Elusive Hellbender Emotions

Hellbenders are odd ducks. Or more accurately, odd salamanders. Hellbenders are both enormous and elusive, spending their lifetimes in the watery depths of a river bed.

And, with nicknames like snot otter and lasagna lizard, you’d think they would have little chance at popularity and be relegated to the D-List of aquatic species.

But, hellbenders are beloved creatures an their presence means a great deal to the ecosystems they inhabit.

Despite their outward appearance and unflattering monikers, hellbenders are special. They’re needs are simple and non-negotiable: exceptionally clean water, some crayfish for late night dinners, and a safe rock to call home. It’s simple, but an oddly trickly balance.  

Their presence in an ecosystem is an unmistakable sign that things going well.

The Elusiveness of Positive Emotions

We have hellbenders in our lives, too. They show up in the form of positive emotions instead of chunky, introverted amphibians, but they’re there. Researcher Barbara Fredrickson makes emotional harmony easy to understand with her work on the ideal positivity ratio. Turns out, there’s a number for that and it’s 3:1.  

Positive emotions like serenity, gratitude, awe, and joy can be elusive and fleeting. In fact, it’s “normal” for them to be short-lived. But much like the hellbenders, it’s their very presence in our lives that acts as a barometer of our overall health.

The question is, are our personal ecosystems balanced enough to welcome them?

It’s not usually hard to notice when our personal ecosystems are out of balance. The causes are nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe it’s a big project with a looming deadline or struggling to manage long-term pressures and responsibilities. Perhaps a few sleepless nights in a row that leave you weary. Maybe it simply comes down to saying yes too often and overscheduling yourself.

Whatever the causes, the results are familiar. Stress. Overwhelm. Exhaustion.

And, when those feelings begin to pile up, balance can be tough to find.

But, there’s always hope. And hope, coupled with a solid plan and the wisdom of a giant salamander, can be just the right combination to restore balance.

3 Things Hellbenders Can Teach Us Bout Emotional Balance

Your Habitat Is Everything You know what tips the scales in favor of overwhelm. Are you as clear on what tilts the balance in the other direction? Know what feeds your soul and seek it out. For the hellbender, clean and well-oxygenated water is non-negotiable. For me, it’s solitude in the wee hours of the morning. Just me, the birds, and cup of coffee to start the day of right.

What do you choose for yourself that puts you in a frame of mind that improves just about everything else?

Healthy Routines Hellbenders will never be mistaken for trendsetters, but their routines are reliable and nurturing. A little bit of exercise, a good dinner with a reasonable portion, and plenty of rest. Good in, good out. It’s about as simple as it gets. But, if thinking about your wellness habits makes you smirk or roll your eyes because there’s just not enough time in the day, then this might need to move to the top of your list. There’s an old Zen saying that you should meditate for twenty minutes each day. Unless you’re too busy, then an hour. Make an effort to create simple, repeatable routines that make caring for yourself as second nature as caring for others.

How are you prioritizing your health and overall well-being?

Home Base Hellbenders appreciate a good rock. It’s a safe place to return to again and again after their nightly adventures along the bottom of the river bed. With the lines between work, life, play, and rest spaces becoming blurrier by the day, boundaries are more important than ever. Even when our homes double as offices and classrooms, it’s vital to design spaces that foster the ability to rest and unwind. Spaces that encourage balancing the effort of the day with the ease needed to recharge and reset.

Does your home base empower you to slow down, exhale, and release the day?

Hellbenders and Healthy Boundaries

Hellbenders can teach us a great deal about healthy boundaries. From their living environment to their daily needs to the comfort of a familiar rock, they know who they are and what they need.

Catching a glimpse of a hellbender tells you everything you need to know about the surrounding conditions. Same holds true for positive emotions and the frequency with which we experience them. When was the last time you caught a glimpse of your hellbender emotions?

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