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Emotional Literacy or How to Check-in with Yourself

Research suggests that simply understanding how and why we are feeling the way we do can help ease the symptoms of anxiety that we feel on a regular basis. Similar case studies conducted by Jessica Van Oosterwijck, PhD (University of Washington), and Thorn and Joshua Eyer, PhD (University of Alabama) found that a pain education program for patients dealing with chronic pain led to reduced pain and worry for patients and an increase in their overall activity and wellbeing.


Pain education, emotional literacy, pain literacy, are all terms that fall under a "self check-in". These strategies can reduce what is called "catastrophizing" which means having very negative beliefs about your situation, its consequences, and prognosis. The Canadian Mental Health Association outlines the following steps for self check-ins:

  1. Identifying and acknowledging what emotions you are feeling in the moment, today, even in the past few weeks.

  2. Get precise - labelling all these different emotions or "emotional differentiation" is key to reducing unhealthy responses.

  3. Write it down - journaling can help people understand what's going on in their minds and bodies.

  4. Verbalize your feelings - whether to yourself, a confidante, or a mental health professional, it is important to say your feelings out loud.

  5. Check in with yourself again. How are you feeling now? Familiarize yourself with your feelings and if these overwhelming emotions continue to persist, it is important to seek mental health support.