4 Tools You Need in Your Emotional First Aid Kit, According to Psychologist Guy Winch
Health

4 Tools You Need in Your Emotional First Aid Kit, According to Psychologist Guy Winch

They don’t make Band-Aids for your brain, but these tips work even better.
By Rebekah Harding
May 22, 2024

Everyone knows what to do when you scrape your knee: You grab a paper towel, cleanse your wound, and pop on a bandage from your first aid kit. But what about when your mental health takes a hit after a hard week? According to author and psychologist Guy Winch, Ph.D., you need an emotional first aid kit.

“We sustain emotional injuries in life as frequently as we do physical ones,” Winch says on a recent episode of the Hone In podcast with CEO Saad Alam. “As adults, we experience rejection, failure, and loneliness regularly. Emotional first aid is about being able to assess your wounds, ask yourself what they are and then treat them.”

Unlike physical wounds—which you treat as soon as they happen—everyday emotional wounds tend to be left unaddressed and build up over time. This can look like a series of job application rejections leading to feelings of worthlessness. Or maybe an unsuccessful first date leading to feeling unattractive. 

These are the essential mindset tools that Winch keeps in his emotional first aid kit, and why you should care about building yours. 

Dr. Guy Winch’s Emotional First Aid Kit

Make believable affirmations

Despite what many mindset influencers will lead you to believe, chanting glowing affirmations at yourself in the mirror—especially if you don’t really resonate with them—is unlikely to make a difference.

“It’s not that affirmations in general aren’t good. The positive, generic ones that fall outside of the domain of what’s believable to you are not good,” Winch says. “Research shows that any statement you make about yourself has to fall within the domain of what your unconscious mind thinks is believable.”

Instead, Winch recommends a simple self-actualizing exercise. Grab a piece of paper or open your Notes app, and write a list of at least 10 things about you that you know are valuable.

“When you remind yourself what you bring to the table, you’ll feel better. You’ll feel more hopeful. You’ll feel more motivated,” Winch says. You’ll realize, ‘Oh no, actually there’s a lot I have to offer. I just have to find the person to appreciate it.’” 

Don’t avoid anxiety

We’ve all been there: You swipe right on a dating app and kick off a great conversation with an attractive prospect. You grab a dinner reservation—then BAM: no show. 

You might be tempted to self-pity and delete your profile upon the rejection—but Winch thinks that just exacerbates later anxiety. 

“Avoidance supersizes anxiety,” Winch says. “Do the things that will actually make you feel better and heal that wound. Then get back on the dating app rather than being away from it and getting more anxious before you go back.”

MENTAL WELLNESS

Prioritize connection

Male loneliness is an epidemic. Equimundo’s 2023 State of American Men survey revealed that two-thirds of men between ages 18 and 23 feel like no one really knows them. 

“You will die sooner if you’re lonely,” Winch says. “That feeling of connection, feeling seen, and feeling belonging is so essential that in the absence of it, our bodies physiologically respond as if they’re under assault.”

Meaningful connection is about quality over quantity, per Winch. So work on fostering the relationships where you feel your most authentic self.

“You can have people who seem surrounded by friends or colleagues all the time, and yet they’re lonely because they don’t really feel seen by them,” Winch says. “Then there are more introverted people who have one or two really close friends or their partner, and they feel highly connected.”

Learn from failure

No one likes to admit that they’ve screwed up. But if you don’t acknowledge your mistakes, Winch warns that you’re bound to repeat them.

“The interesting thing about failure is that we don’t make a thousand mistakes. We make five or six,” Winch says. “We repeat those in endless variety when we fail at something, because we all have our specific blind spots. 

To figure out your personal blind spots, Winch recommends looking at failure like a detective.

“A detective approaches a crime scene theoretically without emotion. They’re not saying, ‘Oh my God, could you believe the blood spatter pattern on that wall? I can’t,’” Winch explains. “They’re just noting it. You are noting [your failure]—the blood spatter on that wall.”