emotionally well.
”That’s actually a very challenging thing as a late adolescent into adulthood,” Thompson said.
Thompson said it’s important to know that being in a state of emotion does not define you. As an example, Thompson said being sad does not make you a sad person.
“Emotional well-being is understanding the spectrum of emotions, and expressing them in a healthy way,” she said.
Truce said that a balanced person has a pie. The pieces of the balanced pie are emotional, spiritual, mental, economic, environmental and social. He emphasized that these pieces influence each other.
“Being in touch with ourselves is very important, but checking all sides of our lives is very important,” Truce said. “We may be conditioned into something and not realize that we have a problem. I tell my students quite often, we are creatures of habit and of our conditioning. We can be conditioned into our habits that can be unhealthy to ourselves and others.
To help express emotions, Thompson suggested art, dance, prayer or meditation. These methods are nonverbal ways to bring awareness to emotion. She said that in expressing emotions there needs to be outward expression where they can be observed.
“Not expressing emotions out of fear of being vulnerable or not socially acceptable is the worst thing we can do,” Thompson said. “If you don’t do that, there is no growth.”
Without expression of negative emotions, Thompson said these feelings will become worse and result in a reaction of that emotion. In regard to dealing with a strong negative emotion like anger, she said the key is to diffuse the feeling without causing harm to yourself or others. With students, Thompson finds that stress is a strong emotion.
She said stress should not always be perceived as bad and some stress can be challenging in a way that make us better and helps us to grow.
“Not realizing and dealing with the experience of stress is harmful,” Thompson said. “Looking at stress as a bad thing is one of the worst things we can do. Look at stress as the challenge that makes us better. Certainly all stress is not good but stress is not all bad. I think that is where this generation — we have to redirect them to focusing on the fact that stress is good. Stress is challenge. Stress should not always be the most prominent thing in our world.”
Being emotionally unwell, she said, results in a limiting human experience and becoming marginalized by an inability to emote.
In acknowledging that someone else could be emotionally unwell, Thompson said that expressing your concerns, one-on-one, is the best thing you can do. Being a resource by listening to them and offering professional sources can be helpful.
“Sometimes that’s the only thing you can do,” Thompson said. “There are times for silence and disengaging, but when someone seems emotionally unwell, that is not the time.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress, the University Counseling Center can be reached at 607-777-2772 or the 24-Hour Crisis Center at Binghamton General Hospital at 607-762-2302.