There seems to be a number of different mental health issues growing each year. Millions of people around the globe seem to be suffering and especially in the developed and developing world (Is there a clue right there?).
It isn’t something to be ashamed of. I coach minds and often relate it to the fact that many people exercise their bodies so they should therefore seek to improve their minds as well.
Sometimes, we have physical ailments and diseases. And so it is with the our minds; sometimes they become ‘ill’ too. So mental illness should be accepted in exactly the same manner as say breaking a leg or having a hernia.
I could write a whole series of posts on ‘labels’ that are placed on us and how they affect us but for now, I shall just write about looking after your mind and especially, where stress is concerned.
Stress is a silent killer and more specifically, chronic stress. It leads to all sorts of other mental and physical diseases including depression and cancer.
Here are a few signs that you may be under the damaging influence of stress. Personally, I don’t think you need to read these for the most part, as you will be aware if you are feeling stressed.
However, some people do fight the effects of stress and would rather think that they are too strong to actually suffer from it.
That’s how I once thought.
So here are some common signs.
- Irritable, impatience, overly aggressive
- Can’t sleep or irregular sleeping patterns
- Binge drinking
- Excessive smoking or a ‘want’ to use drugs
- Difficulty making decisions
- Losing temper, emotional outbursts
- Eating disorders
- Loss of libido
- Withdrawal from usual activities, sense of apathy
Now these have to be experienced in either clusters of 3 or more or for prolonged periods of time and ‘out of character’. So have a read through them again and see if this rule of thumb applies to you.
Now rather than focus this post on the damaging effects of stress (The production of cortisol into the body, adrenal fatigue and so forth) I would much rather focus on a few things you can do to beat stress.
And that’s important to note. Just because you maybe suffering from this dis ease, it does not mean you will forever, providing you take steps to relieve it.
So here are some things that have helped me and some clients of mine eliminate or at least manage stress. I have only chosen a few strategies (There are many more you can do) for brevity.
I do believe that a never ending supply of drugs is not always the answer.
These are based purely on my personal experience and research. If you feel you are weighed down by stress please contact your medical professional.
Short Term Strategies to Beat Stress (What you can do NOW)
Work on your confidence
“Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilise” Richard S Lazarus
Self-confidence is not only the cornerstone to all achievement, it is also a tool necessary to beat stress. If you have the confidence to tackle what you perceive as a stressful situation, the stress is naturally reduced.
Self confidence is a muscle you can learn to develop. Spend time giving this muscle a good workout.
Get a Different Perspective
The mind has a natural tendency to look for the perceived negative. So remember there could be an alternative to viewing things.
“What if it all goes wrong?”
“What is it all goes right?”
“What if I fail at X?”
“What if I succeed at X?”
“What if the boss, bank manager, husband, wife, partner, says no?”
“What if they say yes?”
Remember your mind wants to project you into an uncertain and more often than not, a negative future event (or a negative experience from the past) called Worry.
Research suggests that 74% of things we worry about never actually happen. So look at the other side of the coin whenever you can.
Mind Your Language
Language plays a powerful role in how we perceive what is happening around us; especially what we say to ourselves. Try and avoid such words or phrases as;
Never, always, must, should.
“I am always stressed out!” (What always?)
“I can never relax!” (What, never?)
“I must get active!” This eliminates your control of the situation. A perceived lack of control over what we can and want to do can be interpreted as stressful by the mind. An alternative could be, “I am going to get active so I can become healthier, lose weight (Or whatever)” This gives you control.
Longer Term Strategies to Beat Stress
I try not to term it as Exercise because a lot of people get an instant image of gruelling gym workouts or pounding the pavements at 6am on a cold winter’s morning which switches them off to the immense mental and physical benefits of being active, and then don’t get started.
The benefits from being active can reduce stress and increase your mental wellbeing no end. Regular exercise even ‘cures’ diabetes, high cholesterol and a host of other diseases that can add to us feeling stressed.
Get a Healthy Support Network of People Around You
Recent research shows that people who have a great support network around them are 74% more likely to completely recover from depression than those who have no such network. Choose these people wisely. But no one person can be an island.
Find the people who can support you through any stressful situations and in turn, if you can, be in the network of someone you know.
Some call this mindfulness. I just prefer the term curious. Why? because curiosity is a strong and powerful human emotion.
Go for regular walks in nature and as you do, notice the changing colours of the vegetation; the beautiful sounds of a bird singing or the rummaging of squirrels in the woods. Remember, there is no point in doing this if you are going to allow your mind to project you into that worrying, future scenario.
Be fully present and consciously observe your surroundings and what you are seeing, feeling, hearing and even tasting or touching.
You can also do this as you watch a sunrise or a sunset.
Life sometimes is unfair. Bad things do happen to good people (Well all of us). Accept that this is part of parcel of life itself. By accepting this fact it can stop you from asking the victim question, “Why me?” which can add stress on an unconscious level.
“Some suffering, maybe even intense suffering, is a necessary ingredient in life, certainly for developing compassion” Desmond Tutu
Try not to get caught up in this growing cultural belief system that nothing is our fault and life should be all plain sailing for everyone all the time. It won’t be like that.
Since 2004 antidepressants prescribed for children under 16 have more than doubled in the UK. There is no need for this (I am not saying they shouldn’t ever be prescribed). In reality, they are mere life-lessons that children should be learning from.
(The every one’s a winner attitude and that kids shouldn’t do sport does more harm than good)
Learn to build your resilience to setbacks. Discover how you can bounce back from adversity, because you can. And ask yourself, “What is truly great about this setback or unwanted experience?”
If you look carefully, there is usually something great to be found and learnt from most adversities. Even adverse ones.
Learn to Laugh More
If you observe people as much as I do (And I know there are a lot of people watchers out there) you will know not enough of us laugh enough.
When was the last time you had a great belly laugh? I mean really and literally laughed out loud that wasn’t in the Facebook or Text version?
Does life have to be taken seriously all the time? What about your work? There should be an element of fun in everything we do. Laugh more and learn to laugh at yourself. Go watch a great comedian or a film you find funny.
Be around people who make you smile more.
The talk I did last saturday to mark #WorldMentalHealthDay was for 2 hours where I covered all of these subjects and more in greater detail.
But if you found them helpful or know someone who will, then please do share this post. They’ll appreciate it.
Remember, it is not a weakness to ask for help but a strength.