Two decades ago the idea of mental health discussed as openly as these days would have been put off, pushed aside or, in worst cases, reason enough for some to be coached or performance managed from a business.
With RU Okay day and organisations like Beyond Blue and Black Dog gaining traction the conversations have now become mainstream.
Kids and teenager anxiety rates are higher than ever. Whilst we may have access to more, people simultaneously seem to be a lot more stressed.
I know first hand there are days I too feel completely and utterly alone. The pressures of life feel almost too much to bear. Personally I find life was far simpler back in my youth. Bouncing back was easier. And that was even during times of ostracism or bullying.
Once you really peer behind the curtain of human behaviour, especially the times in which we live (often a selfish, self promoting focus, a comparative society of filtered highlights, or the cut off and judging culture) it can all feel a little deflating and somewhat overwhelming.
Ironically in a hyper connected society we’re more disconnected than ever. All of which only further fuels the anxieties, depressions and isolation that many people feel.
Luckily a majority of things that play or prey upon most people minds don’t fall into the category of clinical mental health diagnosis requiring urgent clinical treatment or prescript drugs.
A lot of our anxieties and concerns can be, as with much in the arena of health, self-managed as a starting point.
Once we know we’re not feeling at our best we can pause before diving in. Acknowledging that we feel out of kilter with a willingness to take action and lift ourselves from the dark is already a great start. (Some people don’t see a way to claw themselves out.)
Be mindful not to race in with a quick solution or fix too. This might miss the mark. Actions that make you feel good temporarily, binging on ice cream, retail therapy or partying hard, frequently only act as a short-term band aid at best.
At worst, they mask or prevent deeper self-reflection or better choices that will actually allow the light to once again shine.
By better understanding one or more of the common causes for anxiety and mental discomfort you may find yourself better equipped to set strategies and plans. Some of those common root causes might include:
- Previous experiences we anchor and start giving meaning to other things
- The words and actions of other people around us
- High self expectations and pressures put on oneself
- Limiting beliefs or fears, also often from prior experiences
- External situations, often beyond our control
- Relationship stresses and strains, fighting or not feeling supported
- Financial stress and duress
- Feeling unfulfilled professionally or personally
Often there are several root causes working together. When we really get down to it the only ones we can really totally control are the ones within our own grasp.
In ancient Rome a slave turned philosopher, Epictetus, left us with an epic quote that helps contextualise this.
‘It’s not what happens that’s important, it’s what you choose to do about it.’
All too often we might find ourselves remaining stuck in long-term loops of thinking. Sometimes these may be good. Sometimes they are bad. They are whatever meaning we decide to give them.
It’s amazing though that whilst human nature with fight or flight hard wiring has a drive to survive, when it comes to our internal thought patterns the opposite is frequently true.
We could have 90% of life working well or fantastic, yet many people will focus, remaining stuck, on the 10% that sucks.
Conversely we might feel like 90% of life is not so great and 10% of life is fit or in healthy shape. Yet in that situation, do we focus on the 10%? Often not. We still revert to staying stuck on the negative.
These stories that we allow our minds to harbour, at times fester even, become bigger than Ben Hur!
These long term possibilities or consequences (imagined, given that the future is not set in stone) are a significant drive or reason for people to take action. At times it’s only when we feel our worst, or we’ve hit rock bottom, we find the impetus to take action.
We can hack into this cycle.
We can really get down to our imagination and figure out what the total cost or consequences of all our anxieties might be. From a safe place of knowing it needn’t happen, the realisation of what might be, could help you make better choices.
Of course we can also imagine the ‘what ifs’ of better choices, then simultaneously play those out to see a brighter future.
In doing so we might be more inclined to move away from our fears and doubts and move towards the things we know we’ll love, our desires, or the substance of life that will help us feel happier, more fulfilled. Better, if you will. Some of those possibilities and consequences might include, in no particular order of priority:
- Career and business
- Our health and overall well being
- The quality of close relationships
- Social life and hobbies
- Our clarity in decision making
- Studies or ongoing learning
- Financial situations and choices
If you can feel the impact of consequences before they happen then simultaneously imagine a ‘what if’ around the things you might create, you may find yourself motivated to take different actions.
Surround yourself with people who nurture you. Adjust your diet or lifestyle accordingly. Basically learn to be kinder to yourself.
Once you know root causes of anxieties, play out consequences of inaction or possibilities of better choices you can then start to dive in to more sustainable actions and strategies that bring some calm back to your life.
- Identify what you can directly control and what to let go of
- What are you allowing to upset that is not directly about you
- Enable routines of mediation, diet and exercise
- Take time away from technology or people that cause you stress
- Find some new outlets and fun hobbies to better occupy your mind
- Set goals to improve any specific areas: finance or career
If you are finding stresses too much its okay to talk about these things. There are professional bodies and associations, like the ones mentioned earlier, you can approach for advice: in addition to opening up and trusting close friends who you know will be candid and truthful with you.
You’ll easily find or be directed to the right specialist or adviser in this arena. What’s more, you can know we now live in times where it’s not frowned upon or something to be ashamed of. It takes courage to ask for help. It’s brave to confront ones demons.
Fortunately many strains or stresses do fall into the self-managed kind and so calmness of mind is a mindful gift one mindfully gifts to self. When you learn to master your thinking, your mindset, so ones world has a greater chance to attaining calm.
Perhaps James Allen said it best when his book ‘As A Man Thinketh’ was first published back in 1903.
‘Tempest-tossed souls, wherever ye may be, under whatsoever conditions ye may live, know this in the ocean of life the isles of Blessedness are smiling, and the sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming. Keep your hand firmly upon the helm of thought. In the bark of your soul reclines the commanding Master; He does but sleep: wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery; Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, “Peace, be still!
You’re equipped to command your own mind. Indeed you’re the only person who does have such a switch.
Inspired by some of the conversations and work I’ve done with Aaron Scholz, I’d pulled together a program for anyone looking to minimise anxieties.
Use the following ‘Bespoke Code’ when registering you profile (or on ‘Membership’) after setting up your free profile to unlock the complimentary program: