The demands you put on yourself can create more pressure than you know how to handle. Spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra helps you break the cycle of anxiety by changing the way you respond to stress.
By Deepak Chopra
Anxiety is like a shortcut. When faced with uncertainty, the normal response is to stop, consider what might happen, and make a decision based on the best prediction you can make. But the anxious person doesn’t go through this process; they jump right towards feeling afraid. No one enjoys uncertainty. There is always a tinge of anxiousness when you don’t know what the future holds. But going straight into fear is the worst way to handle the situation because fear is almost never a good advisor. It blocks clear decision-making, and exaggerates the risks and dangers that might lie ahead.
If you are an anxious person, you need to stop making the leap into fear. But how do you do that? It requires a new way of approaching uncertainty. Life is always uncertain, and until you can embrace this fact, you will imagine risks, dangers, and threats that never materialize. Yet, suffering in your imagination is just as painful—perhaps more painful—since dealing with a crisis is always easier than waiting for one in a state of dread.
The Anxious Self
Many spiritual traditions speak of separation as the real cause of human misery. Separation can mean being apart from God, your soul, or the higher self. But the terminology isn’t important; even the word “spiritual” isn’t crucial. What is crucial is that people are divided inside. One part of the self opposes another part. With guilt, the good fights against the bad. With anxiety, the strong part of the self is at war with the weak part.
When a situation arises that can be handled well, the strong part feels confident, competent, in charge and in control. When uncertainty crops up, the weak part feels afraid, helpless, and hopeless. Anxious people never settle this inner conflict. They are so divided that when they feel afraid, the weak part is “the real me.” When they are not afraid, the strong part is “the real me.” In fact, neither is the real self. The real self is beyond conflict; it is whole and at peace. So the long-term approach to anxiety is to rise above the inner war to find a self that is more whole.
If I could share one piece of mental health info with the entire planet for World Mental Health Day, it would be this:
Mental health is about what you DO, it’s not something that just happens.
Mentally healthy people have mentally healthy habits that keep their emotions well-cared for and managed. This isn’t the sexiest analogy, but think of mental health like your hygiene. You don’t magically have clean teeth: you floss, brush them, see the dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups. Our daily actions help improve our mental health too!
Here are 10 practical things you can do every day to care for your mental health!
Notice your feelings – Take time to check in with what you’re feeling and what your emotional needs are so you can take care of them before they get bigger and harder to manage.
Redefine emotional strength – Emotional strength isn’t ignoring your feelings or pretending that you’re fine. Emotional strength is about accepting that all human beings have emotions and this is a normal part of being a human being.
Improve your sleep – Will a full night of rest cure your depression? No. Will getting regular sleep have some positive impact on your overall cognitive and emotional functioning? Very likely.
Find supportive friends and family – Find people who empathize with your feelings and needs. Reach out and talk to people who care about your mental health. If people are telling you that you shouldn’t feel depressed or anxious or that you shouldn’t see a therapist? They’re undermining your mental health. Find people who lift you up.
Talk to a professional – Professionals don’t do what your friends and family do, but friends and family don’t do what professionals do. They’ve had YEARS of training and experience. They’re trained in the best ways to treat mental health issues. They can help you actually figure out what is going on.
Be active – Sleep and exercise are two of the mental health recommendations we’re most likely to say “yeah, yeah, I know…” when we hear them. The problem? They can actually make a significant difference in your functioning. Research heavily supports that even 20 minutes of exercise a week can improve your functioning. Find something you enjoy. Walking, hiking, swimming, dancing, all count!
Get your feelings out – Whether you talk about them to someone, write them, or sing them, do something to get your feelings out of your head and outside of you. “Externalizing” your feelings gives you perspective, helps vent them and chill them out, and helps you work through what you need and are feeling.
Mind your thoughts – Do you ever wish you could feel less inadequate, insecure, and bad? It’s really hard to feel ok about yourself when you’re constantly talking crap to yourself. Focus more on being like a supportive friend or a kind teacher to yourself and less like a Disney villain that lives in your head.
Take a break – Burnout is real and you cannot run on fumes forever. Taking a break can help you rest up, recharge, and come back better and more effectively. Overworking yourself can lead to taking longer and longer recovery times and reduced productivity!
Find what works for you – Yoga supposedly cured your friend’s depression? Great. That doesn’t mean that will or has to work for you. Your mental health is unique to you. You have your own challenges and needs – find what works for you. Experiment so you can find the best way of caring for your mental health.
World Mental Health Day is every single day that you’re on this planet. You have a brain 24/7, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. You have emotions. You will always have emotions. Take care of your mind and emotions today and all days.
Your Author: COCO THE LOUDER
Coco the Louder is an advocate, educator, entertainer, author, and an unshakable faith in everyone she meets. With a doctorate in clinical psychology and a passion for uplifting others, Coco’s streams focus on making mental health info empowering, accessible, and practical, even when diving deep into complex psychology questions.
Julian Holland struggled to feel comfortable in social settings and had a debilitating lack of self-confidence.
For a long time he was reluctant to step outside his front door and took little care over the state of his home or appearance.
He suffered a breakdown last year and was hospitalised for three weeks.
Today however he is feeling much better and he puts that down to his involvement in a lottery funded special gardening project – Twigs (Therapeutic Gardening Work in Swindon) – that gives his life a new purpose.
Digging way out of depression
“There’s more to this project than digging – there’s a great community spirit here; everyone is treated as a person not as an illness,” he said.
“Before I came to Twigs I struggled to motivate myself even to leave the house in the mornings, but now I get real pleasure from tasks like the willow weaving, which really helps with my depression.
You have your doctor for your mental health support and she is great and I come to Twigs for a sense of achievement
“I have suffered from depression for about 10 years off and on, I get good days and bad days.
“I basically could not function before and would wake up with night sweats panic attacks etc.
“I did not want to go out, and I just could not be bothered to do anything.”
Julian, 45, from Swindon, said he had had fantastic support from his GP who prescribed him anti-depressants – but the gardening had given him a vital extra boost.
“You have your doctor for your mental health support and she is great and I come to Twigs for a sense of achievement,” he said.
“I go twice a week and do varied work from woodworking to potting up, cutting grass, working on the flowerbeds, weeding, willow weaving, and working on the allotments.
“Everyone using Twigs is in the same boat and they are all extremely supportive.
Julian willow weaving
“I like working outside, I can’t do an office job. Here there is no pressure on you to do one particular thing, you just pick what you want to do.
“I feel that I am doing something useful such as re-potting a whole flower bed.”
Richard Allwood, horticultural therapist at the gardening charity Thrive, said gardening therapy had been used to help with a variety of conditions.
“We have had people come to us with strokes, those who have depression and car crashes,” he said.
Dr Cosmo Hallstrom, a psychiatrist in Chelsea and member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said gardening provides distraction therapy, vital in helping deal with depression.
“If I was seeing you in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) I might say, ‘Let’s look at three things you enjoy doing,’ and let’s say you say one of them is gardening, I would then say, ‘OK let’s do one hour’s gardening,’ he said.
“CBT is a modern form of psychological therapy dealing with the here and now as opposed to your past experiences looking at thinking and behaviour and can include all manner of techniques.
“It is a treatment of proven benefit.
“When you get depressed you stop doing things and get isolated which makes you more depressed. The theory is that if you do pleasurable things you will in time get better
“Gardening is a pleasurable activity and it focuses you away from thinking about your health problems.
“Why gardening and not running? Well I think at first it is a bit much doing things that are too physical. It is important to find something you enjoy.”