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Emotional First Aid

Let's imagine you're running around in a field after a picnic and then you step on something sharp and it cuts your foot. What do you do? Hopefully, you'll tend to it, maybe by going to urgent care, or by disinfecting and bandaging on your own. In a few weeks, you'll probably have a scar.

What if don't do anything? The wound will get infected... puss will form... you may start to adjust your gait so you aren't using your injured foot... which will affect your posture and stride. Now, a lot of time has probably gone by since stepping on the sharp, and now here we are. It's going to take that much more effort to clean the wound, perhaps close it up, then work on physical therapy to get your musculature and posture back in shape. Not only do you have a scar in this scenario, but you also have to deal with more therapies to address consequential issues.

So, we were all taught how to take care of physical wounds, but when it comes to emotional injuries, we are poorly, minimally, or not even at all informed. To no fault of your own, you were not given the skills to manage emotional health and injuries.

Treating trauma - both physical and emotional - is best done as soon as possible after the traumatic incident. While thinking about the above example of a physical injury, what do you think happens if we do not tend to our psychological injuries? The emotional pain festers in your mind, extra mental energy is used to try to distract those thoughts, your emotional energy is depleted more quickly, leading to increased irritability, decreased mindfulness, and poor concentration and decision making.

Certainly, over time, perhaps the emotional wound will bury itself. But how often have we seen something emotionally buried only to come up as an explosion in a completely unrelated scenario. (Eg, going through a break up or leaving the hospital after a visit with a dying relative... and then driving home recklessly or self medicating, etc.).

Bottom line, deal with your psychological injuries as soon as possible. Talk with your therapist, your close friend or relative, or some free-writing journaling. Utilize therapy to gain insight, add tools to your tool chest of coping skills, and process.

I'm attaching a video that, really, everyone should see. You're here right now, why not give the video a few minutes watch and see where it takes you. You will not regret it.

Dr. Guy Winch poses thoughtful questions and shares intimate stories of his own struggles with tending to emotional first aid.

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