For some people, the launch of Mental Health Awareness week (23-30 May 2012) is about an awareness of the difficulties and experiences of other people; those who may be suffering from serious mental health issues, possibly even the institutionalised.
Others of us may take it as an opportunity to examine our own condition of ease or dis-ease.
Mental health issues are not just about other people. Each of us is likely to experience some level of mental or emotional difficulty at certain times in our lives. These difficulties can range from temporary or limited states of anxiety or worry, through to more enduring states of depression, or worse. The most important thing to be aware of is how to manage. Unresolved or badly managed stresses and worries will very often lead to those more prolonged mental health issues.
Because of the way that the brain is designed, when stress levels are high we become more emotional which means that common sense and clear thinking are low (emotional hijacking) which makes it harder to cope and to resolve the stress.
Many people are finding these changing times to be worrying and difficult. Small traders going out of business, redundancies as industry cuts back on costs, rising cost of living, government cuts to vital services and even news stories from other parts of the world take their toll on our perception of the kind of world we live in. Life can feel stressful.
At times like these, we need our best coping skills to avoid becoming overwhelmed and too emotionally charged. We need to be able to think clearly and logically so that we can plan how to manage.
You may well have good reason to feel stressed. Perhaps you are worried about paying bills, or have health issues, or there is uncertainty about your future employment. Lowering stress won’t make these issues go away but it will help you to manage the situation with less emotion and more clarity.
We can’t always change the events or situations that are contributing to the stress, but we can manage the way that we respond to those things.
Firstly, it’s important to recognise what you can influence and what you can’t. If you throw your emotional attention at things you have no power to change, you will feel more powerless and the stress will grow.
You can gain a lot of coping capacity by doing things that help to reduce the amount of stress hormones that are in the blood stream so that you can engage the part of your brain that helps you to get calmer perspectives and think logically, without excessive emotion.
- Set aside regular intervals during the day when you breathe deeply. Take a good deep breath in for a count of 7, and breathe out to a count of 11. Each time you exhale, imagine and allow your body to relax bit by bit.
- Set aside a specific time for worry. A small amount of worrying is ok because it is an attempt at problem solving, but 30 minutes a day is long enough. Constant unproductive worrying will just raise the emotional stress levels.
- Take breaks – let your body relax for 5 minutes and let your mind wander to imagining better times ahead or simply daydream about something that feels good when you think about it. Imagine that things will work out just fine. You don’t have to fully believe it in order to imagine it.
- Meditate. Join a meditation group or get a download that you can listen to.
- Get exercise – try to do a twenty minute walk each day. It is especially helpful to get out into the daylight.
- Eat healthily. Reduce caffeine, alcohol and sugars. Drink water regularly throughout the day.
- Make regular contact with friends and family, even if it’s just a five minute chat.
- Pay attention to your basic needs. Keep doing the things you enjoy, be creative, make plans etc.
- Say ‘no’ when you need to and ask for help when you need to.
- Get some physical therapy, such as massage as this will help to release physical symptoms of tension – plus it feels great!
If you have been feeling highly stressed or over emotional for a while, these suggestions may feel too difficult to manage. You may find that you are experiencing anxiety or anxiety conditions such as panic attacks. You may be caught in a cycle of excessive worry, poor sleep or may even be starting to feel withdrawn and depressed as you feel you are running out of ways to cope.
All of us have times when we need to ask for a little help to find our way back on track.
Solution Focused Psychotherapy with deep relaxation Hypnotherapy can help you to lower stress and find the perspective and coping skills that you need.
Life Coaching is a bit like adding an extra brain to the problem so that you can seek out realistic solutions to those old problems.
If you would like to ask more about how Psychotherapy can help you, please call or email.