Emotional Stability – The Quest for Balance
The older I get, the more important emotional stability becomes to me. I’m not interested in having drama in my life, and I’m certainly not interested in other people’s drama. I like my ocean to be as flat as possible, with waves and troughs being gentle. No more raging storms for me, please!
I’ve spent a lot of time studying myself in an effort to change the way I feel about myself and the world around me. I got tired of being on the emotional roller coaster, and not having any control over my mood. Trying to manage my emotions with alcohol worked to some degree for a while, but it wasn’t a practical solution. I needed more.
What Contributes to my Emotional Stability?
It took me a long time to figure all this out, and the simplicity of it made me feel silly for suffering so long out of ignorance. I’m an INFJ (or an INTJ, it depends on the day) personality type, so I’m wired to be very emotional. While I can’t change that, I can affect a lot of factors which directly impact my emotional stability.
Not all of these things will apply to everyone, and there are probably things that apply to some of you that aren’t on this list. This is just intended to be a framework which you can customize to suit your life.
One of the biggest factors that impact my general mood on a daily basis is exercise. I exercised daily back when I was in the Army, but I stopped the day I got out. I didn’t start exercising on a daily basis again for almost 15 years. When I started swimming laps every morning, I found that I felt better, and I was less susceptible to negative stimuli at work. When I would find myself in a funk that I couldn’t shake, one of the glaring changes in my routine would be that I hadn’t worked out in a few days. As soon as I started working out again, my funk went away. I’ve tested this repeatedly, and I always get the same result. Endorphins are my friend!
I am blessed to be a morning person. My eyes pop open somewhere between 4 am and 5 am every day, 7 days a week. As a result of this, I can’t stay awake past 9 pm. Therefore, I always get plenty of sleep, and I don’t have to wake up to an alarm clock, which is awesome.
The exception to this comes by way of night-time horse emergencies. My wife is an equine veterinarian, and sometimes we have to go see a sick or injured horse at night. Just to be clear, this is a very exciting lifestyle for me, and I love it! The impact of this, however, is that when I only get 4 or 5 hours of sleep, my demeanor suffers the next day.
Most of you are not morning people. That means you have to make a concerted effort to get enough sleep, because you aren’t ready to go to bed until midnight. Being aware of this and creating routines to help you do what’s best for you will be helpful. You can program your television to turn off at a certain time (or get rid of the TV altogether, you’d be way better off!). You can also set an alarm on your phone to remind you to turn off the light and call it a day, you just have to muster up the self-discipline to do it.
The body needs fuel to do its thing. Not everyone has the same requirements, and I’m not a nutritionist, so I’m not going to give you advice on what to eat. I’m just going to explain what I know about me.
I learned in my 30’s that when I eat every 2-3 hours (snacks, not a full meal) that I operate a lot better than simply eating 3 meals a day. That means that for me to take care of my nutritional needs, I need to take a few protein bars or something with me to get me from one meal to the next. When I get too hungry, my emotional stability goes out the window and I turn into a diva.
I am a creature of habit. I like to get in the same bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. I like to drink a cup of coffee at the same time every day, out of the same cup. There is a wide variety of tasks that I do for my day job, but they fall within known parameters, and I know what to expect most of the time. At night, I like to play Words with Friends with my wife right before I fall asleep. You know, routine stuff.
When I am outside of my routine, I’ve learned that I’m a little bit edgier. When my wife and I go out of town for a horse show or a convention, my routine goes out the window. My schedule is different, the bed is different, the coffee is WAY different, and so on. I know this, so I can brace myself and remind myself that I need to be calm, that I’m okay, and I shouldn’t be irritable. I know what the problem is, and I can adjust to it.
I’m going to give a special section just to coffee, because it was a major problem for me for a long time, and I didn’t know what was wrong.
Like most people, I’ve been drinking coffee at the same time every morning for my entire adult life. What I didn’t know was that at some point I developed a wicked caffeine addiction. In my 20’s and early 30’s I would occasionally sleep in on Saturday. I would still be up by 7, but it was 2 or 3 hours past my normal time. Invariably, I would end up with a headache, sometimes a whopper of a headache that would screw me up for most of the day. Sometimes I would end up puking, it was so bad. Miserable.
I didn’t know it then, but I know it now: if I am late with the coffee, my body will freak out and go into caffeine withdrawals. The solution? Either get up at the same time every day, or wean myself off caffeine. I chose to cut back to 1 cup a day, and I don’t sleep in. Ever. When I travel, I make sure I have caffeine pills with me in case the hotel doesn’t have coffee. It’s a simple fix, and I don’t lose entire days over it anymore. I wish I had known this when I was 20!
The Framework for Emotional Stability
If you are looking to achieve some emotional stability in your life, then you need to identify the factors that impact you. Figure out what the common denominators are when you feel great, and when you feel terrible. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Once you know what your preferred settings are in life, it’s fairly simple to build and maintain a structure that keeps you on an even keel.
The other side of this is diagnosing a funk. If you know what your factors are, and you realize that you are irritable/depressed/hostile, you can run a quick self-check and see what’s off. Then you can fix it, or at least maintain self-awareness and hold yourself in check until you can address the deficiency.
This is all about setting yourself up for success and a happy life. Don’t be a passenger in life, be the driver!
Subscribe to Justin B. Long
J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.