I used to love sunglasses. A good pair was expensive, but it was easy to see why. On a ski slope surrounded by blinding white terrain, a good pair of sunglasses or ski goggles showed detail that was impossible to see otherwise. On the flip side, cheap sunglasses had the opposite effect. Their lenses made it more difficult to see and were usually paired with a nasty wash of color. Given the cheap crap, I preferred no sunglasses at all.

With time I’ve come to realize that my emotional mindset is much like those sunglasses.

Being mentally and emotionally healthy is like wearing a pair of high-quality sunglasses. In a healthy state of mind, I’m able to maintain perspective in both positive and negative moments. Like the good pair of sunglasses, a healthy mindset allows me to clearly see and appreciate the good around me. This is great, but what’s even more noticeable is how I respond to negative events.

In a good state of mind:

  • When a friend says something hurtful, I can pause long enough to see that it wasn’t intentional and let it go.
  • When I receive an unexpected call that something went wrong at the office, I can step back and see it as just another challenge.
  • When I’m on the receiving side of someone else’s anger, I can control my reaction and try to understand their perspective.

Like a good pair of sunglasses, a healthy emotional mindset shows me extra detail in the world around me.

On the flip side, being unhappy or emotionally off-center is akin to a pair of cheap sunglasses. For some, this is depression and a chemical imbalance that requires professional support. For most of us (including myself), I become unbalanced when I skip out on my self-care routines that center my mind. It usually begins when I allow work and family life to take priority over exercising, reading, and writing. For a time, everything is OK and I might even feel hyper-productive. But within a few weeks I’m off-balance, burned out, and emotionally frayed. Like the cheap sunglasses, I can’t see anything clearly.

In a poor state of mind:

  • When a friend says something hurtful, I’m quick to react and assume the worst intentions.
  • When I get that unexpected call from the office, I can’t step back. I’m fixed on why something happened rather than focusing on the solution.
  • When I’m on the receiving side of someone else’s anger, I lose control of my response and react in kind.

Like the cheap sunglasses, an unhealthy emotional mindset limits my visibility and paints my world in red.

Today I’m aware and I do my best to maintain my emotional center. But despite being aware, I am not always successful. So I’ve made myself an important promise, “Pye, you’re not allowed to make significant life decisions when in a state of unbalance.” This promise is my safety net. It allows me to focus my efforts on walking the tightrope while making sure that I take minimal damage from any fall.